The City of Poway is moving forward with a three-year project aimed at making emergency evacuation routes safer for residents in the event of a wildfire, while improving the overall health of trees along two of Poway’s main traffic corridors.
After an extensive application and review process, Poway was awarded a $1.9 million hazardous mitigation grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Congress approved the disaster relief and recovery funds following the devastating 2018 northern California wildfires.
The award comes after an extensive application and review process. The city’s mitigation efforts will focus on the strategic removal of hazardous trees along the right of way of two major evacuation routes (Espola and Twin Peaks Roads), as well as an open space area of Green Valley, just west of Espola Road.
The first phase of the project will begin in April with a comprehensive tree inventory and property surveying within Green Valley. Certified arborists will conduct an on-the-ground assessment to identify vulnerable and high-risk trees based on industry standards such as spacing, health, and age. Surveyors will set stakes to mark property lines.
Before any of the identified trees can be removed, there will be an extensive process to ensure compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and regulatory agencies. The City anticipates this will take a full year to accomplish, and then a little over a year to remove the trees identified in the assessment to achieve appropriate wildfire fuel reduction along the project area. All vegetation, especially wood waste, will be chipped and either reused or recycled.
Wildfire is a significant hazard in the Poway area, with major fires impacting residents in 2003 and 2007. Recent deadly wildfires in California have underscored the importance of maintaining safe routes in the event of an evacuation. Along the project area for this grant, there are more than 1,000 structures and just under 3,300 residents, plus the roads provide critical north/south and east/west access for other high-risk neighborhoods. SANDAG statistics from 2015 show that heavily traveled Twin Peaks and Espola Roads see average daily traffic counts in the range of 26,000 to 46,000 and 15,000 to 22,000 vehicles, respectively.
Although the emphasis of this project is mitigating hazards, by removing unhealthy trees the city is creating a healthier environment for the vegetation along Poway’s major corridors.