ROHNERT PARK, California – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is 30 percent complete with debris removal operations in Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties following the October 2017 Wildfires. 564,163 tons of debris have been removed from properties in the four counties.
The Consolidated Debris Removal Program is a two-phase process – Phase I is the removal of household hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Sonoma and Napa counties and by the California Department of Toxic Substance Control in Lake and Mendocino counties. Phase II is the removal of other fire-related debris from structures destroyed by the fire, and is managed by USACE under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Since the first property was cleared on Nov. 11, USACE contractors have completed debris removal on 1,641 properties – nearly 30% of the more than 5,500 Rights of Entry forms submitted by property owners to the four counties.
After initial debris removal is complete, USACE conducts confirmation soil sampling to ensure there is no residual contamination and that the lot is safe for rebuilding. The final step is the installation of erosion control methods before control of the property is returned to the county. More than 653 properties have been returned to the four counties, who in turn notify each property owner.
“The Corps of Engineers is committed to completing this mission in early 2018 in order to clear the way for communities to begin the rebuilding process,” said Col. David G. Ray, commander of the USACE Sacramento District, who is managing the program. “We have more than 200 Corps employees from all over the country on the ground, working with our partners from FEMA and the California Office of Emergency Services. It’s a team effort and we are honored to be part of helping our neighbors in Northern California recover.”
Work will continue at a steady rate over the holidays, with a ramp-up expected in early January.
Community members should be aware of the risks posed by heavy construction equipment operating in and around work zones and additional truck traffic on the road. Exercise caution and maintain a safe following distance at all times. If you do not need to be in the area where active debris removal operations are ongoing, please stay away.
“Our top priority is completing this vital work safely and efficiently, and protecting our workers and the public,” Ray said.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a few frequently asked questions about the debris removal program. Property owners with questions about eligibility, operations or other concerns can contact the USACE Debris Removal Information Line at 877-875-7681. The line is staffed 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., 7 days a week. They can also report any concerns to USACESupportToCAWildfires@usace.army.mil.
To learn more about the debris removal program and view a status map of the progress to date, visit http://www.spk.usace.army.mil/CAwildfire/.
Q: When will my property be scheduled for debris removal? Why aren’t there any crews in my neighborhood?
A: There are a number of factors that determine when your lot will be scheduled for debris removal. Contractors are responsible for planning their work, based on priorities set by Cal OES, FEMA and partners, with input from county and city governments, to maximize efficiency. The number of crews working in any given location will fluctuate through the life of the mission.
Q: If I had asbestos on my property, will that slow debris removal?
A: Asbestos removal is being handled by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Once asbestos materials are removed from the property, the property can be scheduled for debris removal operations. This will not cause a significant delay to the timeline.
Q: How are contracts awarded and who have they been awarded to?
A: After USACE received the debris removal mission assignment from FEMA in late October 2017, they utilized the USACE Advanced Contracting Initiative (ACI) to award task orders (contracts) to ECC and Ashbritt to jumpstart the debris removal process. These task orders have financial limits and ECC, which started debris removal operations first, is approaching the limit of its task order. They are working on closing out the final properties where they conducted debris removal. The Corps awarded an additional task order to Ashbritt under the ACI on 9 December and the company will continue to conduct debris removal operations until the task order reaches its financial limit. They will work in all four counties. Additional contracts will be awarded soon to sustain the debris removal operations through completion.
Q: I’ve seen contractors wearing varying levels of protective clothing. Why is this?
A: The primary method of protecting people on and near the debris removal sites are the engineering and administrative controls used on-site, such as wetting the ash piles to reduce dust. While different contractors working on the debris removal program have made different decisions about the types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to be used in the field, they have all been fully compliant with safety regulations and contract terms.
Q. I received notice that a contractor filed a preliminary lien on my property. What does this mean and am I going to have to pay for the cleanup?
A. It is standard business practice for subcontractors to file a preliminary lien notice with the property owner on any work they perform as a way to ensure they preserve their rights in the event they do not get paid. These notices also inform the property owner which contractor did any work on their property. In the case of a federal contract, like the debris removal contracts that USACE issued to AshBritt and ECC, there is a payment and performance bond to ensure all subcontractors/vendors receive payment for the services they perform on a specific property. However, not all subcontractors are familiar with federal contracting and are simply filing preliminary lien notices routinely. Thus, property owners are not financially responsible for work done by sub-contractors under these federal contracts. If property owners receive a preliminary lien notice, they should attempt to confirm with the sub-contractor filing the preliminary notice that the work was done under one of the federal contracts. If so, payment for this work is covered by the prime contractor’s payment bonds. USACE has firmly directed our prime contractors to inform their subcontractors that the prime contractor is required to have payment bonds filed with USACE and reassure them that they will get paid for the work done for property owners who have signed a Right of Entry form (ROE.)