The Cambrian

How does wood make noise? Find out this week in Cambria

Chipping activity is seen during a wood-chipping event May 15, 2015, on upper Pine Ridge.
Chipping activity is seen during a wood-chipping event May 15, 2015, on upper Pine Ridge.

It’s about to get noisy on weekdays in some Cambria neighborhoods.

Work is set to begin as early as Monday, July 31, cutting and stacking logs, wood and brush from downed trees on areas along the wildland-urban interface edges of the Covell Ranch fuel break in Cambria, according to representatives of the county Fire Safe Council. Most of the wood will be chipped; any still-viable logs will be taken to a mill.

The cleanup work, which will happen between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, is to help maintain a thinned-out fire-buffer area between the community and the dense forest on the eastern and northern edges of town.

“There’ll be some mechanical equipment” used on the project, such as a large chipper, chainsaws and tractors, said Dan Turner, business manager for the council. That means “noise, dust, sawdust,” he said. Some of the fallen trees are huge, and will take major manhandling to get them in place for chipping.

Jim Neumann, who is managing the project, said the wood chips may be scattered in the forest and/or moved to a site (to be determined) from which the public could take them for use on their own properties.

Council representatives told the Cambria FireSafe Focus Group that crews are to start working near the dogleg curves on Bridge Street, just above the intersection with Wall Street. The work eventually will include areas through PineKnolls, along Sunbury and Hillcrest, all the way up to Weymouth. Additional work will be done at Buckley and Cambria Pines Road, and east of Bridge Street (such as behind the Old Santa Rosa Chapel/cemetery and the Cambria Community Healthcare District properties).

Piles of French broom, which were to have been burned to avoid spreading seeds of the invasive weed, Neumann said, will be covered and avoided, or carefully moved. Burning could resume later this year, depending on the weather and other conditions.

No more SRA fees

A state grant is paying for the work; funding for the grant is from annual fire-protection fees paid by rural property owners in “state responsibility areas” (SRAs) served by Cal Fire, such as Cambria.

Local property owners paid $117.33 per habitable parcel per year (an amount discounted from $152.33 because there’s a local fire department here in addition to Cal Fire).

There’s news on that front, too, Turner told participants in the FireSafe Focus Group on Wednesday, July 26. Californians won’t be paying the annual SRA fees anymore, thanks to a provision in the new “cap-and-trade” bill signed July 16 by Gov. Brown.

Sen. Bill Monning said in a news release the next day that “included in the cap-and-trade deal was the suspension of the State Responsibility Area (SRA) fees that have been levied on rural property owners since 2011 to support a variety of fire prevention services. The annual $80 million in lost SRA revenues will be replaced with Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund revenues, and provide more than 65,000 residents in the 17th Senate District with some modest tax relief.”

Monning explained that “the extension of cap and trade is critical for California. It will support our continued economic growth, as well as expand the use of renewable, clean energy alternatives. This package of measures brings stability and predictability to the California market, allowing us to remain competitive as we move toward the middle of the 21st century, and means the state will continue to be a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The forest

In Cambria’s rare, native Monterey pine forest — one of three left in the U.S. and five in the world — some trees fell on their own during the drought and last winter’s storms. Many others in the forest were taken down because they’d died from effects of the drought, disease, beetle infestation or sheer old age.

The density of the downed wood is a fire hazard, according to fire officials at the Focus Group meeting.