OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Gregg Dieguez —
It’s not just the natural disasters which are a hazard on our coast. It’s being able to EVACUATE in the event of a natural disaster, or get First Responders and Medical Supplies in and out that are the bigger threats. And it’s not just the volume of traffic on our over-populated coast. Here are the risks, and what is, and is not, being done about them.
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When an earthquake, or tsunami, or wildfire hits our area, one of the dangers is that a tree falls over Hwy 1, trapping us in the disaster, and preventing necessary movement of First Responders… And there are five (5) tree-related immediate hazards to health and safety on CalTrans properties in the MidCoast. I’m not sure you can call it actual Progress, but now, 293 days after we wrote the Buzz article flagging numerous wildfire risks on the Midcoast, San Mateo County is (finally) planning to write CalTrans, asking them to do something about two (2) of them.
- Highway 92 approaching Half Moon Bay
- Highway 1 at the Southern end of Pacifica
Credit to Supervisors Horsley and Canepa for following through. In fact, they organized the Board of Supervisors’ special session on wildfire held on Oct. 14, 2020. That was the event which triggered me and several other residents (I consulted with about 60) to write the letter flagging the risks, which to this day still form the backbone of the MCC’s Wildfire Issues List. Is the Pandemic enough of an excuse for it to take 293 days (or 42 weeks or 9 months) for the County to ASK CalTrans for treatment of less than half the risks? In addition, this past Thursday our own Montara Water & Sanitary District (MWSD) weighed in with a letter of protest to CalTrans about the flammable trees on the old Martini Creek highway bypass.
Last September we had flagged those concerns and more. The MCC has maintained a Wildfire Issues List for months now, and it has included five Caltrans-responsible areas of evacuation concern, not just those two:
Evacuation routes along highways have eucalyptus groves
–Hwy 1 North of Lantos Tunnel
–Hwy 1 Frenchman’s Creek
–Hwy 1 Medio Creek
Plus, we flagged the Caltrans Martini Creek Bypass eucalyptus ‘forest’ near the vulnerable Montara Water & Sanitary District tanks and pumps. And the risk there is not only loss of those water supplies for a period of time during a wildfire, but long term damage to the watershed (“Wildfires Threaten Urban Water Supplies, Long After the Flames Are Out”) – polluting the major water source for that agency… meaning… some of US. Which is why I dragged Steve Ritchie and the SFPUC into the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) planning process, because, like DOH! — Crystal Springs and water for over two dozen San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda County water agencies.
Note that the MCC was not given a chance to comment on the new County letter; in fact, we were asked to wait and see what they did. So we did, and we have, and we need more. Heck, it’s not even SMC money that will be spent, it’s CalTrans’. Months ago I put these same issues to the LHMP staff, which may (FEMA willing) lead to funding for a variety of disaster prevention and remediation needs, including these, so it might even be Federal funds. [We expect to see a draft of the LHMP late July, and can re-comment then.]
But, we’re here to help (as well as hold our government accountable), and since Larry De Young has shown us how to do it with CalTrans, we have now logged four Customer Service Requests (you can as well – HERE!) with CalTrans and received a “Situation Acknowledged. Will be addressed” response to each. At least those of us who survive will have a timestamped record of when we put the issue to CalTrans, you know, for lawsuits. Below are the four ‘tickets’ I created. Please chime in and create your own; the more the merrier!
Progress & Issues Beyond CalTrans:
So, yeah, I guess I’m still grumpy and worried, but the County HAS listened. Horsley got us half a million to clear some eucalyptus on the medians in El Granada. There are a couple of more grants coming to: 1) fund an El Granada Fire Resiliency Scoping Study which would hopefully lead to more focused wildfire governance in our area (e.g. Quarry Park), and 2) provide a County Coordinator across our various governmental silos. Len Erickson of the MCC is valiantly trying to push the strings with several agencies to get things moving, and to be appointed as our MCC’s Mid Coast representative to a new advisory committee to the San Mateo County FireSafe council.
But we have to keep paying attention. For example, the County reported at the 7/14 MCC meeting that it had “completed the Quarry Park Governor’s Fuel Break Project”, until Graham Wood (of the EG Wildfire Warriors) pointed out that they had only done about 83 out of a planned 100 acres, not finished the job. And he and other residents pointed out that there IS NO FIRE BREAK on the West side of Quarry Park where, you know, the HOMES on El Granada Blvd. are. Of course, that’s not a Parks’ Dept. property, so not their fault – but you get the picture of a lack of comprehensive governance don’t you?
So, stay tuned and help us get noticed!
 Fire Safe SMC Minutes of July 14, 2021, item IV.
Advisory Committee Update
• FSSMC is forming this committee. Zones have been set up (North, Mid Coast, South Coast and South Bayside). Looking for two delegates for each zone. Those interested in serving will need to send in a letter of interest to the Fire Safe Council.
Mr. Dieguez is a native San Franciscan, longtime San Mateo County resident, and semi-retired entrepreneur who causes occasional controversy on the Coastside. He is a member of the MCC, but his opinions here are his own, and not those of the Council. In 2003 he co-founded MIT’s Clean Tech Program here in NorCal, which became MIT’s largest alumni speaker program. He lives in Montara. He loves a productive dialog in search of shared understanding.