In December 2018, Nevada County submitted six separate grant applications to CAL FIRE's Fire Prevention Program. One of these six proposed projects, the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone Project, was included in CAL FIRE's recent report to Governor Newsom in accordance with Executive Order N-05-19.
The CAL FIRE report included 35 priority projects across the state to immediately help reduce public safety risk in over 200 communities. Although these projects have not yet been funded, Newsom's Executive Order says, "communities with a high preponderance of physical fire danger… deserve the State's highest attention." The State is considering making funding resources available soon to begin implementation of these priority projects.
The Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone Project is the number one priority listed in Nevada County's most recent Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), a collaborative planning document developed by a cross-section of stakeholders in wildfire prevention. The primary goal of the CWPP is to protect human life, private property, essential infrastructure and natural resources.
The proposed project area includes the only animal shelter in Nevada County, Sammie’s Friends, as well as the McCourtney Road Transfer Station. Within a mile of the project boundary are 7 churches, 12 bridges, 6 schools, 3 fire stations, 2 government buildings, and 4 shelters including the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
“Any funding that comes down from the State to start the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone Project will be a win for our community,” says Steve Monaghan, Nevada County Information and General Services Agency Director. “The Board of Supervisors has made wildfire prevention a top priority for the County, so we are excited to see this project on CAL FIRE’s priority list as well.”
If funded, the project would be in partnership with the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (FSCNC). FSCNC would assist in managing a licensed timber contractor, public outreach and education around the project, and working with neighboring residents.
“Fire Safe Council is excited to see a shaded fuel break project that will serve as an example of best management practices for hazardous vegetation,” said First Safe Council Executive Director Jamie Jones. “Like CAL FIRE, our mission is to reduce the risk of life and property loss from wildfire, and we do this by partnering on projects like Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone Project and educating residents through neighborhood groups like Firewise Communities.”
If funded, the project would remove the ladder fuels on the 1,237 acres inside the project area, develop a defense zone for fire suppression personnel to safely combat fire, and secure routine maintenance to sustain the fuel break for fire safety.
The project area outlined in Nevada County’s grant application is not a fixed boundary and is a placeholder on the landscape. The exact project footprint will depend on landowner interest in participating and resources available. To best position the County to take advantage of this opportunity if funding is awarded shortly, the immediate next steps will be to secure land owner agreements with the property owners of the 127 parcels included in the proposed project boundaries. FSCNC is taking the lead on reaching out to the property owners who are within the project footprint.
Extensive work will still need to be completed to ensure compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and best forest management practices. Both Nevada County and FSCNC will work to keep the community and nearby residents informed on updates to the project if funded.
In addition to the Ponderosa West Grass Valley Defense Zone grant application, the County also applied for five other CAL FIRE grant projects including Egress/Ingress Fire Safety Project on County roads, Community Wildfire Preparedness Outreach and Education, Zone Focused Evacuation Planning, Community Wildfire Prevention Plan Update, Pilot Project for Vegetation Management on Private Roads for a total of $5.7 million. CAL FIRE is expected to announce awards for their Fire Prevention Grants in April 2019. Nevada County has also pursued $10.2 million in two other wildfire prevention grants through the FEMA.