Local leaders ask CalEPA to ‘prioritize lives over dry grass’ in Salinas Riverbed
–This week, in the wake of a fire that started in the Salinas Riverbed and forced a third of the City of Paso Robles to evacuate, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), San Luis Obispo County Supervisor John Peschong, and Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin sent a letter to California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Jaren Blumenfeld asking the CalEPA and the Central Coast Regional Water Board to prioritize the lives of Paso Robles residents over dry vegetation and sand in the riverbed.
The dry Salinas Riverbed runs directly through the heart of the City of Paso Robles. Encompassing hundreds of acres, the wind-swept riverbed is covered with trees, shrubs, and dry grass. In 2019 alone, over 90 fires were started in the riverbed.
“For a number of years, the city has attempted to work with the Central Coast Regional Water Board to mitigate the risk caused by the overgrowth within the Salinas Riverbed, which is the largest fire risk area in North San Luis Obispo County,” the letter states.
“And for years, the city’s efforts to work constructively with the board have been stymied. The board’s staff seems unable, or refuses, to take seriously the threat posed to our residents’ lives and property by the overgrowth conditions in the riverbed.”
The letter requests that CalEPA and the regional water board grant permission to use mechanized methods to clear brush within the riverbed; expedite review of the city’s long-term maintenance plan; and recognize the city’s findings that the lack of vegetation management within the riverbed constitutes a direct threat to life and property.
“As we saw earlier this week, the board’s total failure to act after years of requests by the city has resulted in an extremely dangerous and combustible situation that poses risk to tens of thousands of residents, businesses, and visitors,” the letter states. “The board’s inaction is totally irresponsible, borders on criminal and civil negligence, and will inevitably result in further catastrophic damage to the lives and property of local residents.
“We implore you to prioritize the lives of the city’s residents and allow Paso Robles to immediately implement critical, necessary, and responsible fire abatement measures within the Salinas Riverbed.”