Emergency Declaration by Governor for Spring Storms Which Damaged North Coast Roads and Residences
Governor Jerry Brown declared 19 counties a disaster today. The spring storms which have wreaked havoc across the North Coast have prompted him to act. Hopefully, slides at Dobbyn Creek, Benbow, Ferndale, etc. will receive much needed funds for cleanup, restoration, and other issues. According to KRCRTV,
Butte, Trinity, Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte are among the list of counties under the emergency proclamation issued by the Governor Friday morning….The declaration allows state agencies to make immediate requests for aid from the Federal Government, and for state agencies to deploy personnel, resources and funds to execute emergency plans across California.
This is an answer to prayers as local land owners been paying out of pocket to protect their properties and county road crews have been working overtime in order to just keep roads open. There has been little money or time for repair work.
Diana Totten who is consulting on the Dobbyn Creek slide said, “We’re happy to hear that the emergency has been declared. Hopefully this will expedite help….Over the last few weeks we’ve been told that various agencies could help the road and the Dobbyn’s creek slide if there was just an emergency declaration. Now there is one. We’re not sure if the mud or the bureaucracy is the bigger quagmire. It’s hard to watch as more problems develop because there isn’t money to help right away. Today, the water here is rising quickly. It is only 18 inches from overflowing into the culverts. It raised 7 inches in 4 hours –from 11 til three. It receded a bit but it is coming back up again.”
Many locals have been frustrated as they have been unable to understand why more help hasn’t been forthcoming. Like me they have questioned why during the Canoe Fires, my home and many of my neighbors had a fire truck stationed in our front yards with a full crew ready to protect us. Other fire crews stood in front of the flames battling to keep the fire from reaching us. Helicopters dumped water. The crisis response was reassuring.
Earlier this week, County Supervisor Mark Lovelace responded promptly to these concerns.
Our ability to respond to fires is due to the strong presence of an entire State agency with that mandate (CalFire). On a local level we also have volunteer fire departments that are prepared to provide assistance.
For the most part, public emergency response on private lands is focused on protecting human life and preventing damage to residences. While it is possible to defend a house against a fire, it is virtually impossible to provide an emergency response to defend against an active landslide. The only response is to clean it up afterwards.
In the case of either fire or a landslide, clean-up and rebuilding is a responsibility that is left to the property owner and their insurance company, though the County may be able to access emergency funds from the State or Federal government, which can help.
The County declared disasters for both the tsunami and the road issues, as a necessary first step for being eligible for such funds. In the case of the tsunami, we experienced no reported damage, and so last week we terminated the state of emergency (though the State has declared a regional emergency to try to get federal assistance for Crescent City.)
For the landslides we have asked that property owners keep records of their damage and the costs incurred…
Going forward, perhaps we can work with CalFire to try to leverage their resources and capacity to better assist us in these kinds of emergencies, as they do in the event of fire.
Apparently, the property owners and county officials were able to show that the thresholds of damage needed were met. Diana Totten praised the new crisis site, SoHum Awareness, for helping county officials get the declaration passed. “Sohum Awareness was able to bring a lot of the damages to light. It was a catalysis to get this done.”
Totten also noted that rural residents are used to surviving without outside help. ” We’re used to being self sufficient but with damage this extensive we need help. That’s what these emergency funds are for. Now that [the declaration] has been implemented, we should be able to have safe roads. This has been a winter of this road being closed and that road being closed. We make do. Which is good but there comes a time where we do pay taxes and we are part of a greater community and we deserve to have safe roads that keep open.”
UPDATE 7:13: I just spoke to Kris Wallan whose place in Benbow (see above) is the scene of a massive slide. She told me that she had spoken to county officials about the emergency declaration. “Unfortunately, this doesn’t help me at all because we are private property.” According to her, they would need at least 25 people who have a certain proportion of uninsured damage in the county for landowners to get assistance. “On a brighter note,” she said, “while it doesn’t cover me, all our friends and family drive these roads. Now they can be safer. It’s not just about me. Its about getting the help this community needs as a whole.” She adds quietly, “Even though nobody can help me. They are all very sympathetic…They are all very nice…”
Note: I am a contributor to the SoHum Awareness site.