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What is the Proposal

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1. What is the proposal?
1. What is the proposal?

The proposal is to fund and approve the installation of two cameras at Serene Lakes to enable early detection, and confirmation of a wildfire. One would be placed on Soda Springs Ski Ranch and the other on Rowton Peak (Lola’s Lookout). The cost of purchasing the cameras is already covered. (see Question 2 below) The other issue is to cover the annual maintenance and software fees.

Cost & Fees

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2. What is the proposed cost of the cameras?
2. What is the proposed cost of the cameras?

The cost is estimated to be between $30K-$50K per camera, depending on how hard they are to install. Fifty SLPOA members, (30 families) have pledged $130k to cover the costs. The pledges would be coordinated through the Tahoe Property Center (TPC), which is a 501.c3 (tax exempt) nonprofit center. 



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3. Who maintains the two proposed cameras?
3. Who maintains the two proposed cameras?

University of Nevada, Reno, has a team that maintains the cameras. They will build, install, and maintain cameras at these two sites. 

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4. What is the cost of the maintenance and software?
4. What is the cost of the maintenance and software?

The annual cost is estimated to be about $25,000 for both, says Dr. Kent, UNR, program manager. Of the $25,000, $17,000 per year is for software. What will vary is the cost of maintenance depending on circumstances, like ice damage on solar panels. His estimates are based on experience with more than 1,000 already installed cameras. 

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5. In a Zoom presentation, Dr. Kent said it was possible that $4,000 of the annual maintenance expense, per camera, may not be needed. Can you provide how the maintenance costs are billed and give some hard examples of the numbers by year (may not be the same every year)?
5. In a Zoom presentation, Dr. Kent said it was possible that $4,000 of the annual maintenance expense, per camera, may not be needed. Can you provide how the maintenance costs are billed and give some hard examples of the numbers by year (may not be the same every year)?

Basically, we pay an annual “subscription” based on amortizing costs across 1000 cameras.  The costs will include hardware (fix what is broken) and software (Amazon Web Services, AI, etc.). Although Dr. Kent said $4k may not be spent each year, as there may be fewer hardware repairs, he also said that it is more probable that any reduction in costs would be offset by investments into new artificial intelligence features. Some years are tougher winters than others and require more repairs. Based on a typical year and experience, this is the best UNR can do to estimate annual maintenance costs. 

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6. Who will pay for the maintenance and software?
6. Who will pay for the maintenance and software?

It is proposed that these annual fees be covered by other key stakeholders, such as Measure T, Serene Lakes County Water District and the SLPOA Board would determine its contribution. This could occur through increased dues or through reserves.



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7. Who will own the contracts for the two proposed cameras for Serene Lakes and how long would the contracts/agreements last?
7. Who will own the contracts for the two proposed cameras for Serene Lakes and how long would the contracts/agreements last?

The proposal is to channel funding through the Tahoe Prosperity Center, which enables a 30% discount and tax exempt donations. This means there would be no contract. It is considered a gift, which is how 100% of the cameras already in the program have been funded over the past 10 years. There would be a land-use agreement between UNR and Soda Springs Ski Ranch (Placer County) and UNR and Tahoe Donner Land Trust. If we want an actual “contract,” the cost would go up 30% and contracts would be between UNR and whoever owns the land where the cameras are located. The fee structure would not be tax-exempt.

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8. Shouldn’t the Serene Lakes County Water District cover the annual fees for the cameras so that all those in Serene Lakes pay, not solely the SLPOA members?
8. Shouldn’t the Serene Lakes County Water District cover the annual fees for the cameras so that all those in Serene Lakes pay, not solely the SLPOA members?

This would require a ballot measure passed by Serene Lakes property owners. This could take a significant amount of time. The District has been educated on our efforts. The plan is to share the camera survey results and ask the Serene Lakes County Water District to contribute. 

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9. What about non SLPOA members? Shouldn’t they contribute too?
9. What about non SLPOA members? Shouldn’t they contribute too?

We think so, but it will be up to them. There are volunteers to lead efforts to approach the non SLPOA members for contributions. 

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10. For the cameras on alertwildfire.org that are paid for by PG&E, does PG&E cover the maintenance/software for their cameras? Why can’t PG&E pay for the two proposed cameras for Serene Lakes?
10. For the cameras on alertwildfire.org that are paid for by PG&E, does PG&E cover the maintenance/software for their cameras? Why can’t PG&E pay for the two proposed cameras for Serene Lakes?

Yes, PGE funds the maintenance for its cameras. PGE has designated funds to cover placement of cameras to protect its infrastructure. PG&E has determined that these two cameras are not currently in their plans for funding. 

About the Cameras

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11. Do the cameras spot fires and alert first responders on their own through artificial intelligence (AI)?
11. Do the cameras spot fires and alert first responders on their own through artificial intelligence (AI)?

AlertWildfire is primarily a confirmation and situational awareness tool. That said, discoveries are made all the time with the camera’s AI capabilities. That means the AI spots something (maybe smoke) that makes it think a fire is possible, and triggers an alert on a dashboard at dispatch. Ninety percent of the time, the cameras confirm reports made by people who call 911 or report potential fire activity on Twitter. Cal Fire, US Forest Service and Truckee Fire can remotely move the camera view to either discover or confirm fire ignition.

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12. If cameras don’t have AI, how are fires located and reported? The AlertWildfire.org website implies citizens groups volunteer to monitor cameras during high fire events.
12. If cameras don’t have AI, how are fires located and reported? The AlertWildfire.org website implies citizens groups volunteer to monitor cameras during high fire events.

These proposed cameras will have AI, however, not every camera on Alertwildfire.org does. The paramount benefit of the camera is to be made aware of a fire or a potential fire to better inform emergency fire response teams. Many of the lookout towers that were personally staffed during the summer are no longer staffed because they use this network of cameras instead.

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13. An existing Mt. Lincoln camera is at an elevation of +/- 8364 ft. and the proposed Rowton Peak camera would be at +/- 7443 ft. and about 2 miles due west of the Mt. Lincoln camera. With a higher elevation, how does the Mt. Lincoln camera not cover Serene Lakes along with other cameras such as Alpine Meadows, Sierra Buttes, etc. ?
13. An existing Mt. Lincoln camera is at an elevation of +/- 8364 ft. and the proposed Rowton Peak camera would be at +/- 7443 ft. and about 2 miles due west of the Mt. Lincoln camera. With a higher elevation, how does the Mt. Lincoln camera not cover Serene Lakes along with other cameras such as Alpine Meadows, Sierra Buttes, etc. ?

According to Dr Kent, there are blocked views on top of Mt. Lincoln that the two proposed cameras help fix (in terms of coverage). Also, different camera angles help in spotting fires early. Sierra Buttes is too far and the current Alpine Meadows camera views are blocked in the Serene Lakes direction. The two proposed cameras would be specifically positioned for the Serene Lakes community and its single egress route. Also, many times, there can be multiple fire starts and “spotting” so the cameras’ viewing positions are placed to maximize the view. Specially designated personnel with fire fighting agencies can alter the view of the camera remotely when a fire has started per their special security access. Should a fire come up the 80 corridor, the proposed Soda Springs Ski camera would offer an earlier and better view than Sugar Bowl, Alpine or Sierra Butte cameras.

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14. When I look at the website some cameras say that the patrol mode has been disabled. How do the cameras spot fires if they are not patrolling?
14. When I look at the website some cameras say that the patrol mode has been disabled. How do the cameras spot fires if they are not patrolling?

The cameras have two modes, “Guard patrol,” 360 degree coverage, or “Home,” meaning the camera focuses on one view and does not rotate. The mode can be changed by those with secured access, typically fire fighting agencies and UNR. There are trade-offs for each mode, and options can be weighed and determined at the time of installation. For Serene Lakes, Dr. Kent is suggesting that Rowton camera be on guard patrol and the Soda Springs Ski Ranch camera be fixed directly on home mode overlooking Serene Lakes. It may be helpful to have Truckee Fire and other key partners weigh in on this decision. 

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15. What is the visual range that a camera can spot smoke?
15. What is the visual range that a camera can spot smoke?

Dr. Kent has indicated 20-40 miles a day, twice that at night. But, it depends on the size of the fire. The bigger the fire, the easier it is to see. For example, a 5,000 acre fire might be visible up to 150 miles away at night.

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16. Why has Dr. Kent recommended two cameras for Serene Lakes?
16. Why has Dr. Kent recommended two cameras for Serene Lakes?

He surveyed Serene Lakes and made his recommendation based on our one point of egress, the terrain, and the size of Serene Lakes.

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17. What are the views from the cameras?
17. What are the views from the cameras?

Please go to the main SLPOA website There is a view from Soda Springs Ski Resort looking down on Serene Lakes and a 360 video from Mt. Rowton.

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18. Are the cameras insured?
18. Are the cameras insured?

The cameras are not insured. Dr. Kent said the chance of vandalism is extremely low. There are over 1,000 cameras. They have had two “shot up,” one with major vandalism and one more that was stolen.

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19. Why don’t the current nearby cameras - Mt. Lincoln and Signal Hill (off Interstate 80 at Cisco Grove) – cover the Serene Lakes area adequately? How far can cameras detect smoke?
19. Why don’t the current nearby cameras - Mt. Lincoln and Signal Hill (off Interstate 80 at Cisco Grove) – cover the Serene Lakes area adequately? How far can cameras detect smoke?

(See earlier response on distance.)



Dr. Kent reviewed the current cameras on Mt. Lincoln and Signal Hill in light of coverage of Serene Lakes. He confirmed that there are areas that are not covered, such as the headwaters of the American River (Cedars and surrounding areas), and the valley/gorge to Cedars. The benefits of better camera coverage for Serene Lakes is to see more fires quickly and be able to plan a response.

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20. Why is the camera on Mt. Lincoln broken? If Serene Lakes invests in two cameras will we have the same issues?
20. Why is the camera on Mt. Lincoln broken? If Serene Lakes invests in two cameras will we have the same issues?

Sugar Bowl is redesigning its entire communications on top of Mt. Lincoln, of which the camera is are part. It is swapping out older equipment and structures for their Sugar Bowl communications - t is a significant scale project. UNR is at their mercy for that camera to be up and running. We anticipate Sugar Bowl ends up with a more resilient communications network that will favorably impact their camera.  We don’t need Mt. Lincoln to get the Serene Lakes system up and running. UNR can provide a more robust network when Mt. Lincoln is operating.  The Mt. Lincoln camera, and Sugar Bowl’s communication system, suffer from high winds and that’s why they’re improving it. It is not estimated that the Serene Lakes’ cameras would face the same wind intensity.

Miscellaneous Questions


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21. Who paid for the camera at Tahoe Donner? Did they also work through Tahoe Prosperity Center? For the Tahoe Donner camera, who pays the annual maintenance/software fees?
21. Who paid for the camera at Tahoe Donner? Did they also work through Tahoe Prosperity Center? For the Tahoe Donner camera, who pays the annual maintenance/software fees?

Tahoe Donner Association paid for their camera and also pays for annual software fees. All funds flow through the Tahoe Prosperity Center.

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22. Who financially profits from the placement of the cameras?
22. Who financially profits from the placement of the cameras?

The cameras are not a profit center. Both UNR and Tahoe Prosperity Center are non-profit organizations. The costs for alertwildfire.org are determined in partnership with other key agencies to maintain the program. Please visit alertwildfire.org to view the other partnerships. 

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23. Will Pla-vada, Soda Springs and Palisades benefit from these cameras and if so will they contribute?
23. Will Pla-vada, Soda Springs and Palisades benefit from these cameras and if so will they contribute?

Everybody benefits when wildfires are prevented or immediately detected and contained. If Serene Lakes supports the cameras, we will work with TPC to set up a way for others to contribute to 501.c.3 for the cameras. 

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24. Do other land trusts have cameras for fire detection?
24. Do other land trusts have cameras for fire detection?

Yes. One example is Sonoma Open Space Conservancy. In the past, land trusts have not wanted cameras on preserved lands. With the ongoing fire threats, some have changed that position.

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