Gallagher introduces legislation to help Paradise recover, rebuild post Camp Fire

A home listed as destroyed on Berkshire Avenue in Paradise. Photo courtesy of Cal Fire.

Assemblyman James Gallagher introduced a package of bills Monday morning that will help expedite housing production in Butte County while also streamlining the removal of dead and dying trees and vital infrastructure improvements.

Assembly Bill 430 will help alleviate the housing crisis, which has been exacerbated in Butte County in the aftermath of the Camp Fire.

The bill will streamline the environmental review process for certain housing projects to help get the more than 50,000 people displaced by the fire back into new housing as soon as possible.

"We must get new housing online as soon as possible. The legislature has streamlined environmental review for sports arenas. Surely we can do the same for housing, especially for people who are recovering from a catastrophic event," said Gallagher.

"Many people want to stay in the area where they have jobs, family, and community connections," added Gallagher.

The second bill, Assembly Bill 431, will also help the recovery process by expediting certain forestry management and public infrastructure projects.

The bill will specifically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act forest health and fuel reductions projects in Butte County such as thinning overgrown bushes and trees.

The bill also exempts improvements to evacuation routes in the Town of Paradise. And lastly, the bill would provide regulatory relief for the proposed construction of a sewer system to serve the business district of the Town.

"I'm very excited. We've estimated that this will save us two years and $4-$5 million for a project that is going to be instrumental in rebuilding Paradise," said Paradise Mayor Jody Jones when speaking about the sewer project CEQA exemption.

Currently, Paradise relies on 11,000 individual septic systems for homes and businesses. Lack of a sewer has been especially problematic in higher density business areas where septic failures are common.

A better water collection and treatment system is not only more environmentally friendly, but would spur economic development and help attract new and bigger business opportunities.

"Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that as the town rebuilds, it rebuilds better and more resilient than before," said Gallagher.

"We must be smart about rebuilding, and in tragedy comes opportunity. Local, State, and Federal partners should collaborate to make improvements to public infrastructure such as the sewer system and roads," added Gallagher.

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