River preservation support delayed
MINDEN – Douglas County commissioners tabled support for management of the East Fork of the Carson River, saying they wanted time to coordinate the effort with Alpine County. Just eight of the 52 miles in question are in Douglas County.
“There are a lot of interests, concerns and needs in Douglas County that are different than Alpine,” said Commission Chairman Jim Baushke. “We need to get together with them, to see how it all will work.”
The request for support came from David Loomis, forest planner for the U.S. Forest Service, after he outlined the primary issues along the river extending from the Carson Iceberg Wilderness in California to Ruhenstroth Dam south of Gardnerville.
“We’ve seen some of the habitat and vegetation around the hot springs trampled. Trees have been cut down to be burned for firewood and we’re concerned about noxious weeds in the watershed,” said Ed James, general manager of the Carson Water Subconservancy District. “Illegal roads go up and down the hillsides causing erosion.
“One of my main concerns is the human waste issue,” James said.
Some of the native plant communities are being converted to homogeneous stands of cheat grass and no longer provide adequate forage or cover for species inhabiting the area, including mule deer, sage grouse and pygmy rabbit.
Off-highway vehicles often pass through tribal, private and national forest system lands to access the river. Damage has occurred to tributaries such as Bryant Creek and its riparian zone, including River Ranch and the river corridor at the hot springs, according to the forest service report.
This stretch of the river is being considered for “wild and scenic River” protection, but there are problems. For example, that designation could preclude protection of Highway 4 from flooding and erosion.
“Once that designation is levied, it’s hard to reverse,” Baushke said. “We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing. We’ll probably schedule a meeting with Alpine County in late October or November.”
The Forest Service is recommending that livestock grazing would be preserved, as would be the practice of removing hazardous trees, should the river be designated wild and scenic.
Portions of the river with potential conflicts, like those along Highway 4 and at Horseshoe Bend, could be excluded from the scenic river designation, according to the forest service report.
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