Look, up in the sky … Planes drop green goo on burn areas to stabilize slopes, encourage growth of vegetation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Look, up in the sky … Planes drop green goo on burn areas to stabilize slopes, encourage growth of vegetation

Adam Jensen
Jim Grant /Sun News Service A plane drops a load of hydromulch in the burn area along the steep Angora ridgeline on Wednesday morning.

Forests blackened by the Angora fire were lent a shade of green this week, as airplanes began the aerial hydromulching of some of the steepest slopes burned by the Angora fire.

Hydromulching includes the application of a wood mulch, recycled paper and water mixture, designed to minimize erosion from major storms.

A guar gum-based tackifier is also included in the mix so the hydromulch will stick to the soil.

The hydromulch mixture traps moisture and creates an environment in which seeds can sprout, according to U.S Forest Service literature.

In the case of the hydromulch being applied to areas burned by the Angora fire, the mixture does not contain fertilizer or seeds.

Eventually the hydromulch will break down, and burnt soil will be stabilized by plants sprouting from seeds already in the soil.

Light green at the outset to aid consistent application, the hydromulch is expected to turn gray as it dries in the days following application.

Just more than 636 acres burned by the fire are slated for aerial hydromulching treatments, which are expected to last for approximately two weeks and comprise $1.6 million of $2.2. million in federal Burned Area Emergency Response team recommended treatments.

Three planes started operations on Tuesday, but an additional plane was added on Wednesday, a day that likely saw between 180 and 200 laps between the South Lake Tahoe Airport and four treatment areas, according to Ted Stallings, president of Aero Tech Inc., the company in charge of the application process.

Each trip between the South Lake Tahoe Airport, where the planes are refilled with 800 gallons of hydromulch while their engines are still running, and the burned area takes about seven minutes.

Up to 2,600 loads are expected to be delivered during the operations.

Several phone calls from residents concerned about the noise from low-flying planes were received by the Tribune and the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday.

Homes in the Tahoe Keys seemed to be bearing the brunt of the noise from the operations.

Although safety was the primary consideration when choosing a flight path, Stallings said, noise levels were also considered.

Efficiency was also a major factor.

“We could take a longer route, but then we’d add several days to the project,” Stallings said.

Hydromulching is expected to continue from approximately 8 a.m. until dark, seven days a week until the project’s completion.

“We want to wrap it up as fast as possible,” Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service, said Wednesday.

More information on the hydromulching operations, including daily updates, can be found at http://www.angorafirerecovery.net.

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