Hydromulching planes to fly over South Shore today
Planes traveling over the Angora fire burn area this week will signal the start of USDA Forest Service aerial hydromulch operations to control erosion and prevent runoff. The project begins today.
Pilots will deposit hydromulch on 636 acres affected by the burn that are inaccessible for hand treatment. The hydromulch sticks to the hillside and minimizes soil erosion. By trapping moisture inside, it provides a favorable environment for seeds to sprout and fulfill their role as natural soil stabilizers.
“Aerial hydromulching has proven value in stabilizing burned hillsides,” said Terri Marceron, forest supervisor with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “Along with rice and wood straw treatments in urban areas and the removal of hazard trees throughout the burned area, it’s a major component of our rehabilitation plan.”
Hydromulch consists of wood mulch, recycled paper, water, and a tackifier, which is guar gum based and bind the ingredients together. The mixture is completely organic and poses no health risks to animals or humans. In fact, ice cream manufacturers use guar gum as a thickener. The hydromulch is dyed green so pilots can monitor coverage and is deposited from the plane wet, but it will harden and turn gray after a few days on the ground.
The contractor for the project is Aerotech, Inc, based in Clovis, N.M. The contract calls for 15 work days from today through the end of September, allowing for weather delays. Four planes will fly; flight hours will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or until dark.
Forest Service staff will be available to explain the process and answer questions at two locations: The intersection of Sawmill Pond Road and Lake Tahoe Boulevard provides a view of operations from a distance, and a closer look will be available from the intersection of Mt. Rainier Road and Lake Tahoe Boulevard. These sites will not be staffed if planes are not flying, but interpretive signs will be available.
Staffing hours for viewing locations are: 9-11 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. today through Friday, and 11-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the project.
Observers should avoid obstructing traffic and consider the privacy of local residents. Traffic delays will occur on Angora Ridge Road during treatment of adjacent units.
National Forest System lands within the Angora burn area remain closed to all entry; forest protection officers will patrol the area and issue citations if necessary.
“Walking or biking on the hydromulch will reduce the effectiveness of this soil stabilization treatment,” Marceron said. “We’re asking the public to help us speed recovery of the burned area by continuing to respect the closure.”
For a fact sheet on aerial hydromulching and a map of the treatment units, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/ltbmu/angora-fire/baer.shtml.
For more information, call Forest Service officials Cheva Heck, (530) 543-2608, or Rex Norman, (530) 543-2627.