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Political Landscape: Laguna receives $1M from state to remove and modify vegetation that could fuel wildfires

Acotillo Moreno and his border collie “shandu”, at left, keep control the heard of goats on a Laguna
Laguna Beach uses herds of goats to clear dry brush that could ignite during a wildfire. The state recently allocated $1 million that will go toward additional efforts to remove or replace combustible vegetation in the city.
(File Photo)

Laguna Beach will receive $1 million from the state to fund local efforts aimed at removing or replacing vegetation that could provide fuel for wildfires, officials announced this week.

“The city of Laguna Beach worked closely with Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris to secure this $1-million appropriation ... for much-needed fuel modification work in Laguna Beach,” Mayor Bob Whalen said in a statement Monday. “Our number one priority as a city is to reduce our current level of high fire risk and exposure to wildfires. This funding is a tremendous help to those efforts.”

Last year, 150 goats cleared all potential wildfire fuel zones and went home early. This year, 800 goats have been brought in to tackle the overwhelming crop of vegetation resulting from the wet rainy season.

Fuel modification — a catch-all term for efforts to remove, alter or replace combustible vegetation with more drought-tolerant or fire-resistant plants to remove the “fuel” for potential wildfires — is one of 29 short-term goals recommended in a 132-page report the city’s Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee released earlier this year.

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The additional state funding will go toward fuel modification along Laguna Canyon Road, which is one of only three exit routes out of the city.

“Over 70% of our Laguna Beach neighbors live in a high fire hazard severity zone and we’re working to mitigate this risk,” Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) said in a statement. “I am proud to have partnered with Mayor Whalen to secure $1 million in state funds to protect lives, property and our community.”

Nearly all of Laguna Beach and its 16,000 acres of open space are classified by CalFire as a “very high” fire hazard severity zone. The city has 23,000 residents and attracts an estimated 6 million visitors each year during the summer tourism season.

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Fire weather is returning to California this week, prompting warnings and preparation. Widespread Santa Ana winds and low humidity are forecast.

In July, the City Council earmarked nearly $23 million to expand outreach and emergency alerts, underground power lines along Coast Highway and refine local evacuation plans — as well as remove dry brush and vegetation, with the goal of clearing the entire city within 10 years.

“Given the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires in the state, the city of Laguna Beach needs to be proactive in mitigating our wildfire-related risks and preventing fire-related air pollution,” said Fire Chief Mike Garcia, in a statement. “This [additional state] funding will help us do both.”

Rouda to speak during Laguna Beach Democratic Club event

Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) addresses his constituents during his first district town hall me
Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) addresses constituents during his first district town hall meeting in Costa Mesa in February. The Laguna Beach Democratic Club will hold a meet-and-greet with the freshman congressman on Thursday.
(File Photo)

The Laguna Beach Democratic Club will host a meet-and-greet with Rep. Harley Rouda on Thursday.

Club members and guests are invited to speak with the congressman starting at 6:30 p.m. Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) will provide congressional and legislative updates.

The event will be held at a private residence and tickets must be reserved in advance. Pizza and beverages will be served.

Members can attend with a recommended donation of $10. General admission is $35.

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Visit secure.actblue.com/donate/harley1019 for more information or to RSVP.

Newport Democratic club to hold climate change forum

The Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club will hold a forum on climate change at its monthly meeting Oct. 15 at the Oasis Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave., Corona del Mar.

The program will feature a panel including Shahir Masri, an environmental scientist and author; Linda Kraemer, chairwoman of the Orange County chapter of the Climate Reality Project; and Kathy Andrews, chairwoman of the Women’s Democratic Club government activism.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for a networking social and refreshments. The program will begin at 6 p.m.

Seating is limited and RSVPs are required.

For more information or to RSVP, visit NBWDC.org or call (949) 423-6468.

Petrie-Norris to appear at Corona del Mar meeting

The Corona del Mar Residents Assn. board will welcome state Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) as guest speaker at its monthly meeting at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 17.

Petrie-Norris will talk about her first year in office and her goals for 2020.

The meeting will be in Room 5 at the Oasis Senior Center, 801 Narcissus Ave.

For more information, visit Cdmra.org or call (949) 478-2454.

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Updates:
11:30 AM, Oct. 08, 2019: This article was originally published at 10:50 a.m. Oct. 8 and has been updated with additional information.

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