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An Update on Reds Meadow Wind Storm Damage

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avatar Comments Sought for Reds Meadow Valley Wind-Fallen Tree Removal Project
February 19, 2012 02:14PM
Comments Sought for Reds Meadow Valley Wind-Fallen Tree Removal Project
Release Date: Feb 17, 2012 Bishop, CA
Contact(s): Nancy Upham


The Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Ranger District is soliciting comments on a proposed project to remove wind-fallen trees from Reds Meadow Valley. On November 30 of last year an extreme wind event caused large numbers of trees to be blown down in the Reds Meadow Valley. The Inyo National Forest is proposing to remove wind-fallen trees on approximately 220 acres where severe wind damage occurred. A half mile of temporary roads would be constructed to access proposed treatment areas. Slash would be removed by chipping and hauling, piling burning and/or burning areas of concentrated slash, known as jackpot burning. All proposed tree removal is located on Inyo National Forest lands outside of the adjacent Ansel Adams Wilderness.

The purpose of this project is to reduce the potential for future high intensity wildfire and to move toward establishment of wildfire defensible space within the wildland-urban interface (WUI) zone. The 220 acres affected by severe wind damage are located within the WUI zone surrounding Forest Service and Park Service administrative facilities, a resort and pack stations, and other recreation developments. On these 220 acres, the majority of trees have been uprooted, leaving a dense tangle of down trees. The depth and density of down trees constitutes an extremely high concentration of ground fuel. Such heavy ground fuels create conditions where wildfires can move quickly through the needles and limbs, with a very high rate of fire spread and flame lengths up to 25 feet.

The proposed actions are needed to reduce the hazardous fuel load created by this dense concentration of down trees within the WUI zone. The need for fuels reduction treatment is made more important due to the limited travel access into the area. There is only one point of access into Reds Meadow Valley which is a single lane road with turn-outs along the steep, upper three miles of the route. Defensible space is needed in the event a wildfire should hinder evacuation on the sole road out of the valley. It would be critical for firefighters to have the fuels treatment zone for safely and effectively managing the wildfire while everyone is being evacuated.

A preliminary assessment has indicated that this proposal falls within a category of actions that are Categorically Excluded from the need to prepare an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement. The preliminary assessment also suggests that there are no extraordinary circumstances that would preclude use of the category for the salvage of dead and or dying trees due to a wind event on an area not exceeding 250 acres and requiring no more than ½ mile of temporary road construction.

This scoping period is intended to provide those interested in or affected by this proposal an opportunity to raise concerns or provide input on the potential effects of the proposed project. To obtain additional information about the proposed project and maps you may visit the Inyo National Forest website at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=38178. Additional information may also be obtained from the Project Leader, Sue Farley, via email at sfarley@fs.fed.us.

How to Comment and Timeframe

If you have information you feel the Forest Service may not be aware of, or you have issues regarding potential effects of this proposal, please mail these in writing to the Project Leader, Sue Farley at: Mammoth Ranger District, Inyo National Forest, P.O. Box 148, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546. Comments may also be submitted by fax (760.924.5537) or by hand-delivery to the Mammoth Ranger District office, during normal business hours (Monday – Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm). Electronic comments may be submitted via the Inyo National Forest website at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=38178. All comments must be received by March 23, 2012.
avatar An Update on Reds Meadow Wind Storm Damage
February 19, 2012 02:18PM
An Update on Reds Meadow Wind Storm Damage
Release Date: Feb 9, 2012 Bishop, CA
Contact(s): Nancy Upham


Last November 30 a ferocious wind toppled thousands of trees in the Middle Fork San Joaquin River watershed of the Inyo National Forest. The tangle of downed trees looks like a giant’s game of pick-up sticks. The forest damage occurs in patches, from Island Pass all the way down to Fish Creek, and throughout the Reds Meadow valley.

In Reds Meadow valley hundreds of trees are down in campgrounds, picnic areas, trailheads, and access trails. Extensive clean-up work is needed to remove downed trees and to repair the roads, trails, utility lines, restroom buildings, picnic tables, and food storage lockers damaged by fallen trees. “This is uncharted territory to deal with damage of this magnitude,” observed Deanna Dulen, Superintendent at Devils Postpile National Monument.

What caused all of this damage? Did the jet stream touch down? No one knows with certainty, but scientists and researchers are very interested in the study of this wind storm.

Perhaps more importantly, many who live here and visit this area are interested in enjoying camping, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding in Reds Meadow and Devils Postpile, just as they have every summer for many years. The question on everyone’s mind seems to be how will this damage affect recreational opportunities for the coming summer season?

“Our goal is to open as many of the Reds Meadow valley recreation sites and trails to the public as soon as is feasible and safe,” stated Jon Regelbrugge, Mammoth District Ranger. Inyo National Forest and Devils Postpile National Monument staffs have been working on an inventory of damages, and a strategic plan to complete clean-up and repair work. The strategic plan will identify steps to complete work as quickly as possible, in a manner that will have the least impact on public use this summer.

By taking advantage of the lack of snow, some clean-up work was accomplished in December and January. The Inyo National Forest, Devils Postpile National Monument and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area partnered in this effort. The downed trees have been removed from Reds Meadow Road, Reds Meadow Campground, Rainbow Falls trailhead, and the Ranger Station area and Postpile trail.

The remainder of clean-up and repairs will commence as soon as snow melts and the area can be accessed for work. Recreation sites and trails in the southern portion of Reds Meadow valley will most likely open to the public first, because this is where the snow usually melts the earliest. Campgrounds and overnight facilities expected to be open first include Reds Meadow Campground and Reds Meadow Resort. The trails to open first are expected to include Rainbow Falls, Devils Postpile and Fish Creek trails. The earliest day use sites expected to open would be Sotcher and Starkweather Lakes, and the Ranger Station and picnic areas at Devils Postpile. We expect that the public will be able to use these areas while work is being conducted to open other recreation sites.

Two important variables in regards to the clean-up efforts and damage repair are the weather and funding for the work that needs to be done. The timing of winter storms and snowmelt will dictate when clean-up work can be completed. The extent of the storms and the timing of the snowmelt can’t be predicted, which means that an exact date for opening Reds Meadow valley is not known. Both the Forest Service and the Park Service have applied for special funding for clean-up efforts, and are waiting to hear if those funds will be awarded. The Inyo National Forest and Devils Postpile National Monument will continue to share updated information about summer recreation in Reds Meadow valley as clean-up work continues. For updates regarding the damage and clean-up efforts please go to the Inyo National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/inyo.
Re: Comments Sought for Reds Meadow Valley Wind-Fallen Tree Removal Project
February 20, 2012 07:40AM
eeek...have you seen plans for any action for removal of trees that fell in Yosemite the same day? Obviously they have already been removed off of 120, before reopening the road in December. (If you have mentioned this, I missed it.)
avatar Re: Comments Sought for Reds Meadow Valley Wind-Fallen Tree Removal Project
February 20, 2012 10:14AM
Answer is simple, it's public property, divvy it up among all the camp sites that have campfire rings or stack it in one or two areas for campers to come get, maybe for a small fee or maybe free. It would clean up the forest and the campers would be burning wood anyway, right? Just no hauling out truckloads on that skinny little road
avatar Re: Comments Sought for Reds Meadow Valley Wind-Fallen Tree Removal Project
February 20, 2012 12:28PM
Quote
Vince
Answer is simple, it's public property, divvy it up among all the camp sites that have campfire rings or stack it in one or two areas for campers to come get, maybe for a small fee or maybe free. It would clean up the forest and the campers would be burning wood anyway, right? Just no hauling out truckloads on that skinny little road

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