High Park Fire: The NRCS, et al., have started restoration efforts above Horsetooth Reservoir

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Pamela Dickman):

All told Thursday and Friday, the team planted 1,120 pounds of grass seed across 40 acres and covered it with 105 bales of agricultural straw and wood chips — a layered approach to protecting the nearby glistening waters from the ash and debris of the High Park Fire…

The ash and debris have already blackened much of the Poudre River, so Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts (North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland and East Larimer County water districts) have instead been pulling water for their customers from Horsetooth Reservoir. The waters of Horsetooth remain clean, but the threat of fire pollution is real. When rains fall, the now barren Soldier Canyon could mirror a slip-and-slide, sending debris from the fire right into Horsetooth Reservoir — and the water supplies for Fort Collins, Greeley and the Tri-Districts.

From The Denver Post (Erin Udall):

By dropping a mix of seed and straw mulch on the area, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) officials hope to trigger plant growth and create a filter that will keep debris, erosion and sediment runoff from getting into the reservoir…

“Think of the Poudre (River) as the hose, and Horsetooth (Reservoir) as the bucket,” [NRCS district conservationist Todd Boldt] said, explaining that the river provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the area. “They rely on the hose, but when they can’t, they turn to the bucket. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain Horsetooth.”

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Todd Boldt):

Helicopters are hovering near Horsetooth Reservoir for a responsive, cooperative project to protect the reservoir’s water quality in the wake of the High Park Fire.

Helicopters are dropping an erosion control seed mix and straw mulching materials on about 40 acres that suffered the most soil burn severity within the 400-acre burn area in the Soldier Creek drainage, which sits in Lory State Park on the west side of Horsetooth Reservoir.

The helicopters, from contractor Western States Reclamation, will apply a seed mix of native species. The seeds are large, with the expectation that they will break through the fire-caused debris and establish roots without requiring much moisture. Helicopters will also drop straw mulch, then a layer of wood straw on top, to retain moisture, shelter the seed from the wind and provide soil erosion protection.

Experts expect the project to trigger plant growth in the Solider Creek area, creating a filter to prevent debris, erosion and sedimentation runoff into Horsetooth Reservoir, a key water source for area cities.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing much of the technical and financial support for this $91,320 project, which is part of its Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Other sponsors are Northern Water, the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins, and the Tri-Districts (the North Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, and East Larimer County water districts).

The helicopters, which are staged within Lory State Park, first took off Thursday morning and will likely finish Saturday.

More restoration coverage here and here.

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