Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hydromulching complete on forest lands


Key areas of the Los Padres National Forest ravaged by the Gap Fire three months ago are now fully coated with a layer of hydromulch as local officials continue to prepare for winter storms and potential erosion.
During a 13-day period, six small planes and a large Sky Crane helicopter dubbed the “Incredible Hulk” dumped 3.5 million gallons of the substance across roughly 1,500 acres of national forest lands.

Forest officials hope the recycled paper and wood fiber mix will reduce soil erosion and allow native seeds and roots to gain a foothold in the scorched earth. The material, which includes a temporary green dye, does not contain seeds or fertilizer.
Authorities said the price tag of the treatment, approximately $4.8 million, pales in comparison to the worst-case scenario of several billion dollars in damage should nothing be done to prepare for potentially catastrophic floods.
Authorities have closed off forest areas treated with hydromulch to protect them from damage, a closure that will be in effect for at least one year.
“Walking, biking, driving or horseback riding on the mulch will reduce its effectiveness in reducing erosion and protecting the community of Goleta,” District Ranger Cindy Chojnacky said in a news release. “We hope people will understand the importance of protecting the mulch over the winter and that they will abide by the closure.”
Those found violating the closure are subject to fines and damages, forest officials said. Areas included in the public closure include areas along West Camino Cielo Road west of Windermere Ranch and east of Broadcast Peak, and the Lizard’s Mouth and Playground areas.
With treatment of national forest lands complete, county officials are launching a second hydromulching operation with the same contractor to treat private and non-federal areas burned by the fire.
Approximately 1,000 acres will be treated at a cost of $3.2 million. The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service is footing 75 percent of the bill, with the remaining $210,000 being split between Goleta, Santa Barbara and the county.
Officials also announced that the county has signed a mutual aid agreement with all eight cities in the county to assist each other with staffing and resources should a significant flood event or other disaster occur.
The agreement marks the first time in California that all incorporated cities within a country have signed on to a Public Works Mutual Aid Agreement.

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