Rehabilitation a focus of River Day | SierraSun.com

Rehabilitation a focus of River Day

Erich Sommer, Sierra Sun

Truckee River Day was started in hopes of increasing the public’s involvement in improving the health, not just of the river, but of the whole watershed.

Once again, this year’s activities, from Tahoe City to the state line, will seek to do just that.

But last summer’s Martis Fire, which scorched more than 14,000 acres, much of it on the river or in the watershed, has produced additional needs.

This year, Truckee River Day rehabilitation activities will include two projects that focus on negating the effects of the fire on the river.

At Cox-Delaney Flat, just north of Interstate 80 between Hirschdale and Floriston, volunteers will partner with the United States Forest Service in reseeding part of the denuded landscape.

The USFS will supervise the efforts to reseed areas identified as critical in the Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation Project, an analysis and inventory that occurs on federal lands immediately after a fire.

“[BAER] identifies emergency treatment needed in the fire area to minimize the impacts of the fire,” said District Ranger Joanne Roubique.

USFS wildlife biologist Kris Boatner said a mixture of four types of native grass seeds will be replanted.

“We will be seeding 70 acres, and the goal is to create ground cover, stabilize surface soil and protect long-term soil productivity,” said Roubique. “The most urgent step is to get something to hold the soil for the next few years. That’s why we will be reseeding.”

Roubique and Boatner said volunteers will be divided into three groups: One to spread the seeds, a second to lightly rake the seeds into soil and a third team will spread pine needles in order to mulch the reseeded area.

Rehabilitation efforts will also be occurring on the south side of the river, across from Cox-Delaney Flat, on land owned by the California Department of Fish and Game. There, volunteers will try to reestablish the populations of several native species.

“In this particular area, willows and cottonwoods are responding, but other plants are not,” said Ray Butler, one of the project coordinators and a member of the board of directors for the Truckee River Habitat Restoration Group.

Butler said volunteers, working in conjunction with officials from Fish and Game, are looking to jump-start two plant species in particular, mountain mahogany and antelope bitter brush.

“Both plants are very important to wildlife,” Butler said. “[Antelope bitter brush] is probably one of the most important wildlife forage plants. Under ideal conditions, its protein content is close to that of alfalfa.”

The Nevada State Tree Nursery, using seeds from plants on the Truckee River near Verdi, will provide seedlings.

Volunteers will also provide new housing, in the form of nest boxes, for a type of ducks that relies on the plants for cover.

“Wood ducks used to be very common along the Truckee River,” Butler added. “But now, they are really quite rare on the east side of Nevada County.”

But rehabilitation efforts are not limited to the banks of the Truckee River. Projects throughout the watershed will try to restore and revegetate streams and creeks that feed into the river.

Through the Backyard Trails program in Prosser Lakeview Estates, volunteers will reroute a trail that currently skirts the edge of a natural spring.

Near Olympic Heights, participants will be planting willows and alders, and at Northstar-at-Tahoe, groups, including the Bear League, will be planting scrubs, including serviceberries and currants, that are a food source for bears.

“It’s important to plant natural food so they won’t eat our garbage,” said Truckee River Day coordinator Janie Collomb.

On Alder Creek, volunteers will continue the efforts of previous Truckee River Day volunteers to revegetate a decommissioned old dirt road off of Shussing Way. Run-off from the road used to drain into a meadow.

Over the past three years, the USFS and river day volunteers have moved soil, put rocks in the middle of the road to prevent access and have begun replanting the area.

“It’s the true decommissioning of a road. It used to drive right through Alder Creek. It should never have been there in the first place,” Collomb said. “It’s so neat to see what can happen. The meadow is going to come back.”

Other Truckee River Day projects include:

— Phase one of the Restoration of Trout Creek: A physical and biological inventory.

Volunteers can help in a unique opportunity to collect data by measuring the width and depth of the streambed and the distribution of certain plants and animal habitat on Trout Creek near downtown.

“Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships and the Town of Truckee are taking the opportunity of Truckee River Day to involve the public in this long-term restoration project,” said Sarah Green, project director for SWEP. “We will be using tape measures and clipboards instead of shovels.”

Green encouraged anyone with an interest in Trout Creek or collecting and compiling information to participate.

— Coldstream Canyon: Groups will be continuing last year’s revegetation project planting willows for erosion control and soil stabilization.

“The plants help hold the soil together,” said Collomb. “Which in turn keeps silt out of the river, making it healthier.”

— Tahoe Donner: Volunteers will be planting elderberry, choke cherry and serviceberry.