Funding tops concerns of fire officials at town hall meeting |

Funding tops concerns of fire officials at town hall meeting

Adam Jensen

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Acquiring stable, long-term funding is the major obstacle to creating a more fire safe Lake Tahoe Basin, according to speakers at a town hall meeting this week.

The meeting was hosted by California Assemblyman Ted Gaines at City Council Chambers on Wednesday evening. Gaines has hosted annual meetings since 2007’s Angora fire to detail progress on recommendations by a bi-state commission convened following the fire.

Cooperation between agencies in the basin has improved, interest in fire safety has jumped and money has become readily available for fuels reduction projects in the years since the fire, according to panelists at the meeting.

But basin agencies will again be in search of funding for fuels projects in a few years, said a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director Joanne Marchetta at the meeting.

“Money is always the issue,” Marchetta said.

Funding for fuel reduction projects is only secured for the next two years, making the viability of necessary, long-term projects uncertain, said Lake Valley Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Michael.

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Required maintenance of fuels reduction projects means funding will be an issue indefinitely, Michael said.

“The funding is probably the shortest thing we have going,” Michael said.

The fire chief said he was hopeful a renewal of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act would provide much of the needed funding. State and local matches are also going to be critical, Marchetta said.

It will likely take about $20 million a year through at least 2018 to properly management forests in the basin, said Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team spokeswoman Julie Regan.

With financial reform at the top of the federal legislators priority list, passage of the restoration act has been pushed back from mid-summer to at least this fall, Regan said.

Near the end of the meeting, South Shore resident John Adamski said he was disappointed that work had yet to begin on a more than 10,000 acre fuels reduction project spearheaded by the Forest Service, known as the South Shore Fuel Reduction and Healthy Forest Restoration Project

“This is three years after the fire , and this is the same old stuff we’re hearing,” Adamski said.

U.S. Forest Service Forest Supervisor Terri Marceron said she understood the frustration.

She said the agency is at the tail end of the planning portion of the project.

The fuels reduction project complex and a final environmental document should be released soon, Marceron said.ꆱ