Be Ready for the 2019-2020 Season
Local agencies and community groups are taking action to help property owners protect our watershed, and prevent flooding and storm water pollution after the 2019 Kincade Fire by implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs). BMPs are used to keep pollutants from entering storm drains and our natural water bodies like creeks and rivers.
The County of Sonoma has developed contracts Russian River Keeper, Community Soil Foundation, and Sonoma Ecology Center to assist with site assessments and, for high risk locations, install temporary BMPs until the burn debris has been removed by the property owner and new BMPs have been install as part of the Fire Debris Removal process. To request site assessment assistance from these community groups, please contact Kristin Suarez at Community Soil Foundation email@example.com or 303-564-4119 (mobile).
There are many types of BMP materials and methods. BMPs must be properly installed and maintained in order to function, and may need to be replaced prior to each rainy season, particularly after a wildfire has damaged vegetation and soils.
There are many different site conditions, each requiring BMPs suited for those specific site conditions. What one property may need varies from what another property needs for proper BMPs. Each site depends on the unique combination of slopes, location of creeks and inlets, fire damage, and other factors. Some properties may require wattles while others may simply benefit from weed free straw mulching or other measures.
Additional places to get assistance and information include the Sonoma County Storm Water and Creeks team at (707) 565-6186, the Sonoma Resource Conservation District (Sonoma RCD) at (707) 569-1448 x110 or at https://sonomarcd.org/resources/fire-recovery/ and at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service at (707) 794-1242 ext 3.
The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) 2019 Fire Recovery Guide addresses many post-fire questions in an easy-to-use, free booklet. The new statewide guide is a collaborative effort between CNPS, dozens of partner organizations, and scientists across the state, including many here in Sonoma County.
Two additional documents from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide information of what property owners can do to Restore Forestland After a Fire as well as Do’s and Don’ts for Property Owners.
Erosion Control for Vacant Parcels
For property owners in the County of Sonoma:
- Making Sure Your Parcel is Ready for Winter (PDF)
- Asegurese de que su parcela este lista para el invierno (PDF)
Erosion Control for Rebuilding Sites
For property owners in the County of Sonoma:
- Construction Site – Storm Water Pollution Prevention (PDF)
- Prevención de contaminación de las aguas pluviales en las obras deconstrucción (PDF)
Additional Erosion Control and Flood Prevention Resources
Publications and services relating to erosion control can be found on the Sonoma Resource Conservation District Website at: http://sonomarcd.org/resources/fire-recovery
- Sonoma RCD Natural Resources Recovery Guide 11-4-19 (PDF: 617 kB)
- Preparing for Winter After the Fire: What Property Owners Can Do
- Erosion Control Mats (PDF) – by USDA
- Log Erosion Barriers (PDF) – by USDA
- Straw Mulching for Erosion Control (PDF) – by Rich Casale, CPESC
- Best Management Practices for Agriculture Erosion and Sedimentation Control, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, Revised 12/13/2013 (PDF: 9.54 MB)
- Erosion and Sediment Control Field Manual, Fourth Edition, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Francisco Bay Region, 2002
- CalTrans Construction Site Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual (PDF) – CalTrans
Property Owner and Contractor Responsibilities
As property owners begin the process of clean-up and rebuilding following the fires, it is your responsibility to control storm runoff. Property owners and contractors on burned lots and rebuild sites must prevent pollutants, including sediment, from entering storm drains, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.
Wattles and other BMP materials, such as straw, are available for purchase at various agriculture, garden supply and hardware stores.
Increased Risk of Flooding
Properties located within fire burn areas may be at risk for flash floods, mudflows and debris flows.
The County is working with the State of California to prepare a map based on hazard models showing potential hazards associated with the burned areas. Once the County has received the map, this section will be updated.
The National Weather Service expects debris flows to become more likely during periods of intense rainfall. Be prepared by:
- Identifying vulnerable areas on your property.
- Using erosion control techniques, such as installing wattles and rock bags, and clearing fire-related debris from creeks and drainages to reduce flooding.
- Have an evacuation and emergency plan ready.
- Keep your cell phone turned on at all times to receive emergency alerts.
- Sonoma Water installed several rainfall and stream gauges in burned areas within watersheds affected by the 2017 wildfires and is working collaboratively with multiple agencies to expand the system into the Kincade Fire burn areas to provide increased situational awareness for watershed protection. Sonoma Water has also installed new radar equipment to improve early warning forecasts for residents in high-risk areas. Use this link for real-time data: sonoma.onerain.com
- The California Nevada River Forecast Center has also added a new forecast point on Big Sulphur Creek that will forecast creek stages and flows in advance of winter storms. This information may be useful for residents living within the watershed affected by the Kincade Fire. (https://www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/graphicalRVF.php?id=BSCC1).
National Weather Service Warning System
- The National Weather Service issues weather advisories and watches when the weather forecast indicates there is a potential for hazardous conditions. Watches and advisories are shared online at https://www.weather.gov/alerts, and on the National Weather Service social media Facebook and Twitter feeds.
- The National Weather Service will issue a Warning if hazardous conditions are imminent or occurring within the burn areas.
- The National Weather Service sends Warnings over the Wireless Emergency Alerts system that will send a message to all cell phones in the burn areas and will also send out alerts through the Emergency Alert System that broadcasts on radios and televisions.
Sign up for Sonoma County Emergency Alerts
- Sign up to receive emergency notifications at SoCoAlert.com. SoCoAlert will be used to send an emergency notification if there is an imminent threat to life or property.
Weather Emergency Radios
- In areas where there is limited cell service, or if a power outage occurs, Emergency Warnings from the National Weather Service will be announced on the Weather Emergency Radios, which rely on batteries.
Emergency public hotlines – Flood, sanitation, streams maintenance
- Flood Forecast Hotline: (707) 526-4768
The Flood Forecast is a recording that provides updates on local river conditions. The recordings are updated by Sonoma Water as conditions change.
- Stream Maintenance: (707) 521-1845
Report any stream related issues, such as debris or stream channel changes, to prevent localized flooding.
- Sewage Emergency Hotline: (707) 523-1070
The Sewage Emergency Hotline is operated on a 24-hour basis at Sonoma Water’s Operations Center. Call this hotline to report any sewage spills, overflows or backed-up sewer lines.
Inspections and Enforcement
Inspections of fire-affected properties are underway to assess whether they are ready for the rainy season, with an emphasis on protecting the environment and ensuring contractor compliance during rebuilding. Inspections will occur throughout the rainy season to ensure adequate wet weather protections are in place and functioning well.
It is important to have needed BMPs in place. The County of Sonoma’s goal is to work with property owners and contractors to come into compliance through public education efforts and site-specific communication. It is the County’s policy to follow a progressive communication practice prior to any potential formal enforcement.