In June 2022, the Utica Water and Power Authority (Utica) was awarded $1.2 million in 100% grant funding from Cal Fire’s California Climate Investments Wildfire Prevention Grants Program for the Hunter Reservoir Fuels Reduction Project, which will remove hazardous fuels in Avery surrounding Hunter Reservoir, the Lower Utica Canal, and Mill Creek.
The 207-acre project will protect critical infrastructure owned by Utica, including wooden flumes, and the Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) water treatment plant. The two agencies provide water service to a combined 19,000 people and fire flows to more than 1,100 fire hydrants along the Highway 4 Corridor between Angels Camp and Dorrington. The project also provides fire protection to Avery Middle School and 400 structures, including numerous private residences in the area.
The project is part of the larger Highway 4 Wildfire Defense System, which is designed to protect around 9,000 homes and critical infrastructure from Vallecito to Camp Connell. Since the 2015 Butte Fire, landscape-scale strategic fuel reduction projects have been built, or are under construction, to protect the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) communities along Highway 4. The Hunter Reservoir project will fill a gap on the rim of the North Fork Stanislaus River Canyon on the Mill Creek drainage.
Environmental review will take place in late 2022 and early 2023 and fuels thinning is expected to begin in summer/fall 2023.