(Mariposa, CA - Tuesday, February 7, 2017)--The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors has approved an agreement with Blue Ridge Services, Inc. for tree mortality operations management services. This agreement provides for an escalation in the county-wide effort to reduce risk to public infrastructure resulting from tree mortality.
Drought and insect infestations have killed millions of trees in Mariposa County. As many as 500,000 of those are located in high-hazard zones that may present a risk to County infrastructure. The County has responded with a strategic, multi-layered approach focused on reducing risks to public safety and protecting affected infrastructure.
The first layer of this effort, in partnership with CAL FIRE, has been to clear dead trees from County property and easements for county-maintained roads where fire or falling trees could damage critical infrastructure (roads, parks, facilities, etc.). This effort is significant, ongoing, and has benefitted from the complementary efforts of PG&E, Caltrans, the Mariposa County Fire Safe Council and many others.
After significant discussion through the summer and fall of 2016, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop additional capacity to fell trees that present risks to public safety or infrastructure, but may be located on private land and require the landowner’s permission prior to initiating work. This step is the second layer of the County’s approach to the tree mortality issue. Blue Ridge Services, Inc. was selected through a competitive bidding process to manage these mitigation efforts for the County.
In addition to servicing and educating the general public, Blue Ridge Services, Inc., is tasked with developing a prioritized plan to mitigate the risks of tree mortality to public safety and infrastructure, obtaining grants and pursuing California Disaster Assistance Act (CDAA) reimbursements, meeting all environmental requirements, securing property owner permissions where mitigation is necessary, coordinating efforts with partner agencies, and executing the developed plan in accordance with all appropriate regulations.
“Felling these trees would dramatically reduce the public risk; working with Blue Ridge Services, we hope to fell as many dead trees as possible with minimum impact to the General Fund,” explained District 1 Supervisor Rosemarie Smallcombe. Smallcombe and fellow supervisor Kevin Cann are members of the Governor’s Task Force on Tree Mortality and have been active participants in every step of the process.
In most cases, felled trees are expected to remain on the property where they are felled into order to maximize the impact of limited funding. Another member of the Governor’s Task Force on Tree Mortality, Sergeant Kevin Packard, explained, “Using this approach enables the County to focus on providing as much public safety and infrastructure benefit as possible with the available resources.”
The Board of Supervisors has approved $40,000 for tree mortality mitigation with another $40,000 to be considered at a future meeting. With matching CDAA funds, these allocations could be used to complete up to $320,000 in tree mortality mitigation efforts in Mariposa County.
Blue Ridge Services, Inc. is expected to begin the planning phase of their work immediately. They will be publishing a weekly column in the Mariposa Gazette and providing periodic updates to the Board of Supervisors to keep the public informed of their activities.