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VOM Water District Hazard Mitigation Plan draft up for public input

By Jay Gamel

Beginning March 31, customers of the Valley of the Moon Water District (VOMWD) will have 30 days to comment on the first draft of a very detailed hazard mitigation plan designed to alleviate the impacts of major disasters like wildfires, earthquakes, and floods.

The district provides drinking water to about 23,750 customers from Glen Ellen to Schellville, with about 80 percent of its daily needs delivered from the Russian River over a 30-mile long aqueduct considered vulnerable to earthquakes, fires and floods. The loss of potential potable water reserves from the now-shuttered, state-owned Sonoma Developmental Center, massive wildfires in 2017 and 2020, and two grand jury findings that the delivery system could be severely stressed if earthquakes sever the pipeline, particularly where it crosses Sonoma Creek, played a part in getting this year-long planning effort underway. Federal funding has been available since 1988 to help local jurisdictions cope with overwhelming disasters. The scope of federal aid was widened with the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, aimed at reducing the severe financial impact of coping with increasing and immense disaster costs on rapidly expanding habitation throughout the country. Mitigation plans are intended to reduce risk to existing and future development to make communities safer and more disaster resilient.

Having an approved hazard mitigation plan is a requirement for receiving FEMA and other disaster grants, public and private.

International environmental consultants Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc., was chosen to develop a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) for an initial cost of $40,000.

Hazard mitigation plans are complex, taking into consideration “all possible hazards affecting the planning area.” Sonoma Valley has a good share of both possible and probable future disasters: earthquakes, landslides, sea level rise, dam and levee incidents, wildfire, agricultural pests and diseases, aquatic invasive species, drought and water shortages, and power shutoffs are identified as the district’s major hazards. The plan looks at buildings and structures, water treatment plants, pipelines, people impacted, development trends and constraints, historical and cultural resources, and attempts to estimate potential losses.

Each mitigation proposal must be evaluated for effectiveness, cost, and whether the district even has the technical or political ability to effect proposed measures. Mitigation alternatives need to be examined.

After the 30-day comment period closes on April 29, the LHP will go to California Office of Emergency Services for a 45-day review. It will be sent to FEMA on June 16 for another 45-day review. If both those agencies approve, it will go before the district’s directors on Sept. 14.

VOMWD customers had a public meeting in October last year. A 47-page draft of the initial plan was circulated by the consultant on March 8. The draft plan will be published on the VOMWD website in the next week; look for it at