Fire agencies to split $40 million if bill passes |

Fire agencies to split $40 million if bill passes

by Kyle Magin
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

How money allotted for fuels reduction from a multimillion dollar bill introduced in the Senate last week will reach individual Lake Tahoe fire agencies is a mystery.

Senators from Nevada and California introduced the $415 million bill – a continuation of the 2000 Lake Tahoe Restoration Act – last week to continue to support the health of the environment in Lake Tahoe. In the pending bill, about $136 million is set aside for fuels reduction, and local fire agencies will get about $40 million of that for fuels projects.

The basin’s seven fire protection agencies will share the funding, “but it’s too early to tell who gets how much, how it’s going to be used, etcetera,” said Leona Allen, Lake Valley Fire Protections District spokeswoman.

North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown said the offices of the senators who introduced the bill – including John Ensign, R-Nev., Harry Reid, D-Nev., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. – are working with Tahoe fire districts to create a system for application.

Brown said the current system for applying for federal money, which includes a Multiple Agency Coordination group of land-use agencies around the basin, would be a good way to parse the funds. Fire agencies such as NLTFPD and cities like South Lake Tahoe compose the MAC group. The group collaborates on funds and prioritizes requests with an emphasis on community safety.

“If they continue using the MAC, we all work very well together,” Brown said.

According to federal bill – which still on the floor of both the Senate and House of Representatives – of the $136 million for fuels, $80 million would go to the US Forest Service for fuels projects and $10 million to the Angora restoration project in South Lake Tahoe.

Ensign said the bill addresses the most major threat to Lake Tahoe.

“Unfortunately, the beauty of the lake faces a number of environmental threats that risk diluting its famous clarity,” said Ensign in a statement. “Invasive species and sediment in the lake have the potential to ruin the very beauty that makes it unique, but catastrophic wildfires remain its biggest threat.”

Rex Norman, a spokesman with the US Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said the forest service is committed continuing to finish its initial fuels reduction on Tahoe’s forests within a decade.

“Regardless of what funding sources we have, we’ll continue to do our planned fuels work throughout the basin,” Norman said.

NLTFPD would use the federal funds fore fuels projects similar to those already funded by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, Brown said. Those include thinning and maintaining the protective halo which surrounds Incline/Crystal Bay.

In the past two years, SNPLMA funds became increasingly difficult to come by as land sales in hard-hit Southern Nevada slowed, thus increasing competition for the funding increased.