Placer County moves forward on major forest health project to reduce wildfire risk

Published June 11, 2019

Today, the French Meadows Forest Restoration Project took a step forward with the Placer County Board of Supervisors voting to award two contracts worth more than $2 million to execute the forest health project.

Volcano Creek Enterprises Inc. was awarded $756,075 to perform mastication, which clears and grinds vegetation and small trees on the forest floor. The second contract was awarded to Robinson Enterprises Inc. in the amount of $1,247,926 to perform mechanical thinning and roadway clearing.

The French Meadows Forest Restoration Project is a collaborative forest health project intended to reduce wildfire risk and protect the county’s water supply. Covering 22,000 acres of public land around French Meadows Reservoir west of Lake Tahoe, this public-private partnership is anticipated to serve as a model for increasing the pace and scale of ecologically-based forest management and fuels reduction throughout the Sierra Nevada.

Bids were received from the three contractors on the qualified list in April. Volcano Creek Enterprises Inc. and Robinson Enterprises Inc., when compared with the county’s estimates, were determined to be the lowest responsive and responsible bidders for the road work, mastication and mechanical thinning pieces of the large-scale project. More pieces of the project will be presented to the board at a later date for consideration.

As part of the funding for this project, the timber that is harvested by county contractors will be sold to Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns and operates the only two mills that are within close driving distance of the project. Larger logs will be brought to the Lincoln mill and smaller logs will be brought to Oroville to be developed into lumber products. Material that can’t be used for lumber will be sold to the Rio Bravo biomass energy facility in Rocklin and will used to create renewable electricity for the region. 

Additionally, the project has been awarded three California state grants worth approximately $5.25 million. Certain work will be performed by the California Conservation Corps as required by the grant agreements; mainly hand thinning in areas where equipment cannot be used either due to the slope steepness or environmental regulations. A separate agreement is also being developed to support that work, which will be brought before the board prior to implementation.

The board also approved a $1 million multi-year grant agreement with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy that allows the county to use SNC funding for work to remove biomass material for energy creation, as well as mastication work on the 410 acres of the project area affected by the Star Fire.

Work on this project is scheduled to start in June and go through October this year. Work will start up again in summer 2020.