FEMA releases final EIS, by Jon Kaufman

On December 1, FEMA released the Final Environmental Impact Statement that sets conditions that must be followed by the University of California and the City of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Park District as they move forward with eucalyptus removal. The Conservancy has not yet examined the document in detail but here's our initial impression. 

FEMA takes what it calls a unified approach for all three agencies' land but it is in fact the thinning approach favored by the Park District. This represents a departure from the draft EIS which permitted each agency to take a different approach and therefore appears to prevent the University from removing nearly all the hazardous eucalyptus trees in the upper part of Claremont Canyon and enabling conversion of its land to native species, the plan it had proposed originally. 

The Conservancy's analysis of thinning generally is that it is less effective than conversion in reducing fire hazards and is far more expensive, considering the initial cost as well as the ongoing maintenance required. If UC and the other agencies do not have sufficient funds to perform the required ongoing maintenance, the fire danger would grow and FEMA is not increasing the size of the grants to pay for the added cost of thinning. In addition, thinning prevents less fire prone native species from replacing the eucalyptus. However, the final EIS does state that at the conclusion of the 10-year implementation period, the effect may be the same. It is unclear what this means. It may not be clear until  the grant is implemented and we see how thinning is defined as the work is performed.

We will have more to say as we evaluate the EIS. In the meantime, we urge our members to review two documents. 1) Our Q&A on the issue which we revised and lengthened to discuss thinning in anticipation of the EIS and 2) the Record of Decision of the EIS itself.