Seeley Fire meeting update on repairs
The forest service and the Emery County Commission held a public meeting to discuss the aftermath of the Seeley Fire and the actions taking place to avoid or reduce the damage that may be caused by flooding in the spring of 2013. Commissioner Jeff Horrocks introduced the meeting as being requested by the Forest service to make the public aware of how the forest service was handling the aftermath of the fire.
Commissioner Horrocks said, "Emery County has been actively working to get some of the issues in Huntington Canyon resolved. These issues are the result of the fire and the flooding that occurred there last summer and the anticipated 2013 flooding in the spring."
Captain Kyle Ekker the coordinator of Emery County Emergency Management was asked to report on some of the county actions taken to date like working to fix the log jam in Huntington Creek and the making of settling basins to remove some of the sediment from flowing down the creek. Captain Ekker said, "I've talked with the forest service, BLM, NRCS, the canal companies, fish and game, the power plant, and invited any others that have concerns to come forward. We are working to find funding solutions for these problems. We would like to repair the river before the spring runoff. Johansen and Tuttle Engineering is working on the preliminary design of what would work best."
Commissioner Horrocks said, "We are working with Huntington City, the forest service and everyone that has a stake in this event."
Representatives from the forest service made a presentation of what they had been doing since the fire to reduce the damage that may be caused by possible flooding in the spring.
Brian McInerney a hydrologist with the National Weather Service and a member of the BAER Team gave a report on the snow pack and a forecast of the runoff conditions. The snow pack is about normal and the spring run off is expected to be below the average. He said, "This coming year, when it rains in those mountains you can expect debris flowing off those fire damaged hillsides. The debris flow is usually caused by intense rain storm activity and not the snow pack runoff."
Robert Davidson a forest service soil scientist discussed the way rain water, when it hits the ground causes particles of soil to splash up and start to flow with the water down the hillside. He said the forest service has contracted with a company to put 3,500 tons of wood mulch on the burned over hillsides. The wood mulch will stop rain water from splashing up soil particles and reduce debris flow. Helicopters were used to lay the wood mulch on 600 acres of mountain sides.
Ninety-four tons of winter wheat has also been seeded by the forest service on 7,000 acres using airplanes to drop the seed. It is anticipated that the winter wheat will sprout in the spring and help stabilize the soil.
Seventeen miles of recreation trails have been repaired by the forest service and many signs replaced. Darren Olsen the District Ranger Ferron/Price District, Seth Wallace forest engineer and Jeffery Brower presented several photos and slides of forest service expectations for the debris flow off forest service property on to private and public lands during 2013.
The forest service has installed more than 60 log debris racks in South Hughes, Nuck Woodward, Engineer Canyon, Bridges and Pole Canyon. These debris racks trap debris flow. They will be monitored and repaired as needed. The debris racks are made from burned over trees. They are very effective at removing debris and are cost effective to construct and maintain.
Overflow basins have been constructed at the mouth of Nuck Woodward, South Hughes and Engineer canyons. Two to three basins have been constructed at each site. Grade control structures made of rocks and cement have also been installed.
Olsen explained, "The BAER program has very tightly defined goals. The first is to identify values at risk. The second is to identify cost effective treatments with a high likelihood of success that can reduce those risks. Third is to implement those treatments in a timely fashion and monitor their effectiveness."
BAER is an emergency funding source. Funds can only be spent on forest system lands, but the values at risk can be on adjacent lands.
The BAER funds will expire in July of 2013. Unfortunately BAER funds cannot be used outside the forest service boundaries. The forest service, the county, BLM, NRCS, CIB, the irrigation companies, Huntington City and the cattlemen's association are continuing to look for other funds to correct the problems that have occurred as a result of this fire and flood.
Some in the audience asked for the forest service to assist in replacing burned out fences and watering troughs on forest service property. Others asked, would the forest service help with the repairs needed for the Huntington Cleveland Irrigation Company $70 million sprinkler system recently damaged by the debris and flooding?
The answer in each case was there are no funds available a this time and each agency is trying every avenue open to get funding for the needed projects.
Rosann Fillmore of the forest service said, "The forest service has no budget for this event as the government is in operation on a continuing resolution."
As a result of this meeting the forest service and Commissioner Horrocks felt there was a good spirit of cooperation from all of the agencies involved.