Marin (CA) Water District Partners With Firefighters for Land Management

Adrian Rodriguez – The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

Feb. 20—The Marin Municipal Water District is enlisting the services of county firefighters to help build a wildfire defense in the Mount Tamalpais watershed.

Under a new agreement, the county’s Tamalpais Crew and the Fire Innovation, Recruitment and Education Foundry, known as the FIRE Foundry, have been tapped to support the district, its contractors and other partners to reduce the fire risk and enhance the watershed ecosystem.

The Tamalpais Crew is a specialized land management team, and the FIRE Foundry is a program with the College of Marin designed to bring more women and people of color into the firefighting workforce.

The district aims to tackle vegetation management on about 1,500 acres, said Shaun Horne, watershed resources manager.

“We’re really dependent on contract crews to support our internal staff in doing this work,” Horne said. Teaming up with the county fire crews “is really just adding capacity to how we do it and allowing the district to invest in workforce development efforts countywide.”

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The memorandum of understanding with the Marin County Fire Department was approved at the water district board meeting on Feb. 13. The approval renews a mutual benefit agreement between the agencies through 2031. The original agreement expired two years ago.

According to the memorandum, the rates for service include $8,789 per day for the Tamalpais Crew, a 10- to 12- person team, and $2,377 a day for FIRE Foundry work.

Primarily, the district partners with the California Conservation Corps and Conservation Corps North Bay on fire prevention efforts.

In its search for contractors, the district has asked for bid on a three-year contract worth approximately $1.03 million. The board is expected to award the contract after bids are reviewed next month.

All of the partner and contract land management teams are assigned jobs specified in the district’s “biodiversity, fire and fuels integrated plan” that was adopted in 2019.

Horne said One Tam, a partnership involving the National Park Service, California State Parks, the Marin Municipal Water District, Marin County Parks and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, is seeking about $14 million worth of grants for work around Mount Tamalpais. Of that, $6.8 million will support projects outlined in the district’s fire fuels plan.

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Tasks include invasive broom management, pile burning, prescribed burns, forest restoration, fuel reduction, fuel break construction and maintenance and more, Horne said.

Having the TAM Crew onboard is instrumental, Horne said.

“As we continue to do fuel reduction, specifically our forest restoration work, we’re generating a lot of piles on the watershed,” Horne said. “This is the type of crew that we really need in order to complete those projects to get the overall benefit that we’re trying to do.”

Carl Sanders, the district’s natural resources program manager, said that over the years, some piles have been left unburned either because they’re too wet or because officials are restricted by mandated “spare the air days” for regional smog management.

“We have less days each year, so I’m trying to concentrate that work,” Sanders said.

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Members of the water board said they’re excited to move forward.

“These folks are ready to go,” board member Matt Samson said of the county fire crews. “I just can’t reiterate enough, let’s get them going right away because we never know what the fire season’s going to do and we have way too many piles in the watershed.”

“We have to get our lands ready to receive good fire, and the faster we can do that, the happier I’m going to be,” he said.

“We never know when we are going to be faced with a really dangerous wildfire season,” board member Monty Schmitt said. “Everything we can do right now to be prepared is going to be deeply appreciated when we are next facing hot, dry conditions.”

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(c)2024 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)

Visit The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.) at www.marinij.com

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Adrian Rodriguez – The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif. Feb. 20—The Marin Municipal Water District is enlisting the services of county firefighters to help build a wildfire defense in the Mount Tamalpais watershed. Under a new agreement, the county’s Tamalpais Crew and the Fire Innovation, Recruitment and Education Foundry, known as the FIRE Foundry, have been tapped […]

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