City Council Meeting

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Meeting Date: 04/01/2014  
From: Paul Summerfelt, Wildland Fire Manager

Consideration and Approval of Contract:  Western Bark Beetle Initiative (WBBI) grant from AZ State Forestry. (State grant to treat for Bark Beetles).
Approve the WBBI Grant Agreement with AZ State Forestry
Policy Decision or Reason for Action:
In Nov 2012, 74% of Flagstaff voters approved Forest Bond #405, now known as the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP).  The State Land on Observatory Mesa was identified as one of the target treatment areas.  Fortuitously, bark beetle preventative forest treatments are the same type of forest treatments required to reduce wildfire threat, improve forest health, and ensure forest resiliency and sustainability.  In spring 2013, the City applied to AZ State Forestry for this grant.  The goal was to conduct preventative forest treatments on 250 acres of forested State property on Observatory Mesa that were susceptible to attack by bark beetles.  This request was not funded.  In late fall 2013, AZ State Forestry informed the City that funding was now available.  As the sale and transfer of the State Land parcels to the City was now pending with an expected closure in the near future, the State agreed to commit the funds but hold processing the Agreement until the process was completed.  That land sale and transfer is now finalized, and the Agreement now ready for consideration.
Financial Impact:
The acreage was slated to be treated as part of the FWPP.  The WBBI Grant is a 50-50 match grant (50% grant funds to be matched by 50% city monies and/or in-kind services).  Thus, acceptance and utilization of the grant funds allows less bond dollars to be spent on these acres and thereby stretches available bond dollars toward necessary treatments on other acreages.
Connection to Council Goal:
1.    Complete Rio de Flag – FWPP City/Dry Lake Hills related activities
10.  Develop an ongoing budget process – FWPP expenditures and transparency
11.  Effective governance – overall completion of FWPP.
Has There Been Previous Council Decision on This:
Not on this specific grant opportunity, but Council has previously approved and accepted numerous forest treatment grants from AZ State Forestry, was involved in the purchase of the Observatory Mesa Open Space parcels, and has been involved in the Forest Bond and FWPP process.
Options and Alternatives:
Four options exist: 1) Approve the grant Agreement, permitting forest treatment work to proceed; 2) Revise the Agreement and resubmit to AZ State Forestry as a precondition to forest treatments occurring,; 3) Scrap the grant Agreement and fund the forest treatment work entirely from bond funds; or 4) Reject the Agreement and the need to conduct any forest treatments on the property.
The FWPP is an innovative and unique method of treating forested lands at high risk from serious wildfire events.  As far as is known, this is the first bond-funded program to address this issue in the country.  As such, it has garnered a high level of interest at both the State and national level.  Since the bond’s passage in Nov 2012, some field operations have occurred, but much of the effort has been behind-the-scenes in the realms of planning, public outreach, development of agreements, and other support activities, including seeking other funds, all designed to permit efficient and effective forest treatments throughout the project area.  The WBBI grant, although directed at preventing future bark beetle infestations, requires the same type of forest treatments as that needed to reduce wildfire threat.
Key Considerations:
Starting in 1999, Flagstaff Fire Dept began working with home and property owners in the Westridge and Northridge areas to reduce the wildfire threat on their property, a process that continues to this day.  Beginning in 2003, and extending until 2005, a major bark beetle infestation occurred in-and-around the Flagstaff area.  Tens-of-thousands of ponderosa and pinon pine were killed.  The heaviest hit area in town was the Observatory Mesa area, particularly the slopes above Old Town and below Lowell Observatory.  The forest conditions that permitted this rapid and destructive build-up of these insects persist in other areas of the Mesa today.
Expanded Financial Considerations:
The grant permits needed forest treatments to occur on 250 acres of city-owned property, at half the cost of what it would be otherwise to the FWPP bond fund.  Approximately 1,900 remaining acres of the property also requires treatment, which is planned using FWPP bond funds: However, we intend to continue to seek additional outside funds that will help off-set some of the cost for some if not all these acres as well.
Community Benefits and Considerations:
Multiple community partners have been engaged in FWPP, including the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership (GFFP), Friends of the Rio, and NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute (ERI).   The campaign to pass the bond also included the citizen-led “Yes on 405” group, the Grand Canyon Trust, and The Nature Conservancy.  Treating the now City-owned Open Space areas adjacent to the Westridge and Northridge neighborhoods will reduce the wildfire threat not only in the Open Space area, but in those neighborhoods as well.  In addition, such work will reduce the possibility of future insect epidemics in those areas as well. 
Community Involvement:
Inform – Considerable effort has occurred in the adjacent neighborhoods to inform the owners of the wildfire threat and firewise actions they can undertake: this has lead to the completion of much forest treatment work on the private lands. 
Consult – Community members helped to shape the scope of the Forest Bond question.  Activities planned in this area as a result of this grant, and FWPP bonds, are being developed in collaboration with other City staff, to include the Open Space Commission.  In addition, the planned work is in accordance with the Greater Flagstaff Area Community Wildfire Protection Plan, adopted by City Council in 2005, and the City’s Wildland Urban Interface Code, adopted by City Council in 2008.
Involve – In 2013, 15 separate public meetings, presentation, and/or field trips were conducted concerning the FWPP.  Between Feb-June 2014, another 15 such events are planned.  Additional outreach into the immediately adjacent neighborhoods of Westridge and Northridge, and with community stakeholders, is planned before work begins.  Firewood from cutting operations will be made available to the public.
Collaborate – Since Mar 2013, ten separate workshops have been held with various community members and groups to develop the soon-to-be completed FWPP Monitoring Plan, designed to provide accountability and documentation to the voters that what we said would occur as a result of the forest treatments actually is delivered.  Flagstaff Fire Dept has also worked with the adjacent owners regarding access issues onto the then State-owned parcels from the neighborhood, as well as during wildfires on these parcels.
Empower - 74% of those who participated in the Nov 2012 election voted in favor of the project.

WBBI Grant Agreement

Form Review
Inbox Reviewed By Date
Purchasing Director rcompau 03/19/2014 08:09 AM
Legal Assistant Vicki Baker 03/20/2014 09:36 AM
Fire Chief Mark Gaillard 03/20/2014 03:08 PM
Form Started By: psummerfelt Started On: 01/15/2014 08:29 AM
Final Approval Date: 03/20/2014


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