Placer Supervisors consider new Office of Emergency Services staffing
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — The Placer County Board of Supervisors expressed support for a new bill introduced in the House of Representatives that would create a Clean Water Act exemption for federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies to use fire retardant to battle wildfires.
H.R. 1586, otherwise known as the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023, was introduced on March 14 by Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.-01).
“Currently the Forest Service and other agencies are operating under the assumption that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit is not required for the use of fire retardant because the regulations specifically state that fire control is a “non-point source silvicultural activity” and communications from EPA dating back to 1993 indicated a permit is not required,” the staff report stated.
However, the Forest Service is currently being sued by Forest Service employees for environmental ethics under the Clean Water Act to require a NPDES permit to use fire retardant.
The Placer County Supervisors approved support of the bill and commented on how in recent years fire retardant has been used to fight several large wildfires.
Also during the meeting, the Placer County Office of Emergency Services presented a proposed change to the office structure. Because of the rise in emergencies and intensity of the emergencies in recent years, OES finds itself either understaffed or lacking specific knowledge regarding the emergencies. This is not a fault of OES staff but just due to rapid changes in disasters and emergencies.
OES staff are proposing a new staffing model that would allow for more collaboration with Placer County Sheriff’s Office and Placer County Fire Departments.
“This proposed model would include OES staff, as well as a dedicated new Sheriff’s lieutenant allocation as well as a dedicated new contracted PCF assistant chief,” the staff report stated.
The lieutenant would manage and direct the law enforcement activities of the Emergency Operations Center, coordinate law enforcement mutual aid, provide jurisdictional leadership for evacuation planning, and manage special teams for the Sheriff’s Office including air operations, search and rescue, and the dive team.
The PCF assistant chief would manage and direct the fire rescue activities of the Emergency Operations Center and would provide administrative and operational management of the PCF/OES HazMat Response Team, jurisdictional collaboration in countywide evacuation planning, and oversight of Community Preparedness and Wildfire Mitigation programs.
The two new staffing positions would cost $1.1 million, including one-time expenditures associated with building renovations estimated at approximately $120,000, and vehicles and equipment estimated at $167,000. Ongoing staffing costs include about $390,000 for the addition of a lieutenant and an increase to the Cal Fire contract of $378,000 for the addition of a PCF assistant chief.
The board was receptive to implementing the new model.
The board also received a presentation from Caltrans regarding possible changes to the California fuel tax program.
Currently, most of the state’s transportation system is funded by the gas tax but lawmakers are seeing an increasing unfairness of the gas tax.
People who can afford more fuel efficient vehicles pay less to use the road, while people who live in rural areas often pay more and with California law moving to all electric vehicles, the gas tax won’t be a viable income source.
The state is considering moving to a road charge which, like a utility bill, would charge people based on how much they use the road. It would be a single per mile rate for all passenger vehicles.
Oregon, Utah and Virginia currently use a road charge method and many other states are currently using pilot programs.
There would be a state oversight agency that would oversee and certify third party account managers who would collect the fees. Drivers could choose from several mileage reporting methods ranging from less technology like an odometer reading or more technological methods like a plug-in device or an app.
California is launching a pilot program that is looking at impact to rural and tribal communities. They are currently recruiting individuals in tribal or rural communities to participate in the pilot in exchange for an up to $250 incentive. To learn more, visit caroadcharge.com/engage/contact-us.
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