On October 18, 2023, the Marin County Fire Department, in coordination with Marin Water, applied a prescribed fire to the southern end of the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. Prescribed fire is one of many methods that contribute to Marin Water's proactive approach to addressing fire fuel management and a more resilient, ecologically healthy watershed. By mimicking the natural effects of wildfire, the carefully planned burn of overgrown vegetation is a safe and efficient way to restore forest health, improve open-woodland conditions for wildlife habitat and create fuel breaks that help protect our water quality, water system and the surrounding community. Funding for the burn site preparation work for this project provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Forest Health Program.
We thank our partners at the Marin County Fire Department for all of their efforts to ensure the safe execution of this 11-acre vegetation management operation. Building on this success, the District will continue to coordinate with Marin County Fire on additional potential prescribed fire treatments in the fall and/or early winter timeframe to complete remaining planned work in the Rock Spring area of Mt. Tam. The specific date of any prescribed fire operation on the watershed will always be announced the morning of ignition and will always be dependent on air quality, weather and other environmental conditions, as well as available fire department resources.
Meanwhile, other fuel reduction and restoration efforts – including mechanical removal, manual pulling, and others – remain ongoing on the watershed, and an addendum to the Districts’ Biodiversity, Fire, and Fuels Integrated Plan in July added an additional roughly $1 million in funds for further scaled up work in the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Investment in the scaled-up work is made possible through a water rate adjustment that took effect on customer water rates beginning July 1, 2023. The adjustment was necessary to help the District recover from consecutive years of drought and inflationary pressures while also allowing for additional investments in water supply reliability and resiliency -- including to mitigate wildfire risk on the watershed, the primary source of the District's water supply. In total, the increased funding will allow the District to add hundreds of acres of treatment to its vegetation management plans annually. In the last four years the District has treated up to 1,500 acres of fire fuels annually. Marin Water will leverage the additional funding to treat close to 2,000 acres annually, including an additional 40 acres of forest fuel reduction and 200 more acres of forest fuel maintenance.