Forest, water and lake agencies give their side of the Angora fire | SierraSun.com

Forest, water and lake agencies give their side of the Angora fire

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service
Dan Thrift/Sun News ServiceDave Marlowe, vegetation-fire and fuel-reduction staff officer with the USFS, points out how some trees with a thin bark are suseptible to beetles and drought Monday in Slaughterhouse Canyon.
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A month after the worst and most expensive fire in Tahoe history, the agency that governs the basin will address the threat of wildfire when it meets in Stateline on Wednesday.

An update on issues surrounding the Angora fire is set for 1 p.m.

“This will include a summary of TRPA fuel reduction efforts, the agency’s involvement in the rehabilitation efforts on private and public lands to-date, and TRPA’s participation in assisting the community rebuilding effort,” according to the Governing Board agenda.

Also included in the update are presentations by the U.S. Forest Service, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, El Dorado County and the Nevada Fire Safe Council. Public comment will follow the presentations.

A proposal by the Forest Service to rehabilitate a 19th century railroad grade to remove forest fuels from Slaughterhouse Canyon, near Glenbrook, will also come before the board.

The canyon has a long-standing reputation as being rife with fire danger.

“Many of the dead trees have now been felled and the resultant fuel load in Slaughterhouse Canyon is capable of fueling a catastrophic fire which could sweep the entire east side of the basin or even engulf a significant portion of the entire watershed surrounding this fragile subalpine lake,” wrote Charles Goldman, director of the Tahoe Research Group, in a letter to President George W. Bush, in April 2001. “This is essentially a disaster waiting to happen and it is extremely important to the future of the lake that this dead wood be removed or chipped and left to decay in the forest floor.”

Rehabilitating the railroad grade would require moving about 5,700 cubic yards of earth to turn a 5-foot wide dirt path, popular with joggers and mountain bikers, into a 12-foot wide path capable of supporting heavy equipment.

“The only way we can get anybody in here is to march,” said Dave Marlow, vegetation, fire and fuels staff officer for the Forest Service, while surveying Slaughterhouse Canyon on Monday. “(A permit approval) will give us the equipment access we need.”

If the project is approved, the Forest Service could remove fuels spread over 489 acres using mechanical and handheld methods under an existing memorandum of understanding with the TRPA. The process would take four years and would begin next month, Marlow said.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe has previously voiced its support of a conveyance mechanism to remove the fuel from the canyon, while avoiding impacts to 0.21 acres of stream environment zones that will be impacted by the rehabilitated grade.

League officials voiced their opinion in support of the project on Monday, saying the total amount of allowable SEZ disturbance in the basin would not be affected by the project.

“I think any project that has an impact to SEZ’s we want to look very closely at,” said Rich Kentz, program advocate for the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “I think the mitigation measures of the project are adequate. The league is supportive of this project.”

Previously slated for board discussion during the June Governing Board meeting canceled after the start for the Angora fire on June 24, the project proposal was moved to the consent calendar after a request for an emergency permit came from Terri Marceron, supervisor for Forest Service land in the Lake Tahoe Basin, on June 27. Singlaub issued the emergency permit on June 28.

The consent calendar is typically approved without significant modification, although members of the public or the board can request the item be removed from the calendar for board discussion.