Aerial mulching operations about to kickoff over Eldorado National Forest
A project to drop straw mulch from helicopters over about 1,200 acres of Eldorado National Forest land that burned in the recent King Fire is about to get underway, according to a recent Forest Service announcement.
The project is a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and is intended to protect critical infrastructure from the potentially harmful effects of post-fire erosion.
The at-risk infrastructure includes Eleven Pines Road — the primary route from Highway 50 to the northern end of the Eldorado National Forest — and the Brush Creek and Slab Creek reservoirs, which the Forest Service says is “integral to SMUD’s hydroelectric facilities in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.”
Aerial mulching operations are scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 24 and are expected to take two weeks to complete, depending on the weather.
“This is a great example of the outstanding collaboration we’ve had during all phases of the King Fire,” said Eldorado Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree in a statement.
Crestline, Calif.-based company Bradco Environmental was awarded the contract for the project, which initially consists of chopping large bales of certified weed free straw — a by-product of rice grown in California — into 4 to 8 inches pieces of mulch.
Two helicopters will then drop the mulch, treating about 80 acres of land per day with each aircraft. Areas along Eleven Pines Road will be the first to be treated.
Soil scientists and hydrologists with the Forest Service identified every treatment area as sites needing immediate attention before heavy rain and snow arrives.
The Forest Service notes that excessive sediment from post-fire erosion can “block culverts and impact water quality in streams and reservoirs, which could lead to flooding, road closures, decreased water storage capacity and loss of hydroelectric generation.”
The Forest Service urges the public to comply with the ongoing fire closure. Travelers are also being asked to not stop along Wentworth Springs Road and watch while helicopter operations are in progress. The road is open to through traffic only.
“All of the emergency stabilization projects we are currently doing in the King Fire burned area will help us get the fire area re-opened sooner,” Crabtree said. “For now, the entire fire area will remain closed to public access due to public safety concerns.”
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