Ag Innovations receives $100,000 grant from PG&E to conduct Innovation Labs around forests, fire in Lake Sonoma

On November 29, 2017, Ag Innovations was awarded the Better Together Resilient Communities grant through PG&E , providing $100,000 to examine new ways of managing forest and watershed land to prevent wildfires.  We will partner with the Sonoma County Water Agency to bring together public agencies, private landowners, tribes, scientists, and forestry experts to develop collaborative solutions for managing vegetation in the Lake Sonoma Watershed, a critical source of water for more than 600,000 people. This project will develop solutions that improve erosion and wildfire management while protecting the local water supply and forest health.

We are excited to have an opportunity to work in our home county, and build our experience with rural communities, agricultural communities, and watershed resiliency.  We wrote the grant in May 2017, and this became an even more poignant endeavor after the October 2017 firestorms in Sonoma County and beyond.  We are grateful for an opportunity to support preventative action that will cultivate a resilient future for Sonoma County.

Here’s an excerpt from the grant proposal:

Wildfire in Sonoma and Mendocino counties presents an enormous hazard to the very foundation of human, animal, and environmental life. In addition to immediate threats to life, limb, and property, it presents an alarming affront to water supply and storage for over 600,000 users in Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties through post-fire erosion and increased sedimentation. Climate change is only increasing our vulnerability through drier soil conditions, warmer summers, and a flush of woody vegetation in 2017. Almost without saying these wildfires also have enormous impacts on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, and studies have shown that with effective fuel treatment, wildfires can decrease up to 75% and bring other environmental benefits.

The Lake Sonoma Watershed (LSRA) exhibits a high fuel load, presents a very high risk of landslides, and is in dire need of wildfire prevention planning and action. A stand-replacing wildfire could result in catastrophic post-fire sedimentation and/or landslides into Lake Sonoma that would threaten the water supply, infrastructure, quality, and forest health of the critical Russian River Watershed. High priority, climate resilient management strategies would help achieve several co-beneficial goals, including, building fire and drought resiliency, improving existing carbon stocks and capacity for long-term carbon storage, utilizing biomass for bioenergy and soil carbon enhancements, ensuring watershed health and wildlife habitat, and protecting water quality and supply in Lake Sonoma.

There is a need to bring together public agencies, private landowners, tribes, scientists, and technologists to develop strategic recommendations and collaborative tactical solutions for managing vegetation before the North Coast region sees additional devastation like the 2015 Lake County Valley Fire. Solutions range from science-based prescriptive burns to innovative market-based solutions.

Read the full press release below, and contact if you would like to be kept informed of the projects progress over 2018.