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McGuire calls new state budget ‘a really good one’ for Mendocino County

Wednesday, June 13, 2018  
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During a quick call Wednesday while California legislators were preparing for today’s vote on the 2018-19 budget, state Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said he was busy but happy.

“This is a really good budget for us,” said McGuire, explaining that he and Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) have been “working day and night” with federal, state and local officials to help North Coast communities recover from last October’s fires, and he described the budget being voted on this week as the successful result of those efforts.

“The top three priorities for Mendocino County have been fulfilled,” McGuire said, listing those as: Replacing lost property taxes, covering the cost of debris removal and securing funding for the rebuild of Redwood Valley.

For the first priority, McGuire said the county has already received payment for the $380,000 it lost in property taxes from October 2017 to June of 2018, and it will also receive another $506,000 for July 2018 through June of 2019.

For the second priority, McGuire said $29.1 million is in the state budget to cover “the local share of debris removal costs.”

“The local share of removal costs in Mendocino County is estimated to be about $3.5 million to $4.5 million,” he said, explaining that the overall cost of debris removal for all counties affected by the October fires – Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma – is estimated to be $1.3 billion.

The third priority for Mendocino County was to secure funding for the infrastructure needed to rebuild Redwood Valley, and McGuire said a crucial component required was a $7 million water-line replacement for the Redwood Valley County Water District.

“Every new home in the state has to be built with a fire sprinkler system,” said McGuire, explaining that the 2-inch-wide pipe the district was using to deliver water to its customers was not large enough to “carry the needed capacity for operating fire sprinkler systems.”

In order to meet “modern-day water flow requirements,” McGuire said the main water line would have to be tripled to six inches, a project that would cost $7 million. And while $5 million of that was secured through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation program, McGuire said there was “still a $2-million gap that the district couldn’t afford, particularly since 15 percent of its ratepayers lost their homes.”

McGuire said the current state budget now has $2 million allocated for that new pipe, funding that 1st District Mendocino County Supervisor Carre Brown said will “allow us to kick off construction of both the water line and the 187 homes (that were destroyed in the water district’s jurisdiction).”

McGuire said a similar situation occurred in Lake County after the Valley Fire when the owners of more than 100 homes in Anderson Springs that were served by a septic system could not rebuild with the existing infrastructure because their homes were too close to a creek. Before those homes could be rebuilt, McGuire said new infrastructure needed to connect them with the sewer system in Middletown.

Past lessons like these were one of the main reasons why people started working groups as soon as possible after the October fires, said McGuire, describing the effort as an “all-hands-on-deck one by Mendocino County, the state Office of Emergency Services, Assemblymember Wood and many others.”

And in an effort to perhaps prevent devastating fires from becoming so large in the future, McGuire said the new state budget also has $50 million in enhanced mutual aid funding for firefighting that will allow firefighters and other resources to be mobilized before, not after, disaster strikes.

“Communities usually only see the Cavalry arriving after the fire has started, but now during peak fire conditions, such as Red Flag warning days with extreme heat and high winds, resources can be deployed beforehand,” said McGuire, explaining that while in the past agencies would only be reimbursed for mutual aid efforts after responding to a request for an existing fire, this enhanced funding will reimburse agencies for their preemptive efforts as well.

“If fire seasons like 2017 are the new normal for California, then we need to change how we do business,” McGuire said.

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