California state lawmakers are looking into how intense wildfires are damaging the state’s natural resources.
“What some people don’t realize is, our watersheds, which are in the forest that have been impacted by fire, are the major source of water resources for california,” says Laura Friedman (D-Glendale).
State officials say the scope of the devastation of recent wildfires stretches beyond homes and businesses, and that future fires like them could threaten watersheds with erosion and debris flows.
Calfire director, Thom Porter testified in front of lawmakers at a hearing on the topic Wednesday.
He says, “The state has responded to the large fires with watershed emergency response teams, it’s Calfire and the California Geological Survey, to determine what those critical areas are that could see damage or a high flow of water.”
Moving forward, these teams need to do this type of work state-wide before fire season, Porter says.
The state’s top fire official also says forest management and watersheds are linked, and that there are several forest grooming projects underway.
With a goal of reducing 60,000 acres of fire fuel this year, Porter says the state is about 40 percent of the way through, with late fires in 2018 and early rain this year delaying some of that work.
The state is dedicating one billion dollars over the next five years to watershed and forest management projects.
“While the watershed and the landscape is being damaged by these fires and this activity, so too are our firefighting resources, our human capital that goes to respond to these emergencies, are really seeing a detrimental effect,” Porter says.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is directing members of the National Guard to help with the effort.