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How Can Special Districts Impacted by California’s Severe Winter Storms Get Help?

By Vanessa Gonzales posted 01-24-2023 09:37 AM

fallen strees in storm over road

As special districts work to recover from the series of severe winter storms, the question now becomes where to look for help? For a majority of special districts, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program will be the way to go. Additionally, districts providing water service to an area with population less than 10,000 and have sustained damage from flooding may try to access the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Emergency Community Water Grant program.


FEMA Public Assistance Program 

Due to the federal emergency declaration and subsequent major federal emergency declaration, FEMA Public Assistance for emergency protective measures is now authorized in affected counties. Special districts seeking assistance must contact their local office of emergency services, typically through their county government, for further direction. Applicable assistance will likely fall under one of two categories: A) Debris Removal or B) Emergency Protective Measures.


Debris Removal (Category A) 

Debris removal activities, such as clearance, removal, and disposal, are eligible as “Category A” if the removal is in the public interest based on whether the work: 

  • Eliminates immediate threats to lives, public health, and safety;
  • Eliminates immediate threats of significant damage to improved public or private property;
  • Ensures economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community at large; or
  • Mitigates risk to life and property by removing Substantially Damaged structures and associated structures and appurtenances as needed to convert property acquired using HMGP funds to uses compatible with open space, recreation, or wetlands management practices. Such removal must be completed within two years of the declaration date unless extended by the FEMA Assistant Administrator of the Recovery Directorate.


Emergency Protective Measures (Category B) 

Emergency protective measures conducted before, during, and after an incident are eligible if the measures: 

  • Eliminate or lessen immediate threats to lives, public health, or safety; or
  • Eliminate or lessen immediate threats of significant additional damage to improved public or private property in a cost-effective manner.


Policy Guidance 

FEMA outlines parameters of what is available to local governments as part of its most updated Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide. It is an in-depth, yet easily readable overview of how to ready and execute Public Assistance. 



There will be no FEMA assistance available in counties without federal disaster declarations. Absent a federal disaster declaration, special districts will be limited to state, local, and private resources.


As of 10:30 a.m. PT on January 23, the counties currently eligible for Public Assistance for Parts A and B (see page 99 of the attached) are:

  • Merced
  • Monterey
  • Sacramento
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Barbara
  • Santa Cruz


Follow this link for updates:


Special districts that have sustained damage in a county without a declaration need to be sure they collect their damage estimates and information and send to their county. This is important because disaster declarations are extended to additional areas based on a number of criteria including estimated loss. Please share a summary of your damage estimates with CSDA by emailing it to


Additional information on how a disaster gets declared can be found here: How a Disaster Gets Declared |


Rural Emergency Community Water Grant Program 

Separate and apart from FEMA Public Assistance, special districts providing water service to an area with population less than 10,000 and have sustained damage from flooding, may consider applying to the USDA Rural Development Emergency Community Water Grant program, administered through the USDA’s Rural Development program. Follow this link for details.


In California, the primary phone number for contact on this program is (530) 792-5800. Districts interested in trying this option may reach out to their local offices for local information; however the state will be the office to apply to.


Local Offices (Listed from North to South): 

Del Norte, Siskiyou & Trinity Counties
Kevin DeMers, Yreka Office
(530) 572-3126


Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta & Tehama Counties
Mike Colbert, Alturas Office
(530) 233-4137 ext.112
Angela Cross, Alturas Office
(530) 233-4137 ext.113


Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa & Sonoma
Reef Atwell-Smith, Santa Rosa Office
(707) 536-0246
Quinn Donovan, Santa Rosa Office
(707) 536-0248


Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter & Yuba Counties
Colleen Crowden, Davis Office
(530) 792-5833


El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin,
Sierra, Solano & Yolo Counties
Doug Colucci, Woodbridge
916) 212-5088
Tenna Hungate, Davis Office
 (530) 792-5815
Michael Vukas, Davis Office
(530) 792-5824


Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mono & Stanislaus Counties
Tonja Galentine, Modesto Office
(209) 287-3626


Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Merced & Tuolumne Counties
Sally Tripp, Fresno Office
(559) 490-8029

Antonio Ybarra, Fresno Office
(559) 490-8035


Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, San Benito, San Mateo,
Santa Clara & Santa Cruz Counties
Esther De La Cruz, Salinas Office
(831) 975-7736


Kings & Tulare Counties
Lisa Butler, Visalia Office
(559) 754-3146


Kern & Inyo Counties
Dan Johnson, Bakersfield
(661) 281-2736


San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara & Ventura Counties
Al Correale, Santa Maria
(805) 863-9938


Los Angeles & San Bernardino Counties
Christina Swegles, Phelan
(760) 948-4138


Imperial, Orange, Riverside & San Diego Counties
Luis Andrade, Imperial
(760) 355-2208 ext. 108


CSDA and our members receive background, updates, and support on the above federal assistance programs from the National Special Districts Coalition (NSDC), of which CSDA is a founding member. CSDA will continue partnering with NSDC to ensure our members are well-informed of this important information and to coordinate any necessary advocacy at the federal-level.