Funds look likely for Incline’s ‘halo’ | SierraSun.com

Funds look likely for Incline’s ‘halo’

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service
Jen Schmidt/Sun News ServiceAustin Bartosz and Gerry Halvorson of the Rifle Peak Hand Crew clear dead trees and branches Tuesday afternoon from an area next to Third Creek near Incline Village. The North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District will be working until mid-June to thin crowded and dead vegetation along the creek.
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INCLINE VILLAGE ” One way or another, $1 million in funds will reach the U.S. Forest Service for a study, which will pave the way for fuels reduction work on thousands of acres around Incline Village.

John Singlaub, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency executive director, said a request by the Forest Service should be approved, and the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee he sits on recommended the project for Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act funding.

That is good news, said Greg McKay, assistant fire chief for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District. The funds will allow the Forest Service to perform an environmental study on the forest lands above Incline Village and that study will map out a plan for the Incline fire department to treat the land for fire fuels.

When completed, McKay said the fuels reduction work will be one of the last steps in creating a defensible space halo around Incline. This would save the district money because it will only need to maintain the halo and not need to create it anymore, a much more difficult task.

“We’ve still got some hoops to clear, but this project is looking more promising,” McKay said.

The project was initially in doubt because there were more requests throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin for Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act funds than there was money to cover them. Sagging land sales in Southern Nevada, where the funds originate, led to a tightening of funds available this year.

Singlaub said he is confident the project’s funding will come through, however, because the act pays out of two separate accounts, one for planning projects and one for implementation of hazardous fuels projects. If the planning fund cannot cover the costs of the Forest Service’s request, Singlaub said funds can be used from the implementation account.

“One way or another it should be funded,” Singlaub said.

From this point, the request goes to the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act board, which includes representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the organization in charge of the act.

The board should decide on funding by the end of the summer, McKay said, and pass that recommendation on to the Secretary of the Interior for final approval.

Rex Norman, Forest Service spokesman, said the Forest Service is pleased with the recommendation.

“We’re feeling pretty confident about getting these funds and getting this project done,” Norman said.

One of the factors Singlaub said the federal advisory committee took into account were letters written on behalf of the Forest Service project, which came from the Nevada Fire Safe Council, Incline Village General Improvement District and Gov. Jim Gibbons among others.

Andrew List, executive director of the Nevada Fire Safe Council, said his organization supported the USFS for safety reasons.

“The study is the first step to the ground progress with fuels work in Incline Village,” List said. “Without this work communities like Incline can’t be as safe as possible; this work needs to be done.”

Once the funds are approved the study can begin, according to the Forest Service. Fuels work could begin in 2009, McKay said.