Fish and Game
Forestry and Fire Protection
Parks and Recreation
Boating and Waterways
State Lands Commission
Colorado River Board
California Conservation Corps
|San Francisco Bay Conservation and
Energy Resources Conservation and
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy
State Coastal Conservancy
San Joaquin River Conservancy
Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy
California Tahoe Conservancy
California Coastal Commission
The Secretary also (1) serves as an ex officio member of various commissions and conservancies, (2) administers the Environmental License Plate Fund (ELPF), and (3) issues the state's guidelines for preparation of environmental impact reports (EIRs) and designates the classes of activities exempted from the preparation of EIRs.
Budget Request. The budget requests $500,000 from the General Fund for the Secretary for Resources to purchase data processing equipment and services for the California Coastal Commission. Specifically, the agency will (1) purchase equipment--including computer hardware, software, data processing supplies, and consulting services--to upgrade the commission's existing information technology systems; and (2) develop a system for the commission to track the status of coastal development permits. The agency indicates that it is better suited than the commission to make these expenditures because of the statewide nature of the system required and the lack of technical expertise at the commission.
Analyst's Review. We have two concerns with the request. First, our review indicates that a feasibility study report (FSR) has not been approved for the project proposed by the agency. (Generally, under state procedures, an FSR must be approved prior to the expenditure of funds to implement an information technology project.) The purpose of an FSR is to evaluate alternative solutions, ensure that the proposed project makes the best use of an agency's information technology infrastructure, and determine whether the project is cost-effective. Without an approved FSR describing the expenditures proposed by the agency--including development of the permit tracking system--we have no basis for evaluating whether the proposed expenditures will be cost-effective.
Second, our review indicates that the agency's request is not consistent with general state procedures for procuring data processing equipment and services. Typically, funding is allocated directly to departments, not their agencies, to meet their data processing equipment needs. Additionally, the commission's 1994 Information Technology Strategy identifies what the commission will need to implement in terms of information technology in order to carry out its responsibilities. Based on that document, we think the commission is capable of acquiring necessary data processing tools and equipment. We see no reason why the agency is better suited than the commission to make these expenditures. Accordingly, we recommend deletion of $500,000 requested for the Resources Agency to purchase data processing equipment and services for the commission.
Commission Has Prepared an FSR. The commission prepared an FSR for information technology equipment replacement (but not development of the permit tracking system) in October 1996, recommending funding totaling $345,000 for equipment replacement ($260,000) and commission staff support ($85,000). At the time this Analysis was prepared, the Department of Information Technology (DOIT) had not reviewed the commission's FSR. In our view, if DOIT determines that the commission's proposal has merit and approves the commission's FSR, then it would be appropriate to provide funding in 1997-98 to the commission for the equipment replacement and staff described in the FSR. Accordingly, pending review by DOIT of the commission's FSR, we recommend appropriation of $345,000 to the commission for equipment replacement and related staff support.
Proposition 204, approved by the voters in November 1996, created the Central Valley Project Improvement Subaccount (CVPIS), to be allocated by the State Controller to pay the state's share of costs for fish and wildlife restoration measures required by the federal Central Valley Project Improvement Act. (We further discuss this under the Department of Fish and Game, Item 3600.)
The budget proposes expenditures from the CVPIS in 1997-98 totaling $34.4 million by the Department of Fish and Game ($10.4 million) and the Department of Water Resources ($24 million). The budget also proposes language allowing the Secretary for Resources--instead of the Controller--to allocate these funds.
Proposed Language Reduces Legislative Oversight. If the administration's proposed language is adopted, it will mean that the administration--not the Legislature--will determine the priorities for allocating these Proposition 204 monies. As we indicated in the Crosscutting Issues section of this chapter, we recommend that CVPIS funds be appropriated in the budget bill to ensure that these funds are expended in accordance with legislative priorities and the intent of Proposition 204. Accordingly, we see no justification for the proposed language, and recommend that it be deleted.
The department proposes expenditures totaling $416.9 million in 1997-98, an increase of about $6.3 million, or 1.5 percent, from estimated current-year expenditures.
The Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1975 (SMARA) established a two-step process for identifying the state's mineral resources and developing local land use policies to protect those resources.
Budget-Year Proposal. The DOC's Division of Mines and Geology provides staff for the State Geologist. In the current year, the division has a staff of 13 positions and $1.1 million to conduct mineral classifications. For 1997-98, the budget requests an additional $386,000 (from the Surface Mining and Reclamation Account in the General Fund) and three positions to conduct mineral classifications which would bring the total budget for the program to $1.5 million and 16 positions.
We have two concerns with the department's proposal.
Local Agencies No Longer Required to Use Classification Information. First, our review indicates that local agencies are no longer required to use the mineral classification information generated by DOC. This is because the mandate that local agencies prepare MRMPs has been suspended since 1991-92, given the state's fiscal condition. The budget proposes to continue to suspend the mineral resources policy mandate in 1997-98. In our view, there is no reason for the state to increase its expenditures to provide local agencies with mineral classification information as required by the SMARA if local agencies are not required to use that information.
Scope of Work Exceeds Statutory Requirements. Second, our review indicates that a better prioritization by the DOC of its mineral classification workload would likely enable it to meet its statutory responsibilities without additional staff. This is because although the department has streamlined the classification process in recent years, it still provides more detailed information to local agencies than statutorily required. The DOC classification reports typically provide substantial detail on the location, nature, and extent of mineral deposits, instead of following current law that requires the department to only classify areas as containing little or no mineral deposits, containing significant deposits, or requiring further evaluation. In our view, if local agencies require this additional information, then they should bear the costs of developing it.
Recommendation. There is no reason for the state to increase its expenditures to develop mineral classification information given that (1) local agencies are no longer required to use the information and (2) the DOC could better prioritize its mineral classification workload in accordance with statutory direction. We therefore recommend a reduction of $386,000 in funds requested for three new positions for additional classification work.
The DOC administers programs to (1) map seismic hazards and (2) develop information on how structures are affected by seismic activity. For 1997-98, the budget proposes $1,076,000 and $2,740,000 for support of these programs respectively. This represents an increase over current-year funding levels of $291,000 (36 percent) and $720,000 (35 percent) respectively. The department indicates that these increases are necessary to return the programs to their baseline funding levels.
The budget also proposes language that allows the Department of Finance, upon notification of the Legislature, to authorize the following additional expenditures:
Budget Request Should Justify Dollar Amount Requested. We believe that program funding should be based on identified needs and workload, not past baseline funding levels. Funding levels (including reimbursements and federal funds) for these two programs have actually increased since 1994-95. Consequently, the budget request should identify why current funding is inadequate and why the proposed increase is warranted. Supporting documents accompanying the department's request generally describe the need to return to a higher base funding level, but fail to link program needs and workload with the amount requested. Accordingly, we recommend deletion of the proposed increase.
Proposed Flexibility Reduces Legislative Oversight. In our view, the proposed budget bill language is not warranted. As indicated above, amounts requested for the programs should be based on anticipated workload, and we find no justification, other than departmental flexibility, for the language. The language would reduce the Legislature's ability, through the budget process, to determine the appropriate level of funding for the department's seismic programs.
Consequently, we recommend that Provision 1 of Item 3480-001-0338 and Provision 1 of Item 3480-001-0398 be deleted from the budget bill, as this language is not justified.
The Forest Practice Act prohibits timber harvesting unless harvest operations comply with a timber harvesting plan (THP) prepared by a registered professional forester and approved by the director of CDFFP. The THPs cover such matters as harvest volume, cutting method, erosion control measures, and special provisions for unique areas or wildlife that would be affected by harvesting operations. Under contract with CDFFP, the Division of Mines and Geology of DOC evaluates the geologic conditions of proposed timber harvesting sites and evaluates erosion control measures proposed in THPs. In 1995-96, DOC was reimbursed $486,000 by CDFFP for its review of THPs.
In 1997-98, DOC's budget includes $500,000 in reimbursements from CDFFP for review of THPs, or about the same amount as it has received in previous years. However, our analysis indicates that this level of reimbursements may not materialize. This is because CDFFP proposes to reduce its reimbursements to the DOC by $126,000 and rely on CDFFP staff to provide some geological review of THPs instead of contracting for the work with the DOC. Depending on the Legislature's action on CDFFP's request, the reimbursements to DOC ought to be reduced accordingly.
Background. The 1996-97 Budget Act provided the department with federal fund expenditure authority of $666,000. In November 1996, DOC submitted a request pursuant to Section 28.00 of the budget act to spend an additional $1.1 million in federal funds in the current year, to continue research on converting mapping technology to civilian use (a project known as GeoSAR, or Geologic Synthetic Aperture Radar). This brought the department's level of approved federal fund expenditures for 1996-97 to about $1.8 million.
Department Disregards Section 28.00 Process in Current Year. The department now indicates that it expects to spend a total of about $2.6 million in federal funds in the current year, or $862,000 over the level approved by the Legislature. The DOC indicates that the additional funds were available to it as (1) carry-over from 1995-96 funds and (2) from new federal grants. The department indicates that it does not plan to submit a Section 28.00 request to enable expenditures of these funds. Our review indicates that the department does not have expenditure authority for these funds without prior notification to the Legislature through Section 28.00 of the budget act.
Accordingly, we recommend that the department report at budget hearings on why it has disregarded the requirements of Section 28.00 in its expenditures of federal funds in the current year.
The budget requests $425.2 million from the General Fund ($279.3 million), various other state funds ($22.3 million), and federal funds and reimbursements ($123.6 million) for support of the CDFFP in 1997-98. This is a reduction of $90.6 million, or 18 percent, from estimated current-year expenditures, resulting from a decrease in the level of funds budgeted for emergency fire suppression costs below current-year estimated expenditures. As actual expenditures for emergency fire suppression typically exceed the authority provided in the budget act, the difference is provided through a deficiency bill.
The CDFFP is responsible for providing fire protection services to forests, watershed areas, and rangelands that have been designated as State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) by the Board of Forestry. (The board provides general policy guidance for CDFFP and for the management of the state's forest resources.) In order to provide adequate fire protection services, current law requires the Board of Forestry to prepare a fire protection plan. The purpose of the plan is to provide a detailed description of the amount and distribution of resources (firefighters, equipment, and facilities) needed for adequate statewide fire protection in SRAs. Traditionally, the department prepares the plan, and the board reviews and approves it.
New Fire Plan Does Not Meet Statutory Requirements. Current law specifies the content of the fire plan. However, it does not specify how often the board must update the plan. In an effort to develop a better analytical framework for the provision of wildland fire protection in California, the department prepared a new plan in 1996, replacing the previous one approved in 1986. While the effort is commendable, our review indicates that the new plan falls short in meeting key statutory requirements and in providing an adequate basis to determine and justify current and future staff and funding levels. Specifically:
Plan Does Not Provide Legislature With Needed Information. The main purpose of the fire plan is to provide guidance for deploying firefighting resources. Without cost estimates for the level of fire protection provided to different land types, and without a process to adjust protection levels in line with available resources, the department does not have a tool to guide effective resource allocation. Additionally, the Legislature lacks the information it needs to determine whether the current deployment of resources provides appropriate levels of protection to lands of similar types.
For instance, based on a 1996 review of the boundaries of SRA lands (to determine which areas should be the responsibility of local or federal agencies), the number of acres for which CDFFP is required to provide fire protection will be fewer by about 91,000 acres beginning July 1997. Reductions in SRA acreage should reduce General Fund costs, and may also require adjustments in the allocation and deployment of resources within the department. For 1997-98, the department is proposing a reduction in fire protection (as we discuss below). However, the department is unable to provide any analytical connection between the proposed funding reductions and the changes in SRAs. Thus, the Legislature is not able to assess the impact of the proposed reduction on the level of fire protection provided.
Analyst's Recommendation. We think it is important that the fire plan provide the Legislature with the necessary information to determine the appropriate level of wildland fire protection. Accordingly, we recommend adoption of the following supplemental report language:
It is the intent of the Legislature that the Board of Forestry adopt an appendix to the 1996 fire plan, by January 1999, providing the following information: (1) the level of protection to be assigned to State Responsibility Area lands of the same type and (2) the estimated cost of this level of protection.
The CDFFP defines level of protection primarily in terms of the rate--known as the rate of success of initial attack--at which the department extinguishes small fires before they become large (and more damaging) fires extending over ten acres. (The board has established a 95 percent initial attack success rate as a primary goal of CDFFP's fire protection program.)
1986 Fire Plan Provides Basis for Assessing Initial Attack Success Rate. While the 1996 fire plan does not group lands of similar types, the 1986 plan did. Specifically, the plan grouped CDFFP ranger units (CDFFP's local level administrative unit) into six groups. Our review of initial attack success rates indicates that the level of fire protection varies within individual groups.
For instance, Figure 13 indicates that from 1991 through 1995 the average level of protection given to lands in the Redwoods Area group was relatively constant across lands, at about 97 percent. This means that consistently throughout the area, CDFFP extinguished 97 out of every 100 fires before they spread over ten acres.
Figure 13 also indicates that the initial attack success rate in the Central Area Group (covering roughly the Central Coast inland to the Sierra) varied more across ranger units. For example, the San Luis Obispo Ranger Unit rate of success was about 95 percent, while the rate in the Santa Clara unit was less than 89 percent.
We recognize that in any given year, success rates will vary depending on a number of factors such as weather, extent of vegetation control, and level of fire-fighting resources available, and that the department does not have control over all of these factors. However, over time, success rates should be relatively consistent for lands of similar type. To the extent variations exist, the department should reassess its resource allocations.
Because the 1996 fire plan does not provide information on how resources will be allocated to ensure relatively consistent protection to lands of similar type, we recommend adoption of the following supplemental report language:
By January 1, 1998, the department shall submit a report to the Legislature
on (1) the level of protection it currently provides to lands of the same type
and (2) steps it has taken or will take to ensure that lands of the same type
receive the same level of protection.
Budget Request. For 1997-98, the budget proposes reductions for (1) fire protection totaling $2.5 million (1 percent) and (2) vegetation management totaling $727,000 (23 percent).
Proposed reductions in fire protection are summarized in Figure 14.
|California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Proposed Reductions to Fire Protection
|Eliminate 14 conservation camp crews||$1,500|
|Continue consolidation of Sonoma and Lake-Napa Ranger Units||380|
|Consolidate (1) Shasta-Trinity and Siskiyou Ranger Units,
(2) Santa Clara and San Mateo Ranger Units
Proposed Reductions Result From Redirection of Environmental License Plate Fund. The department has provided no analytical justification for the proposed reductions. Instead, our review shows that the reduction was proposed in order to free up funds to backfill support of the vegetation management program. This is because the Resources Agency determined that vegetation management--which has been funded from the Environmental License Plate Fund (ELPF) in recent years--no longer should be supported by the ELPF.
We think it is appropriate to shift funding for vegetation management from ELPF to some other fund source. This is because, as we indicated in the Crosscutting Issues section of this chapter, the ELPF is designated for purposes related to the protection of natural and ecological areas and fish and wildlife habitat, while the primary purpose of most vegetation management is to prevent high intensity fires through the reduction of wildlife fuels. The department's proposal to redirect fire protection funds to vegetation management would provide a total of $2.5 million for vegetation management in 1997-98. This is a reduction of $727,000 (23 percent) in vegetation management from the current year.
Proposed Reduction in Fire Protection Will Likely Not Provide Net General Fund Savings. Our review indicates that the proposed reductions in fire protection will likely not result in net savings to the General Fund. Specifically:
Reduction in Vegetation Management Is Inconsistent With Prefire Management Initiative. Our review also indicates that the proposed reduction in vegetation management is inconsistent with the department's prefire management initiative that began in 1995-96, which is an effort to prioritize projects to reduce fire hazards. (We discuss the initiative in more detail below.) Currently, the department treats about 45,000 acres annually to reduce their fire hazard, primarily through prescribed burning, chemical treatment, and manual clearing of vegetation. Through the initiative, the CDFFP has identified a need to treat 65,000 acres annually. However, the proposed reduction in vegetation management funding will actually reduce the number of acres the department is able to treat with its own funds, and require the department to seek additional funding from other parties (potentially landowners and local agencies).
Conclusion. In our view, any General Fund savings realized through the department's proposed reductions in fire protection and vegetation management will most likely be short-lived. This is because to the extent the proposed reductions reduce (1) initial attack resources--such as conservation camp fire crews and telecommunications equipment--and (2) resources to reduce fire hazards through vegetation management, this will likely result in additional General Fund costs for subsequent emergency fire suppression in the long term. In addition, the General Fund budget for CDC will also bear any additional costs associated with inmate custody at conservation camps due to the reduction in fire crews.
The CDFFP's current-year budget includes significant funding for its fire control ($232.6 million), fire prevention ($9.1 million), and vegetation management ($3.2 million) programs. The budget for 1996-97 also includes $800,000 for CDFFP to develop and implement a new prefire management initiative, which is an effort to better coordinate these three programs in order to reduce wildland fire costs and losses to the public. A key component of the initiative is to prepare prefire management plans that identify and prioritize projects to reduce fire hazards through various means such as prescribed burning and vegetation clearing. The department began the initiative in 1995-96 in three test ranger units, at a cost of $453,000. The CDFFP expected to complete prefire management plans in those ranger units by July 1997, and implement the plans in 1997-98. The current-year funding will allow the department to extend implementation of the initiative to nine ranger units.
Budget Requests Significant Expansion. The budget requests $839,000 to further expand the initiative in 1997-98 to six additional ranger units. This would bring total funding in 1997-98 to $1.6 million for implementation in 15 ranger units.
Continued Funding Should Be Based on Results to Date. The Supplemental Report of the 1996 Budget Act required the department to submit a report by January 1997 to the Legislature on the results of the prefire management initiative to date. In its report, the CDFFP indicated that it has developed a draft prefire management plan for one ranger unit, and is currently developing similar plans for five other units. However, it is not clear whether the initiative will ultimately reduce wildland fire costs and losses. In part, this is because the department has not yet begun to implement the draft plans.
We think that expanded implementation of the initiative should be based on the initiative's success in coordinating CDFFP's fire control, fire prevention, and vegetation management programs to reduce these costs and losses. Without data indicating that the initiative is achieving its goals (that is, reducing costs and losses due to fires), and without assurance that the proposed reduction in vegetation management will not impact the initiative's long-term effectiveness, we find no cost-benefit basis for expanding the initiative in 1997-98. Accordingly, we recommend deletion of the funds requested to expand implementation of the initiative.