February 21, 2020 - While wildfires have always been a natural part of California’s ecosystems, recent increases in the severity of wildfires and the adverse impacts on communities have increased the focus on the state’s ability to effectively prevent, mitigate, and respond to wildfire risks. This report has two parts. First, we assess the state’s approach to addressing wildfire risks in light of the complex challenges that make an efficient and effective approach difficult. Second, we evaluate the Governor’s various wildfire‑related budget proposals in the absence of having a statewide strategic wildfire plan.
January 31, 2019 - Presented to: Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
March 22, 2017 - This report is intended to provide basic information about floods and flood management in California. (Whereas previous generations referred to “flood control” or “flood prevention” activities, experts now prefer the term “flood management” in acknowledgement that floodwaters are recurring and inevitable.) We begin by summarizing the history, causes, and risk of floods across the state. We then describe flood management agencies, infrastructure, and strategies, as well as how governmental agencies typically respond when floods occur. Next, we describe the spending levels and funding sources currently supporting flood management efforts, as well as estimates for how much additional funding may be needed to improve those efforts. We conclude by highlighting some key challenges confronting the state in contemplating how best to manage floods in California.
March 1, 2018 - The Governor’s budget assumes $760 million in additional General Fund will be needed in 2017‑18 for response and recovery associated with the 2017 fires in Northern and Southern California, $388 million of which will be reimbursed by the federal government in 2018‑19. For 2018‑19, the Governor proposes a total of $35 million from the General Fund for recovery costs associated the fires in Northern California, such as related to rebuilding public infrastructure and backfilling local tax revenue losses. While we do not raise specific concerns about the administration’s funding requests, we recommend that the Legislature direct the administration to report at budget hearings on the proposed funding and submit formal proposals for any future budget-year funding requests. We also recommend that the Legislature consider its priorities for allocating assistance to local governments affected by disasters and longer-term strategies for reducing future wildfire risk, such as strategies to improve forest health.
Correction (3/12/18): When this post was originally published, Figure 1 displayed the wrong graph. The correct graph is now in place.
January 10, 2019 - Government agencies are responsible for reacting quickly to disasters to help limit damage to people and their property. This includes assessing the disaster situation and bringing in the necessary resources to respond in a coordinated way. This post describes the state system used to facilitate a coordinated response to disasters. It also describes various types of disaster declarations that state and local governments make in order to receive financial assistance for response and recovery costs.
January 10, 2019 - In the event of a large-scale disaster, state and local governments, individuals and households, and businesses all can face damage to their properties and other possessions. Many of these losses ultimately are borne by these entities or individuals, their insurance, or the parties deemed responsible for the disaster, if applicable. However, both the federal government and the State of California provide various types of financial and in-kind assistance following certain disasters to offset some of the costs associated with recovering from disasters. Notably, the type of federal and state assistance that is available can vary by disaster, with some assistance only available in the aftermath of larger state or federally declared disasters. In this post, we summarize some of the major types of recovery assistance that can be available.
January 3, 2008 - With the recent Southern California wildfires, there has been significant interest in the programs that are available to help disaster victims. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide information on the programs and funds available to deal with state disasters. We provide links to more specific information, such as program eligibility and rules.
October 19, 2020 - This post discusses the administration’s recent notice to the Legislature, which estimates state emergency costs of $1.3 billion to fight this year’s wildfires. Provides context on the extreme wildfire season of 2020, as well as implications for the state budget.
January 9, 2020 - This post summarizes the current efforts being undertaken by state departments to assess the vulnerability of state facilities to the future impacts of climate change. We find that most state agencies are only in the early stages of conducting such assessments, which are a critical first step of a multistep process of planning to reduce risks to state assets and public services. We provide a number of oversight questions the Legislature can use to monitor what progress is being made by individual state departments.
April 4, 2018 - This report consists of five sections. First, we review the importance of and benefits provided by California’s forests. Second, we provide information regarding how forests are managed in California, including ownership, state and federal policies and programs, and funding. Third, we review the current conditions of forests and watersheds across the state, including the concerning implications and recent consequences of those conditions, as well as the actions that would be needed to make improvements. Fourth, in the findings section, we highlight shortcomings in how the state manages its forests and watersheds. Fifth, we offer recommendations for actions the Legislature could take to improve forest and watershed management in California.
August 31, 2021 - This handout provides background information on recent wildfire resilience-related budget actions. It also provides an update on the administration’s progress thus far towards committing the funding provided in the April 2021 Wildfire and Forest Resilience Early Action Package to specific projects and activities.
June 21, 2019 - Recent catastrophic wildfires caused by utilities in California have caused tens of billions of dollars in property damage. Under current legal standards, these damages will directly lead to increased costs for utilities, which could be passed on to ratepayers. Moreover, the recognition of increased potential costs associated with wildfire risks has affected the credit markets, contributing to one investor owned utility (Pacific Gas and Electric) declaring bankruptcy, as well as credit downgrades for other utilities. These credit effects will make it more difficult and expensive for utilities to secure financing for capital investments, which will also increase costs for ratepayers, as well as potentially affect other policy goals. The goal of this report is to be a resource for policymakers and the public seeking to better understand the complicated issues surrounding utilities and the costs associated with wildfire risks.