april tahoe mt. news .. unedited ..
By Kathryn Reed
While the governors of California and Nevada decide if a state of fire emergency should be declared throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Forest Service are moving forward with more immediate needs.
On March 25, sheriff’s Lt. Les Lovell met with contractors – local and out of area – about the building season that begins May 1.
“A whole bunch of homes out there will be built this summer,” Lovell said of the Angora burn area. “We need to coordinate the best routes and traffic flow patterns.”
His office is working with the county building department and California Highway Patrol to make sure things run smoothly.
“There are going to be key times when we have traffic control out there when we have multiple cement trucks and 18-wheelers with trusses. We will have to close a lane,”
Lovell’s goal is to make it work for residents and contractors, as well as emergency personnel who may need to access the area.
Removing dead trees
This spring Forest Service personnel will be marking which trees in 256 acres of National Forest Land will be felled during the summer and fall. Pile burning could take place in summer 2009.
This area represents the most heavily used trails in the 3,100-acre burn area. Six roads and three trails will be affected. Machines and hand felling will be used on 167 acres, with just hand felling on the other 89.
“We are not anticipating a blanket re-closure of the area,” Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck said. “If we need to for safety reasons, it will be area by area.”
Ongoing monitoring will occur to see if other trees need to be removed.
Which company will haul out the wood has not been determined. Some snags will be left behind for wildlife habitat and erosion measures, including wood chips. Goshawk and spotted owl oversight programs will be implemented because the ones that existed in the burn area were disturbed. This will help determine if the birds are still in the area.
In a 34-page document, the Forest Service expects to harvest 4,518 cubic feet of wood. This will be a combination of Jeffrey pine, white fire, incense cedar, lodgepole pine, sugar pine and fiber. Any tree more than 30 inches in diameter will get a second opinion by a forester about the need for its removal.
“This is not something we normally do,” Heck said. “It is not an issue of maybe we are cutting the wrong one, but groups and the public expressed concerns. We want to be as transparent as possible why we are doing it.”
The agency intends to have a public field trip this spring. The information will be posted at www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu.
After the 30-day comment period the Forest Service compiled 38 pages to answer the 22 questions it received.
The National Environmental Policy Act mandates the Forest Service go through various protocols. Long-term restoration ideas will be on the table in early May. This could include replanting. The public will have an opportunity to weigh-in on ideas.
Seedlings are starting to sprout, which will further help with potential erosion concerns. Heck said the sloped areas held through winter.
Replanting on urban lots will be more immediate. Trees are on order.
Last month the 18-member bi-state fire commission, which Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Gibbons created after the devastating Angora Fire, asked the state leaders and President George W. Bush to declare a state of emergency in the basin because of the threat of fire.
As of press time, no one had made such a declaration.
Before signing the document forming the commission on July 25 at Lake Valley Fire Department, Schwarzenegger said, “It is important to learn from mistakes that may have been made.”
Gibbons on that date said, “A catastrophic wildfire are conditions of an unhealthy forest. We want the rules changed to make the forest healthy again. Reform is mandatory.”
Schwarzenegger left that meeting quickly. Gibbons hung around.
Asked if this was just another commission that would suggest policy but have no teeth, and merely create a large document at the culmination that would collect dust, Gibbons told the Tahoe Mountain News that would not be the case.
He said conflicting policies and regulations would be sorted out.
“We have some influence over the TRPA board,” Gibbons said during the one-on-one interview, hinting that maybe this is where change should start. Each governor appoints a member to the board. Schwarzenegger last month appointed former Tahoe area Assemblyman Tim Leslie – a staunch critic of the bi-state regulatory agency.
After meeting for 19 days in seven months, not counting committee meetings, the panel said fire agencies need $7.8 million now to rid 15,000 acres of dense timber and clear fuels from 40,000 urban lots. That’s in addition to the $6.3 million annual budget they have collectively to mitigate fire threats.