Update — Oregon’s Controversial Wildfire Risk Map

Last year the state of Oregon released a draft of the communities most at risk from wildfires. It was very specific about areas within those cities. A glance at the map, and the accompanying explanation, appeared to assign high risk to areas, and to home and business owners, where the risk may have been negligible.

So the Oregon Department of Forestry withdrew the map and said it would do a modification. It is supposed to be released in March of this year.

However, it appears that it might be put off because some members of Oregon’s Legislature are introducing bills to radically change the conclusions of the map, or — in some minds — do away with it entirely.

The map came about from legislation introduced by Oregon Senator Jeff Golden. He’s not in favor of major changes and has introduced new legislation to fix his original concept.

“I will not support efforts to eliminate the maps altogether because we need those to focus our limited dollars and get them where they’re needed,” Golden said. “But the maps could play a very different role than the public thought they were playing last summer.”

Golden’s goal is to have a new draft of the map available by June. That gives the Oregon Department of Forestry time to get more input from the public on the map. 

“We’re also going to open the process up so that people understand the kind of criteria and assumptions that shape these maps,” Golden said.

Republicans in Oregon’s Legislature want to keep the Oregon Department of Forestry from overseeing how the new map is developed.

On the insurance side of things, Golden said most insurance companies aren’t planning on using the state map to set rates. They already have their own plans so Golden has introduced new legislation to make sure insurers do not use information from the maps to set rates.

And he wants insurers to be forced to set rates based on incentives homeowners and businesses use to fireproof their properties.

“We want successful neighborhood projects to qualify their members for favorable treatment from the insurance industry, when it comes to premiums or availability of coverage,” he said. “Which is going to continue to be a huge challenge because of the era of wildfire that we’re in.”

The senator noted the best way to make sure homeowners have access to rates that are affordable is to work with insurance companies to prove their communities are safe, or safer, from fire.

Source link: OPB — http://bit.ly/3wLINA6

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