Agencies begin restoration work | NevadaAppeal.com

Agencies begin restoration work

Jill Lufrano

A team of experts started immediate work Sunday in the Waterfall fire burn area to restore the damaged environment.

The Burn Area Emergency Rehabilitation Team management met Sunday morning, and crews began work on the ground, said Genny Wilson, team leader. It is expected to produce a long-term rehabilitation strategy for the burn area within one week of containment.

The most immediate concern is to shore up fire lines carved by bulldozers. The bare ditches can act as flumes, carrying water and soil directly into residential areas, said U.S. Forest Service rehabilitation team member Erick Walker.

Workers began filling the ditches with natural debris, such as branches, to create diversions to prevent water from rushing through. The equipment-made lines were mainly constructed around Lakeview, Western Nevada Community College, Kings Canyon and C Hill.

“We will try to make it function as natural as possible,” Walker said.

Most important, forest officials don’t want to see the public start hiking around the area or using the dozer lines as off-road vehicle trails. Public access will be restricted until some restoration work can be completed, Walker said.

Erosion in the city’s watershed is also a major concern, as is the spread of noxious weeks, said Forest Service spokesman Franklin Pemberton.

“The soils are like talcum powder,” Pemberton said. “The public needs to stay out of there.”

Weed seeds can be spread by tires, clothing and animal fur. Highly flammable cheatgrass is a nuisance that can quickly take over burn areas and squeeze out more fire-resistant vegetation.

A long-term rehabilitation strategy to protect life, property and sensitive resources in the canyons is expected to be drafted by July 27. It will then be sent to Washington, D.C., for approval.

“Once the plan is signed off, within two weeks we’ll be out there doing work,” Wilson said.

The plan will address hydrology, soils, wildlife, roadway and state parks issues. Satellite imagery will locate the most-intensely burned areas and where staff will focus most of the attention, Wilson said.

Residents are already asking if they can help reseed or plant trees. Wilson expects that once seeds are gathered and grown, replanting might begin in the fall or spring. The Forest Service will announce volunteer opportunities, she said.

The plan is to immediately remove about 80 percent of the threat of erosion and destruction from flooding or erosion.

The burned area is Carson City’s watershed, producing a majority of city water.

“This is the capital city’s backdrop,” Pemberton said. “We can’t cut corners in restoring that. (But) our first priority is to stabilize soils and maintain the watershed.”

Contact Jill Lufrano at jlufrano@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.