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State-of-the-art proposals part of Forest Service proposal introduced Monday

Adam Jensen
Nevada Appeal News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – A U.S. Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) assessment team presented its report to Lake Tahoe officials this week, recommending rehabilitation measures for more than 1,640 acres of forest land within the boundary of the Angora fire.

Approved by forest Supervisor Terri Marceron on Monday afternoon, the report was generated by a team of Forest Service scientists drawn from throughout the West who have been studying the fire’s effects prior to full containment July 2.

Proposals in the report aim to minimize the fire’s ongoing threats to life, property and natural resources.

Limiting the impact to water quality is top priority in regard to natural resources, according to Todd Ellsworth, a soil scientist with the BEAR team.

“The goal is to implement soil stabilizing treatments on the ground before the major rain producing storms arrive,” according to Forest Service literature. “BAER work is focused on short-term stabilization actions to help burned areas get through several seasons, especially the first critical winter.”

Among these stabilization actions will be the felling of hazard trees and the spreading of mulch by air to keep as much of the clarity-reducing ash and sediment from reaching Lake Tahoe.

Eighty-eight percent, 2,736 acres, of the area burned by the Angora fire falls under Forest Service jurisdiction. An additional 100 acres of the burn area are owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy, which has been coordinating with the Forest Service to manage their lots in a similar fashion, according to Rick Robinson, natural resources program manager with the conservancy, on Monday.

At best, the immediate actions by the Forest Service will keep approximately two-thirds of the ash and sediment created by the Angora fire from reaching basin waterways, according to Ellsworth.

“It’s not 100 percent effective,” he said outside of the BAER team’s temporary office at Lake Tahoe Community College on Monday.

Exactly how much of this runoff can be prevented by the “state-of-the-art treatments” will be determined by the severity of the basin’s first post-fire storms. The larger the storm, the more sediment and ash will end up in the lake, according to Ellsworth.

“Precipitation is always the wild card,” the soil scientist said.

Long-term rehabilitation projects efforts are slated to follow the more immediate efforts recommended by the BAER team. Implementation of the team’s proposals will continue through the late fall, according to Rex Norman, spokesman for the Forest Service.

Printed copies of the BEAR team’s final report have not been made available, but will be shortly, according to Norman.