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AB-926 Fire prevention: local assistance grant program: projects: report.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 03/08/2021 02:00 PM
AB926:v98#DOCUMENT

Revised  April 29, 2021
Amended  IN  Assembly  March 08, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 926


Introduced by Assembly Member Mathis
(Coauthors: Assembly Members Cooley, Gallagher, and Lackey)
(Coauthor: Senator Bates)

February 17, 2021


An act to amend Section 4124.5 Sections 4124, 4124.5, and 4124.6 of the Public Resources Code, relating to fire prevention.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 926, as amended, Mathis. Fire prevention: local assistance grant program: roadside vegetation management and defensible space. projects: report.
Existing law requires the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities, as defined, in the state. Exiting law requires that the eligible activities include, among other things, fire prevention activities, as provided. Existing law requires the department to prioritize, to the extent feasible, projects that are multiyear efforts. Existing law authorizes the department to consider the fire risk of an area, among other things, when awarding local assistance grants.

This bill would add roadside vegetation management and projects to create and increase defensible space for critical infrastructure, as provided, to the eligible activities.

This bill would expand the definition of “fire prevention activities” to include the removal of hazardous dead trees, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and creation of ingress and egress corridors. The bill would also require the department to prioritize projects that have a completed, or nearly completed, environmental review document, as provided. The bill would authorize the department to consider and evaluate the wildfire risk within the proposed project area, as well as the socioeconomic characteristics of communities that the various education and mitigation projects are intended to protect, when awarding local assistance grants.
Existing law requires the department to provide a report to the appropriate policy committees of the Legislature on or before July 1, 2022, that includes a summary of specified findings relating to fire prevention activities and the local assistance grant program.
This bill would also require the report to include, but not be limited to, the total amount of acreage treated by an awarded grant recipient, whether the project was awarded funding for vegetation management activities, the number of communities protected by an awarded project, and the total number of population receiving a benefit of the project.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 4124 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4124.
 For the purposes of this article, “fire prevention activities” means those lawful activities that reduce the risk of wildfire in California, including, but not limited to, mechanical vegetation management, grazing, prescribed burns, removal of hazardous dead trees, creation of defensible space, and retrofitting of structures to increase fire resistance. resistance, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and creation of ingress and egress corridors.

SEC. 2.

 Section 4124.5 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4124.5.
 (a) The department shall establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities in California. Groups eligible for grants shall include, but are not limited to, local agencies, resource conservation districts, fire safe councils, the California Conservation Corps, certified local conservation corps, University of California Cooperative Extension, Native American tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations. The department may establish a cost-share requirement for one or more categories of projects.
(b) The local assistance grant program shall establish a robust year-round fire prevention effort in and near fire threatened communities. The department shall prioritize, to the extent feasible, projects that are multiyear efforts. efforts, or projects that have a completed, or nearly completed, environmental review document prepared pursuant to Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000).
(c) Eligible activities shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) Development and implementation of public education and outreach programs. Programs may include technical assistance, workforce recruitment and training, and equipment purchases.
(2) Fire prevention activities as defined in Section 4124.
(3) Projects to improve compliance with defensible space requirements as required by Section 4291 through increased inspections and assistance for low-income residents.
(4) Technical assistance to local agencies to improve fire prevention and reduce fire hazards.
(5) Creation of additional “Firewise USA” communities in the state or other community planning or certification programs deemed as appropriate by the department.
(6) Projects to improve public safety, including, but not limited to, access to emergency equipment and improvements to public evacuation routes.
(d) The department may consider the fire risk of an area, and evaluate the wildfire risk within the proposed project area, the geographic balance of other completed or ongoing wildfire mitigation projects, and whether the project is complementary to other fire prevention or forest health activities activities, and the socioeconomic characteristics of communities that the various education and mitigation projects are intended to protect when awarding local assistance grants.
(e) (1) Until January 1, 2024, the director may authorize advance payments from a grant awarded pursuant to this section. The advance shall not exceed 25 percent of the total grant award.
(2) The grantee shall expend the funds from the advance payment within six months of receipt, unless the department waives this requirement.
(3) The grantee shall file an accountability report with the department four months from the date of receiving the funds and every four months thereafter.
(f) The department may expand or amend an existing grant program to meet the requirements of this section.
(g) Funding for the local assistance grant program created pursuant to this section shall be made upon appropriation by the Legislature.

SEC. 3.

 Section 4124.6 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:

4124.6.
 (a) On or before January 31, 2022, the director shall hold a public workshop to do all of the following:
(1) Review activities funded by the local assistance grant program established in Section 4124.5 and program outcomes, and discuss and recommend possible improvements to the program.
(2) Identify new sources and methods of financing fire prevention activities.
(3) Review new activities or methods of fire prevention that could protect life and property including, but not limited to, the prevention of high wind grass fires.
(b) (1) The department shall report a summary of the findings of the public workshop to the appropriate policy committees of the Legislature on or before July 1, 2022. The department shall include in the report any recommendations it has developed for improving the local assistance grant program established in Section 4124.5, for consideration by the Legislature.
(2) The report described in paragraph (1) shall also include, but not be limited to, the total amount of acreage treated by an awarded grant recipient, whether the project was awarded funding for vegetation management activities, the number of communities protected by an awarded project, and the total number of population receiving a benefit of the project.

(2)

(3) The requirement for submitting a report imposed under paragraph (1) is inoperative on July 1, 2026, pursuant to Section 10231.5 of the Government Code.

SECTION 1.Section 4124.5 of the Public Resources Code is amended to read:
4124.5.

(a)The department shall establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities in California. Groups eligible for grants shall include, but are not limited to, local agencies, resource conservation districts, fire safe councils, the California Conservation Corps, certified local conservation corps, University of California Cooperative Extension, Native American tribes, and qualified nonprofit organizations. The department may establish a cost-share requirement for one or more categories of projects.

(b)The local assistance grant program shall establish a robust year-round fire prevention effort in and near fire threatened communities. The department shall prioritize, to the extent feasible, projects that are multiyear efforts.

(c)Eligible activities shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:

(1)Development and implementation of public education and outreach programs. Programs may include technical assistance, workforce recruitment and training, and equipment purchases.

(2)Fire prevention activities as defined in Section 4124.

(3)Projects to improve compliance with defensible space requirements as required by Section 4291 through increased inspections and assistance for low-income residents.

(4)Technical assistance to local agencies to improve fire prevention and reduce fire hazards.

(5)Creation of additional “Firewise USA” communities in the state or other community planning or certification programs deemed as appropriate by the department.

(6)Projects to improve public safety, including, but not limited to, access to emergency equipment and improvements to public evacuation routes.

(7)Roadside vegetation management, including, but not limited to, herbicide applications, mechanical and manual mastication, grazing, and prescribed burns.

(8)Projects to create and increase defensible space for critical infrastructure, including, but not limited to, hospitals, schools, water and energy infrastructure, potential evacuation centers, and evacuation routes.

(d)The department may consider the fire risk of an area, the geographic balance of projects, and whether the project is complementary to other fire prevention or forest health activities when awarding local assistance grants.

(e)(1)Until January 1, 2024, the director may authorize advance payments from a grant awarded pursuant to this section. The advance shall not exceed 25 percent of the total grant award.

(2)The grantee shall expend the funds from the advance payment within six months of receipt, unless the department waives this requirement.

(3)The grantee shall file an accountability report with the department four months from the date of receiving the funds and every four months thereafter.

(f)The department may expand or amend an existing grant program to meet the requirements of this section.

(g)Funding for the local assistance grant program created pursuant to this section shall be made upon appropriation by the Legislature.

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REVISIONS:
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