In recent years, wildfires have become more frequent and more destructive, heat events have become increasingly common, and climate uncertainties mean more risk of droughts, floods, and extreme weather events like the snowstorm last December 2021.
The proposed “Wildfire Prevention, Emergency Services and Disaster Readiness” measure is responsive to the longstanding call from Nevada County residents that more must be done to protect our community.
Over 65,000 residents are affiliated with a Firewise Community. These residents have taken individual action to clear defensible space around their homes, pack their “go bags,” sign up for CodeRED and much more.
Now they are looking to the County to provide community-wide solutions to save lives, reduce the threat of wildfires, and improve all-hazards disaster readiness and evacuation safety.
If voters approve this measure, we will have locally controlled funds to help us take on the challenges we face.
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Destructive wildfires have already hit our region hard, and we know that there are likely more to come. We must ensure that Nevada County is ready for this increasing fire danger and other natural disasters. Your input is important to help community leaders responsibly plan to prevent, contain, and mitigate disasters and keep our communities safe. Tell us your priorities.
To date, top priorities identified by the community include:
In order to safely evacuate residents in the event of a disaster, it is critical that we have early warning systems in place, that our evacuation routes are clear of hazardous fuels, and our critical infrastructure remains fully functional in a disaster. We must invest in major fuel breaks free of hazardous fuels to defend our cities, roads, bridges, power and communication lines, schools, and police and fire stations.
Illegal camping increases the threat of wildfires countywide. Improving enforcement of illegal camping and fire safety laws would help ensure our parks, forests, trails, and other public areas are adequately monitored to prevent wildfires and are safe and secure for everyone.
The impact of disasters threatens to outpace our resources. Responsible planning requires prioritization. That’s why we want to hear from as many residents as possible. Please tell us what’s most important to you. Take our online survey today.
The County brought together CAL FIRE, the Sheriff’s Office and other first responders to identify the gaps in service between what we have now to respond to emergencies and what is needed. That group identified 62 unique projects and programs that would have cost $36,000,000 per year to implement.
Over the past four years, the County has been awarded over $10 Million in state and federal grants to funds key projects. But raising on average $2.5 Million per year is simply not enough to do the major work that is required to meet the community’s needs.
The proposed measure would provide stable, locally controlled funding to address critical needs. This additional funding will also make the County eligible for more state and federal funds. For example, for every $1 million the County commits to match, we can secure $3 million in FEMA funding. Leveraging these funds will allow the County to do large-scale projects that are critical defenses to protect our neighborhoods.
The County does not have the authority to raise taxes. The Board of Supervisors can place a measure on the ballot, but only voters can determine if it’s enacted.
We know times are tough right now for everybody. But the 92% of Nevada County residents who live in high or very high fire hazard severity zones have made it clear: we must take action to reduce the threat of catastrophe. In a recent public opinion survey, 65% of Nevada County voters said they would support the “Wildfire Prevention, Emergency Services and Disaster Readiness” ballot measure.
The proposed measure would provide funding that stays local, for countywide wildfire prevention and disaster readiness. And it’s important to note that visitors share the cost too, not just the homeowners. And sales tax would NOT be applied to everyday items like food purchased as groceries or prescription medicines.
The tax measure would add an additional ½ cent of tax for every dollar you spend in the County. For perspective, a half-cent sales tax would add just 50 cents to a $100 purchase. Most importantly, the tax will not be applied to food purchased as groceries or prescription medications.
Responding to sequential wildfires, winter storms and heat events is straining the County’s capacity to respond. Simply put, our needs are outpacing our resources.
The measure would allow the County to be proactive rather than reactive, reducing the threat of wildfire and helping us better prepare for future challenges.
Having a source of local funds, will make the County eligible for more state and federal “matching” funds to address these needs in a fiscally responsible manner.
If enacted, the measure would address residents’ safety priorities, including:
If the measure is passed by voters, the County would create a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to recommend funding priorities to the Board of Supervisors for approval as part of the County’s annual budget process.
The TAC membership would have broad representation from both eastern and western county, including city and town managers, fire and law enforcement representatives, senior county staff, and nonprofit and community leaders.
These professional community volunteers would refer to the best science and most updated plans to identify and prioritize the most impactful projects that will reduce the threats and improve evacuation safety.
To ensure accountability and transparency, the Board of Supervisors would appoint a Citizens Oversight Committee consisting of seven community volunteers, with one member from each Supervisorial district and two at-large members.
The Citizens Oversight Committee’s roles and responsibilities would include reporting on the receipt of sales tax, on the allocations of funds per the expenditure plan, and findings of annual audits.
The County would set up a dedicated website to post contracting opportunities, awarded contracts, and annual audited reports to ensure maximum transparency.
The benefit of a general sales tax is that it allows the County to take an all-hazards approach to emergency planning and prevention that is responsive to immediate public safety needs.
The County can use these locally controlled funds to “match” state and federal funds for new projects like large-scale shaded fuel break projects.
It also allows the County the flexibility to innovate new solutions to reduce the threat of illegal camping such as pairing law enforcement with social workers to help navigate unhoused individuals out of unsafe conditions in the woods, especially on red-flag fire warning days.
An all-hazards approach engages law enforcement and first responders, public works and private contractors, social services and community-based organizations in a community-wide effort to improve our emergency services and disaster readiness.
At the direction of the Board of Supervisors, County staff engaged key stakeholders in a needs assessment process to identify the gap between what they are doing now and what they thought needed to be done to make our community safer.
These stakeholders included the City of Grass Valley, City of Nevada City, Town of Truckee, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District, Truckee Fire Protection District, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, and County departments including the Community Development Agency, Health and Human Services Agency, and the Office of Emergency Services.
Additionally, staff solicited ideas and priorities from fire protection leaders including Nevada County Fire Chiefs Association, Nevada City Fire Advisory Committee, Fire Safe Council Board, Nevada County Coalition of Firewise Communities, Firewise groups and homeowners' associations, as well as several nonprofit leaders representing social services and conservation.
County staff have been meeting with residents to learn more about their safety concerns and emergency services priorities.
Firewise groups included Darkhorse, Greenhorn, Lake Vera/Round Mountain, Lake Wildwood, Upper Rough and Ready, Scott’s Flat Pines Road, You Bet, and the larger Nevada County Coalition of Firewise Communities.
Homeowner and neighborhood groups included Ananda, Cascade Shores, Forest Springs Mobile Home Park, Friends of Banner Mountain, Lake of the Pines Association, Ponderosa Pines, and Rattlesnake Ridge.
Business groups included the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce / Grass Valley Downtown Association, Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Resource Council Executive Committee.
Other entities included the Nevada City Fire Advisory Committee, Firesafe Council Board, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation staff, Grass Valley Rotary, Penn Valley MAC, Penn Valley Rotary, Nevada County Contractors’ Association, and Yuba River Public Safety Cohort.
Staff tabled at numerous community events where attendees were asked to take the “Ready Nevada County: Preparing for the Future” survey, including the Children's Health & Safety & Wildfire Preparedness Carnival, Earth Fest, Grass Valley Thursday Night Market, Home and Garden Show at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, Lake Wildwood Firewise Festival, Nevada City 4th of July Parade, Nevada City First Friday Art Walks, and Nevada City Summer Nights.
Staff solicited resident opinions at neighborhood meetings, while tabling at community events, and through a brief online feedback tool at www.ReadyNevadaCounty.org/Future. As of August 5, 2022, 1015 respondents indicated a strong preference for 1) Prevent wildfires, 2) Reduce flammable brush countywide, and 3) Improve emergency evacuation routes.