High Park Fire mitigation work to begin Aug. 18

Starting August 18, trucks will once again begin hauling tons of wood mulch to staging sites in Poudre and Rist Canyons, where helicopters will drop the material on non-federally-owned hillsides that were badly burned during last year’s High Park Fire. A total of approximately 1,700 acres will be treated this year.

Residents and citizens driving along those canyons need to be aware of the helicopters and truck traffic that will be performing the restoration activities beginning on August 18.

In 2012, a partnership of Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts spent $3.5 million to treat 2600 acres of the 5500 identified as the most severely burned. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided $1.3 million. Many of the treated hillsides have begun to regrow and stabilize. Larimer County supported the effort by obtaining all necessary landowner access permissions.

Congress passed legislation this year to provide additional Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding for this phase of mitigation by co-sponsors Larimer County, and the Cities of Fort Collins and Greeley. The goal is to complete projects that will decrease fire-related impacts, including flooding, mudslides, and impacts to water quality. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has oversight of the restoration project management and fund distribution based on agreements with the co-sponsors.

The NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection grant provides 75% of the cost of watershed mitigation, with local communities providing the remaining 25%. Co-sponsors will work collaboratively to manage the prioritized projects expected to be completed near the end of the year. Treatment activities include aerial application of wood mulch in steep slope locations, enhanced mitigation techniques learned from the Hewlett Fire burn area, debris cleanup in waterways, and protection of identified at-risk homes and infrastructure. Outcomes of mitigation efforts will minimize mud slides, erosion and water quality impacts.

“This work is vital for communities in the aftermath of devastating wildfires. Right now, we’re seeing how much damage flooding can cause down in Manitou Springs,” Colorado U.S Senator Michael Bennet said. “Colorado’s local communities worked closely and diligently with the Congressional delegation to secure these resources. It’s great to see local groups putting them in to action to restore watersheds and help prevent future flooding.” The EWP program falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Natural Resources and Forestry, a subcommittee Bennet chairs.

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