Readers of Million Trees will recall some of the most controversial projects in the San Francisco Bay Area which propose to destroy hundreds of thousands of trees in the East Bay Hills. The owners of these properties—UC Berkeley, City of Oakland, and East Bay Regional Park District—applied for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund these projects, based on the claim that fire hazards would be reduced by the projects. Detailed descriptions of the proposed projects as originally planned are available HERE.
The public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement closed in June 2013. FEMA has announced the publication of the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is available HERE. FEMA now reports that it received more than 13,000 public comments and informs us that the final EIS reflects the concerns expressed in the public comments as well as the analysis of “subject matter experts.” We haven’t read either the public comments or the final EIS yet, so we are only quoting excerpts directly from FEMA’s announcement so that you have this information as soon as possible. If you read these documents, we welcome your reaction to them.
Here are excerpts from FEMA’s announcement of the final EIS (emphasis added):
“One of the major revisions to the draft EIS influenced by information gathered during the public process is that FEMA will not fund the proposed methodology of eradicating designated tree species without a phased approach. The originally proposed eradication methodology to completely and immediately remove the “overstory” was deemed not to satisfy the purpose and need for the grant of fire reduction, and therefore did not meet hazard mitigation program eligibility requirements.
Identifying and analyzing implementation options is another required element of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision-making process that must be explored before federal funding can be awarded. Based on input and issues raised during the public comment process, and in consultation with the grantee, sub applicants, and cooperating federal agencies, FEMA revised the vegetation management methodology for two of the three sub applicants – City of Oakland and UC Berkeley. The revisions align the majority of proposed projects with a thinning alternative, the approach originally proposed by East Bay Regional Parks District as described in the Draft EIS.
The thinning approach has been scientifically validated by subject matter experts to effectively reduce fire risk. The revised vegetation management methodology will result in fewer trees being removed in any single year in certain areas, with the same total fuel reduction accomplished by the conclusion of the project. The EIS considers the overall impacts to the environment based on the amount of land treated and consequent impacts to resources. Each grant applicant is responsible for their ongoing land management practices and determination for how much vegetation will be removed to accomplish their fire reduction goals within the scope of the vegetation management approach defined in the EIS. Clear-cutting, a logging practice, is not part of the methodology considered in the EIS for any of the projects.”
The final EIS and response to comments are available on the web at: http://ebheis.cdmims.com/FinalDocuments.aspx
and will also be made available at http://www.fema.gov/environmental-historic-preservation-documents.
The public also may view hard copies of the EIS at the following locations:
- Oakland Main Library, 125 14th Street Oakland, CA 94612
- Oakland Rockridge Library, 5366 College Avenue Oakland, CA 94618
- Berkeley Main Library, 2090 Kittredge Street Berkeley, CA 94704
- San Leandro Main Library, 300 Estudillo Avenue San Leandro, CA 94577
- Richmond Main Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza Richmond, CA 94804
- FEMA Region IX Headquarters, 1111 Broadway, Suite 1200, Oakland, CA 94607-4052
- East Bay Regional Park District, 2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA 94605-0381
- City of Oakland, Office of the City Clerk, Oakland City Hall, 2nd Floor, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
- California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program Unit 10390 Peter A. McCuen Blvd First Floor Sacramento, CA 95655