LARIMER COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL AND SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD (ESAB)

 MEETING MINUTES

 December 6th, 2018

 

Members in Attendance:

Richard Alper

Daniel Beveridge

Jim Gerek

Michael Jones

David Lehman

Allyson Little

Kirk Longstein

George Rinker

 

 

 

 

Guests

Boyd Lebeda, District Forester, Colorado State Forest Service

Justin Whitesell, Emergency Operations Manager, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office

 

Commissioner

Sean Dougherty – not in attendance

 

Staff

Shelley Bayard de Volo, Environmental Coordinator, Engineering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Start: 

Call to order 6:05 PM

 

Amendments or Additions to the Agenda:

None

 

Introduction of Members and Guests:

Members introduced themselves. 

 

Citizen Comments:

None

 

Discussion Items:

 

Boyd Lebeda, Colorado State Forest Service – Boyd began his discussion by handing out copies of the “2017 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests” published by the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS).  He explained how the CSFS has been working with the Larimer County Natural Resources Dept., helping them develop their emergency management and forest plans for all forested County open spaces. Boyd works as a fire behaviour analyst and participates on Type-I incident teams.  He works mostly in Larimer County, but his work contributes statewide.  He explained forest ecology on the Front Range, which is characterized by dry conditions, rocky and nutrient-poor soils, and windy.  These conditions result in forests that are dense and comprised of small diameter trees. This condition impacts the ability to do forest restoration and fuels management in the Front Range because it is difficult to market that kind of timber, and without markets the process is economically less feasable.  Higher elevation areas, like Cameron Pass that have been impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB), have marketable timber because the harvested trees are typically larger. 

 

Boyd discussed how MPB-impacted forests might be hard to look at, but ecologically speaking, it’s not that bad.  These processes are natural, and forests regenerate, only on ecological time scales – not human time scales.  Historically, low-intensity ground fires occurred every 7-10 years in ponderosa pine dominated forests. These forests were characterized as heterogeneous forest stands maintained by fire.  With fire supression starting in the 1850’s, stands became more even-aged and dense, and crown fires became characteristic. 

 

The social implications are that contemporary wildfires are large and move very fast.  Solutions discussed include logging everything or doing fuels treatments, but with dry and windy conditions fire will move through whatever fuels are present.  Thus, we rely on tactical solutions.  Boyd emphasized the need to consider both social and ecological needs and solutions. Practically, areas targeted for fuel treatments need to be prioritized – watershed and wildland urban interface (WUI) are examples of prioritized ares.  Boyd ended with addressing questions concerning markets for the timber produced from the management projects.  He noted that Biochar, which can be used as a soil amendment for reclaiming and restoring areas disturbed by development or disturbance is one promising avenue. 

 

 

Justin Whitesell, Emergency Management, Larimer County – Justin explained his role at the Sheriff’s Office.  With the exception of the 17 fire districts, wildfire response within unincorporated Larimer County is within the responsibility of the Sheriff’s office. The fire districts account for ~ 30% of unincorporated Larimer County, and the municipalities have their own wildfire fire response teams, but they can call upon the County when response needs exceed their capacity. 

 

The Sheriff’s office has an Emergency Services Unit (ESU) and an Emergency Management Unit (EMU).  The ESU includes a initial attack module (IAM), which is tasked with initial attack when a wildland fires starts.  On County open spaces they do mitigation involving forest thinning, creating fuel breaks, and managing diseased stands.  Because the County’s open spaces are managed in this way, those landscapes can be areas where wildfires starting outside their boundaries can be caught and controlled within their boundaries.  The County has 27K acres of open space, of which 12% is forested.  The the ESU has acquired $2 million in grants to fund the IAM and do mitigation work, but those dollars can only be used for on-the-ground work and not salaries.

 

With regard to prescibed burning, the Sheriff’s office writes burn plans, but they do not implement those plans.  Rather, they rely on the CSFS and/or The Nature Conservancy to manage the burns, and the IAM participates, which gives their staff training opportunities. 

 

There is also a Wildfire Safety Program that educates home owners on defensible space around their homes, which is required as part of the permitting process for remodels and new construction in forested areas. They do public education with “Safety Fairs” at places like Jax Outdoor and The Ranch. 

 

Justin was asked if there is one thing he could change or improve about his program, what would it be.  He noted his group’s need for funding permanent staff positions for the IAM.  Its difficult to maintain and develop well-qualified personnel when the positions are seasonal.  He has identified the need/benefits for having fulltime and year round employees who would be available to respond for initial attack response, and skilled for mitigation work year round.  Justin was then asked if his group was asked to participate in the Mountain Resilience Plan?  He noted that as far as he was aware, they were not, however its possible those above him were involved.

 

Approval of Minutes:

Approval of the November minutes were deferred to January.  

 

Updates:  Topics of discussion were:

 

2019 Workplan and 2018 Annual Report – Shelley presented early drafts of the workplan and annual report.  There was some discussion of the sections and language in the workplan.  She will finalize the draft and send it out prior to the January meeting.   

 

2019-2023 Larimer County Strategic Plan – Richard presented the memo he, Jim and Kirk drafted to express the ESAB’s recommendations for (1) updating the current Environmental Responsibility Policy, and (2) increasing staff awareness for the Policy.  Jim moved to approve the memo and Ally seconded the motion.  The motion was approved by acclamation and the memo will be forwarded to senior County staff prior to the finalization of the Strategic Plan.  

 

Election of ESAB Officers – Richard recognized Jim for his service as Vice-chair to the Board, and Shelley for her service as the Staff Liaison.  He then asked for nominations for the position of Chair in 2019.  Mike moved to nominate Jim and Kirk seconded that motion.  All were in favor and Jim was approved for the Chair position.  Jim moved to nominate David for the Vice-Chair position in 2019, and Ally seconded the motion.  All were in favor and David was approved for the Vice-Chair position.  Jim and David both voiced their commitment to carry on the good work that Richard has accomplished this year.  Richard noted the ESAB’s charge of staying informed about issues that might need to be brought to the attention of the Commissioners and/or staff.  He also noted that the Board needs to ensure that staff are aware of the Board’s existence and expertise. Also, it’s likely the Board will have a new commissioner liaison in the coming year, however, it is not known who that will be. 

 

Matt Tobler resignation and Recruiting New Board members – Shelley informed the members of Matt’s resignation due to family and work commitments. She explained that applications for this open position can be made online now through Dec. 31st.  Interviews will occur in January after Commissioner-elect Kefalas is seated.   Shelley encouraged members to get the word out to potential candidates.  Richard noted the need for applicants with expertise in hydrology and/or geomorphology given the types of anticipated tasks the Board could see over the next few years.  

 

Wasteshed – Jim reported that at the October 19th meeting the Wasteshed PAC expressed their support for the Solid Waste Infrastructure Management Plan (SWIMP).  They referred the SWIMP to each municipality for votes with their elected leadership.  Those municipalities include the Cities of Fort Collins and Loveland, the Town of Estes Park and Larimer County.    

 

Larimer Water projects Working Group - David reported on the open public meeting he attended November 13th.  There were 28 members at the meeting, with a very wide range of interest groups.  The facilitator did a good job of keeping the group focused, but that was a challenge because of the issues and diversity of opinions.  The public forum is great for allowing affected parties to voice and discuss their opinions, but the need is to address technical questions – namely “what is the best conveyance system”?  The working group certainly provides the opportunity of the members to see how complicated the process is. Thornton presented five conveyance options, some of which included utilizing existing ditch systems or the Poudre River. These options would require permitting from the US Army Corps of Engineers as new diversions would need to be constructed.   Other options included pipeline conveyance through Douglas Road, CR 56, CR 17 (Shields) to the Poudre River.  The ESAB will continue to monitor the issue. 

 

ESAB Issue Index:

The Issue Index will be updated for active items, and Matt Tobler will be removed as an issue coordinator for those items to which he was assigned.    

 

Next Meeting Draft Agenda:

The next meeting will be held January 8th.  Discussion items on the draft agenda include tentatively discussing the Phase-2 Comp Plan, and adopting the 2018 Annual Report and 2019 Work Plan and reviewing the Issue Index.

 

Adjourn:

Michael moved to close the meeting, and Jim seconded the motion.  The meeting ended at 8:50 PM