Stakeholder Project Initiation Working Session Summary - 06/01/06
Harry & Judy Andrew
Afton Crooks, Sierra Club
Bill McClung, Claremont Conservancy
Ted & Barbara Milhous
Peter Rauch, CNPS
Roger Wong, NPS
Doug Siden, Board Member
Mike Anderson, AGM, Planning, Stewardship and Development
Brian Wiese, Chief Planning/Stewardship/GIS Services
Doug Bell, Wildlife Program Manager
Ken Blonski, Fire Marshal
Joe DiDonato, Stewardship Manager
Brad Gallup, Fire Captain, FEMA projects
Ed Leong, Park Supervisor
Dennis Rein, Fire Chief
Jessica Sheppard, Resource Analyst
Jeff Wilson, Park Operations Unit Manager
Judy Malamut, Project Manager LSA
Malcolm Sproul, Principal in Charge LSA
Cheryl Miller, Process Coordinator, Amphion
Amy Paulsen, Project Planner LSA
Carol Rice, Wildland Resource Management
Richard Nichols, Biological Resource Mgr LSA
Purpose and Overview of Meeting
Cheryl Miller welcomed participants and provided an overview of the evening with a review of the agenda.
Overview of Project
Brian Wiese provided an overview of the project goals and specific objectives. A summary handout was provided (to be posted on the EBRPD website: www.ebparks.org.) Handouts were provided of the Fires in the East Bay Hills and of the Chronology of Fuel Management Planning in the East Bay Hills (to be posted on the EBRPD website).
Overview of Planning Process
Judy Malamut provided an overview of the project area, work program and project schedule. A handout also was provided of the Work Program that included a preliminary schedule (to be posted on the EBRPD website). The team is currently preparing the baseline inventory of existing plans, practices, databases and documenting baseline conditions.
Presentation of Fire Hazard Assessment Methodology
Carol Rice presented the methodology that is being used for the fire hazard assessment which will:
- Analyze the current status of fuel management projects
- Analyze the adequacy of existing and planned fuel management areas
- Provide a context for identifying and evaluating fuel reduction recommendations in light of potential habitat conflicts.
- Serve as the "Existing Setting" descriptions for the EIR/EA that will be prepared later in the project.
The fire hazard assessment will use the fire behavior modeling program "FLAMMAP" and "FarSite." In particular the team will focus on flame length and crown fire potential.
- Flame length relates to the ability of a firefighter to safely attack a fire. Flame length is most closely related to structure damage and loss. Flame lengths greater than 8 feet cannot be suppressed using direct attack by fire personnel.
- Crowning potential is crucial because as fire spreads into tree crowns, thousands of embers are produced and lofted into the air creating new fires that can overwhelm fire suppression personnel.
Carol explained fire weather as a combination of weather, topography and fuels. FLAMMAP uses 11 data layers to model potential fire behavior. Topography: slope steepness, aspect and elevation. Weather: wind direction, speed, relative humidity, temperature, initial dead fuel moistures and foliar moistures. Fuel: fuel models that describe the vegetation, in terms of biomass volume, tree height, height to live crown (ladder fuels), crown density and canopy cover. Information from detailed EBRPD vegetation surveys will be translated into fuel characteristics the model can use.
The outputs include: Flame length, crown fire potential, rate of spread, fireline intensity, heat per unit area and fire residence time. Fire spread is important where fire containment is of concern. The heat per unit area and residence time is influential in ecologically sensitive areas. If the values of these outputs are high there is better chance of tree mortality from cambium and root heating and higher likelihood of post-fire soil erosion.
Local firefighters' knowledge of how fire behaves on actual incidents in the East Bay Hills also will be incorporated into the fire hazard ratings. Ground truthing of Priority Vegetation Management Areas (Priority Areas) will ensure that what is mapped and modeled is what is really on the ground. The team will visit each Priority Area, characterize the fuels and photograph it. They will then make any adjustments and re-run FLAMMAP with any corrected field information. The Priority Areas will be further refined based on new fire behavior outputs and potential prescriptions.
Carol ended her presentation with the products of the fire hazard analysis which include:
- Map of existing fuel management areas
- Map of inherently low fire hazard areas
- Map of Priority Areas
- Photos of each polygon in which the Priority Area is Located
- Adjustment to/confirmation of fuel description in each Priority Area.
Presentation of Biological Resources Assessment
Richard Nichols, LSA provided an overview of the Biological Resources Assessment. The LSA team includes botanists, wildlife biologists and restoration ecologists familiar with the species and habitats of the East Bay Hills. The biologists will use the maps of Priority Areas created by Carol to focus their assessments. LSA has reviewed an abundance of existing literature on biological resources of the East Bay Hills, including District vegetation and special-status species mapping on recent aerial photos. Spring surveys were focused on the Priority Areas identified by FLAMMAP. The LSA team will conduct additional surveys through next winter to assess habitats supporting special-status animal species, document plant and animals species observed in each plant community, and conduct predictive analyses of other species associated with those habitats. The LSA team will verify and update District vegetation and occurrence maps in the process.
Survey methodology will be cost effective but thorough to address both common and rare plants and animals (including invertebrates). The team will describe the unique character of the East Bay Hills plant and wildlife communities and habitats. Methodologies for the baseline inventory will be described that can be easily repeated for future monitoring of plant and animal populations in Priority Areas by EBRPD staff or volunteers. The biological resource assessment will also develop goals for habitat restoration, management, and protection. These goals include protecting special-status species/communities and their habitats, reducing invasive non-native plants and improving habitats for common keystone or indicator species and overall ecological health.
The team will use this information and previously collected data to prepare the baseline document and vegetation/habitat map that will be used in the "Existing Setting" section of the Resource Management Plan and EIR/EA. This data will feed into the analysis of potential impacts and recommendations for alternative treatments that will help to accomplish the equally important goals of fire hazard reduction and natural resource restoration and management.
Discussion of Key Issues by Participants
Cheryl Miller facilitated questions regarding the presentation and then encouraged participants to identify issues for the team to consider during the development of the Plan. EBRPD and Team responses are in italics.
- Traps were observed in the parks what are these for?
They are part of the existing whipsnake monitoring program for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Why is the fire hazard analysis not including the high hazard areas outside of the park boundaries? How will hazard areas outside the park be treated?
The focus of the Plan is on the areas within the park boundaries that EBRPD can manage with fuel reduction and resource management techniques. The project team will look outside of the boundary to identify risk and share that information with the neighboring cities and agencies.
- How will the EIR integrate with FEMA work?
The current fuel management work has been cleared under NEPA for the FEMA polygons. Management recommendations of this Plan will also be overlaid on the FEMA polygons.
- The character of the urban wildland interface will change dramatically in Richmond and El Sobrante in the coming years. There are many new developments, such as 300 homes in El Sobrante, Forest Glen and Clark Road, that need to be considered in the plan.
- Wind stations at Oakland North (near the Highway 13 tunnel) and Oakland South (near Leona Regional Park) are not representative of the entire study area. Wind patterns along the ridge vary greatly as they are influenced by the local canyons. This is especially true at the northern area in Richmond and El Sobrante.
- The slope above Lake Temescal is another location where fire hazard is higher than it first appears due to wind patterns and topography. The ridge becomes a location for embers to spread to other areas.
- The Plan needs to identify collaborative opportunities to work with other cities and agencies.
- The spread of French broom is a serious issue. Effective management strategies need to be identified.
- How does EBRPD comply with Oakland Fire requirements? There are tall weeds and the fire trail needs on-going maintenance in the area near Wilton Drive and Burton in Oakland. The neighbors would like to be able to assist on park lands. How can they work to resolve any liability issues so that they can help with fuel clearance on District lands.
- Chief Rein said he will work with any community group that want to help both themselves and EBRPD. In general the goat crews are working from north to south this year. Other crews such as the California Conservation Crew are also doing fuel management in the park lands. They will reach the Redwood Park area soon.
- Prior efforts to get the agencies to work together on a regional fire hazard reduction and resource management failed because the other agencies could not come up with funding. The District was commended for moving ahead. Concern was expressed that the plan needs to be not only fuel management, but also focus on resource management to restore and enhance. Resource portion of the Plan should not just focus on mitigation measures for fire hazard reduction actions. The native habitats are more fire safe. The Plan needs to enhance resources and build habitat restoration into the management actions.
- An evacuation bottleneck exists at Skyline and Keller. Does the District have any influence over getting additional road grading in this area to allow for emergency egress and access by fire trucks and other vehicles. The City of Oakland has a long history with this issue and new residential development in the area.
- This issue relates to City of Oakland property and will not be addressed specifically by this Plan; however it will be forwarded to the Hills Emergency Forum.
- Several of the fire hazard modeling assumptions should have further exploration and may need to be refined:
- Are the fuel models based on the 1995 Fire Hazard Mitigation and Fuel Management Plan?
- Carol Rice answered that new vegetation and fuel models will be used. They will be customized to the vegetation the team field verifies.
- Is the 8 foot flame length the right height to use? Is it realistic for the native habitats of the East Bay Hills Parks?
- How sensitive is the wind speed in the modeling?
- Have suppression technologies and techniques changed since the 1995 plan was adopted that may make a difference in management?
- Are there built in conflicts between the various factors in the model?
- How accurate is the model at the extremes?
- Carol answered that this is one of the reasons we will be working with local fire suppression and modeling experts to understand how well the model reflects what they see happening in our local fires.
- Are the fuel models based on the 1995 Fire Hazard Mitigation and Fuel Management Plan?
- Along with fire danger the Plan should also look at the impact from landslides. Recommends that the City of Oakland landslide study completed after the 1991 fire be used. Need to look at appropriate mitigation measures for landslides. The landslides also affect potential evacuation routes.
- How do natural resource improvements fit into the study? The Plan needs to vigorously incorporate resource management throughout the process. The resource portion of the Plan needs to be clear in its terminology. It needs to address not only the legally protected resources, but also incorporate the locally important species. The plant and animal management needs to be beyond just mitigation measures. Resource management objectives and value judgments need to be clearly expressed.
- What will property owners who abut park property see on the adjacent lands? Neighbors should be able to use the Plan to understand what treatments will look like adjacent to their homes.
- What will the impacts of the Plan be on the private property neighbors? Will help be available for managing fuel on private lands?
- No. This Plan concerns management of publicly owned park land only.
- The District will continue to discuss community-wide issues through the Hills Emergency Forum.
- Technical advisors are recognized professionals and technical experts in their field (wildland fire, resource ecology, etc.) who have no direct stake or vested interest in the project. A list will be made available in the near future.