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County Seeks To Solve Emergency Access

OAKHURST – The Oakhurst Community Center was packed on Tuesday, Oct. 29, as folks from all over the county gathered to learn more about creating emergency access routes in neighborhoods where there is only one way in and one way out.

District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler hosted the meeting, along with Madera County Road Commissioner Johannes Hoevertsz.

Wheeler told the crowd that recent fires have brought attention to evacuation and access routes, and the lack thereof.

The County has identified areas of concern, and is reaching out to residents to address the issue.

Supervisor Wheeler, the Madera County Road Department, along with Cal Fire and the Madera County Fire Department have been visiting the various sites to explore the possibilities, most of which involve improving already existing roadways, in various states of repair.

There are 35 communities identified as “at-risk,” and 5 of those were selected to evaluate first: John West/Indian Springs Roads, the Trabuco/Wells/Douglas Road area, Cascadel Woods near North Fork, the Sierra Lakes area of Road 423 and 422, and Cedar Valley.

Emergency Access Power PointPossible routes have been evaluated to provide emergency egress from these neighborhoods and were presented through a power point, along with the estimated cost to build/repair roads, install culverts and do grading and upgrades where roads already exist in various conditions.

Estimates ranged from $120,000 in the Sierra Lakes area, to $620,000 for the John West/Indian Springs Road project. For roads in Road Maintenance Districts (RMD), or those turned over to the county as public roads, they would be eligible for Measure T dollars and public funding. For private roads, residents would enter into a partnership with Madera County and set up a schedule of payments to cover the cost. The County could then do the work of creating the access, or residents could opt to hire their own private contractor.

Residents could also choose to request that an RMD be established in their area, which would require a Proposition 218 vote of the property owners, or that they be annexed to an existing RMD.

The 35 communities identified as at-risk are as follows:

Ahwahnee, Arnold Meadow, Bass Lake, Bass Lake Annex, Bass Lake Heights, Beasore Meadows, Cascadel Woods, Cedar Valley, Central Camp, Coarsegold, Goldside, Hidden Valley Estates, Indian Lakes, John West Road, Leisure Acres, Marina View, Meadow Springs Ranch, Miami Highlands, Mudge Ranch, Nipinnawasee, North Fork, Oakhurst, O’Neals, Quartz Mountain, Raymond, Road 620, Sierra Highlands, Sierra Lakes, Sky Acres, Sugar Pine, Teaford Meadows, Wells/Trabuco Roads, Wishon, Yosemite Forks, and Yosemite Lakes Park.

In September of 2008, the Madera County Board of Supervisors adopted the Madera County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Supervisor Tom Wheeler Cal Fire Division Chief Don Stein Bass Lake District Ranger Dave Martin - photo by Virginia LazarCommunity Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) are authorized and defined in Title I of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) and are necessary in order for Madera County to receive National Fire Plan dollars for wildfire mitigation projects.

The primary component of the Madera County CWPP is “to help county officials and citizens develop an understanding of the risk of potential losses of life, property and natural resources associated with a damaging wildfire.”

The goals of the Madera County CWPP are listed as follows on the website http://www.firewisemaderacounty.org:

  • Identify and convene a Core Committee to develop a preliminary MCCWPP, take input from stakeholders and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors
  • Establish a community base project area map and other pertinent data to assist in the development of the plan
  • Develop a community risk assessment and prioritize communities at risk
  • Develop a realistic plan of action utilizing the established priorities to mitigate the wildfire threat
  • Identify potential federal state and other grant dollars
  • Identify an assessment strategy that monitors project progress and results
  • Develop a community outreach program that will increase public awareness to the wildfire problem within their community

Wheeler encouraged those living in single-access areas to talk with their neighbors, form a committee, and then contact his office and set up a meeting with him and the County Roads Department to discuss possible solutions.

To view the entire power point presentation on emergency access, click here.

Contact District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler at 559-662-6050 or email tom.wheeler@madera-county.com.

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