Aug 15, 2022

Weishaar: Fire mitigation funding is available, now time to make choices

Posted Aug 15, 2022 2:48 PM

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — As Reno County has qualified for $1.6 million in wildfire mitigation funding, it's now a policy decision to make to decide whose land should get the help.

"Ideally, we'd go back through history, go through 20 or 30 years of data of where these wildfires have really wreaked havoc on our community and caused the most issues," Weishaar said. "We'd figure out some sort of point where firemen can make a stand, make sure that they can try to get the fire out without causing the major damage. Some of the areas we are looking at are possibly down the 30th Street corridor from K-61 to Buhler Road and also some areas around the Highlands."

The hope is that this money can aid work these areas are already doing.

"We'd like people to take care of their land," Weishaar said. "We'd like them to take care of their own property, but we've seen it time and time again, as soon as a fire comes through, it's a priority for a couple of months, then it's kind of out of their mind and they don't focus on it any more. Why we would look at 30th Street or something off of a blacktop road is, it's just the best bang for our buck. There's a wide road there already and there's a very dense housing population there as well. We'd be protecting the most homes for the least amount of money."

The actual work would take some time to get approved.

"This is a long grant cycle," Weishaar said. "Generally, when we get grant money coming in from the state, we have four years to spend it. Our four year time line probably started right around the end of the Cottonwood Complex. By the time we actually do our application, we're probably down somewhere around three years and then they also have to come in and do a cost-benefit analysis and an air study as well to make sure that we can do everything we want to do. There's going to be a long process moving forward. I'm going to say, we probably won't complete any major work until somewhere around 2024."

Weishaar also said they would need to get buy in from each of the landowners wherever they choose to work so that they could go on their property to do the mitigation. The estimate of the amount that could be worked on is 1,375 acres.