Grant funding from the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) will expand free residential green waste disposal opportunities throughout the county. Nevada County Office of Emergency Services (OES) and Fire Safe Council of Nevada County (FSC) are partnering to provide disposal in Alta Sierra, Grass Valley, and Penn Valley. Disposal will be available Sunday through Tuesday, with free wood chip pick up on Fridays and Saturdays between May 17 and June 27.
Fire mitigation is considered essential. As families shelter in place due to the Stay-at-Home Order, community members are taking advantage of the extra time around the house to catch up on special projects like defensible space implementation and home hardening activities. These green waste disposal opportunities will not only provide a free service in this economically uncertain time but provide a critical relief valve as the McCourtney Road Transfer Station limits the number of customers to 200 per day and the Eastern Regional Landfill is closed to the public.
While the world grapples with the impact of the coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes COVID-19, air quality is top of mind for the NSAQMD. “Due to factors like parcel size and vegetation type, we understand that achieving defensible space looks different for each family. However, as we have seen COVID-19 transmitted in our community, it is with our most vulnerable neighbors in mind that we are making a concerted effort to provide a method to reduce smoke impacts by providing residents with alternatives to open burning,” says Gretchen Bennitt, NSAQMD Air Pollution Control Officer.
“Based on the successes of last year’s program, we have long wanted to bring these services back, while incorporating lessons learned. With the coronavirus present in our community, we knew that the events would look very different in 2020. Working in coordination with the Public Health Department we have designed a program that will be as contact-free as possible,” says Jamie Jones, Executive Director of the Fire Safe Council.
This program will be fueled by the generosity of dozens and the help of Connecting Point’s Volunteer Hub. Adults, and teens over the age of 16 volunteering with an adult, are encouraged to assist with data entry, traffic control, and screening materials. No commercial green waste, Scotch broom, poison oak, Himalayan blackberry, items with a diameter greater than six inches, tree stumps, or root balls will be accepted. Material must also be free of all litter. Drivers will be asked to stay in their vehicles and to follow the cues of the staff and volunteers inspecting truck loads and directing traffic. Fire Safe Council staff will be available to help unload truck beds from a distance of 6-feet. Volunteers may register to volunteer at: connectingpoint.org/volunteerhub/greenwaste/.
“The overwhelming turn out last year demonstrated just how seriously the community is taking the threat of wildfire. We are grateful for the hard work and responsiveness of everyone. This year we have more space to dispose of the material and expect to far exceed the 500 tons of green waste we removed in 2019,” says OES Program Manager, Paul Cummings.
“This program is the perfect complement to our other efforts like our free Defensible Space Advisory visits available upon request. Our volunteers are trained on defensible space, physical distancing, and best sanitation practices. Starting with a visit is a great way to create a plan and figure out safer ways to use materials like the woodchips we are offering free of charge.” says Jamie Jones, Executive Director of the Fire Safe Council. Funds from NSAQMD will also provide 15 weeks of free chipping to the community and will assist 15 low income residents with access and functional needs by providing defensible space clearing around their homes.
The free residential green waste program is a community effort with support provided by the Nevada Irrigation District, Penn Valley Rodeo Grounds, Penn Valley Fire Protection District, and Rise Gold who are lending their properties. Alta Sierra Property Owners Association is also providing coordination and volunteer assistance.