Mayor’s blog addresses River Fire
–The most recent challenge facing Paso Robles is the danger of wildfires originating in the Salinas River Bed. June 22, such a fire jumped into a residential neighborhood on Capitol Hill Drive, destroying two homes and damaging nine others. Thousands were evacuated in anticipation of a devastating conflagration. Thanks to our fire department and mutual aid from other departments, that did not happen.
In 2019 the City of Paso Robles declared a local emergency and spent $400,000 out of precious reserves to employ heavy equipment and hand crews to clear a portion of the riverbed. This action did not sit well with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is concerned about soil disturbance in the riverbed. They warned us never to do that again under penalty of enforcement.
Early in 2020, it became apparent vegetation had re-grown and fire in the riverbed would once again be a life-threatening possibility. Although we are working with the Water Board to establish a long-term riverbed maintenance plan, we felt it was obvious that immediate, emergency action was again necessary to protect lives and property. Unfortunately, we were right. Still, the Water Board insists the City wait until far into the fire season to mitigate riverbed vegetation and prohibits the use of heavy machinery, while threatening legal action if we persist. This is unacceptable.
We have requested three actions by the board within seven days:
- Allow the City of Paso Robles to use heavy equipment and hand crews to remove flammable vegetation in a portion of the Salinas Riverbed.
- Accelerate the approval of the City’s Long-Term Management Plan for the Salinas Riverbed.
- Recognize our City’s right and responsibility to declare a local emergency when conditions require such action. [See the television press conference held at the burn site on June 25, 2020.]
Citizens can help. You can use your email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to tell your friends and neighbors you support the City’s efforts to reduce the incidence of wildfires in the riverbed. You can share your concerns with the Chair and Executive Director of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board:
- Matthew Keeling, Executive Director – Matt.Keeling@waterboards.ca.gov
- Jean Pierre Wolff, Chair – 895 Aerovista Place, Ste. 101, San Luis Obispo CA 93401
You can also copy (or contact) the Chair and Executive Director of the overall State Water Quality Control Board, as they oversee the regional boards:
- Eileen Sobeck, Executive Director – Eileen.Sobeck@waterboards.ca.gov
- E. Joaquin Esquivel, Board Chair – P.O. Box 100, Sacramento CA 95812-0100
And because the water boards are parts of a larger agency, Cal EPA, you can also contact:
The Honorable Jared Blumenfeld, Secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency, 1001 I St., Sacramento CA 95814.
If you would like, you may copy me on your emails and letters and let me know what response you receive.
And you can send me your ideas about how we can better address riverbed issues in the future. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you want to address all members of the City Council, use Council@prcity.com.
In November 2018, the California city of Paradise burned to the ground. Eighty-five lives and 11,000 homes were lost. We cannot let that happen in Paso Robles.
The City of Paso Robles wishes to have a positive and productive relationship with all state agencies, especially the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. That can only occur, however, when the City of Paso Robles and its citizens are respected and protected.
This is Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin reminding you to stay informed, stay involved, and stay strong Paso Robles.