October 24, 2010
Reno, NV—Nevada Senator Harry Reid worked to direct $3.8 million to the Washoe County Regional Parks Department to help more than 10,000 acres recover from wildfires over the last 15 years. The restoration project is employing 121 Nevadans. As the Reno Gazette Journal reported Sunday the Parks Department is planting new trees and wildflowers to restore areas of Northern Nevada devastated by wildfires all thanks to the Recovery Act. This is yet another example of how the Recovery Act is helping Nevadans get back to work and protect the state’s precious natural resources.
Reno Gazette Journal - Burned Washoe County wildlands get stimulus help
Restoration projects expected to create 121 jobs throughout the county
By Susan Voyles
Workers in the hills above Caughlin Ranch and Somersett in west Reno are planting trees, wild roses and seed to help Mother Nature restore wildlands burned in the Hawken and Peavine fires.
With $3.8 million in economic stimulus funds awarded to Washoe County Regional Parks Department last year, work has begun to help the land recover from six major fires that burned 10,000 acres during the past 15 years.
"This is the first time we've had a big chunk of money to do fire restoration work," said Cheryl Surface, a Washoe County parks planner who is overseeing the projects. "We are thrilled."
Except for the Martis Fire, where work will start in February, work is under way or will begin this fall for the Hawken, Red Rock, Belli, Arrowcreek and Peavine fires.
All of the work is being done on non-U.S. Forest Service land owned by private property owners, the city of Reno or the county, as required by the grant.
Given building construction has nearly ground to a halt, bids are coming in better than expected, allowing more work to be done, Surface said. She expects $300,000 to $400,000 in savings will be available from lower bids.
The contracts also are providing jobs for people who otherwise wouldn't be working, Surface said, including herself in that category.
Kelley Erosion Control, a 28-year business in Reno was down to its last two employees -- owners Kym Kelley and Claudia Chambers -- before winning $797,750 in contracts for the Hawken and Peavine restoration projects. The company now employs eight.
"All the work we're doing right now is stimulus," Kelley said, including some highway work.
Gregory Bergstrom, an unemployed building contractor working for Kelley, was planting wild roses along a burned dry creek bed on Peavine Peak this past week.
"I enjoy being out here, embracing Mother Nature," Bergstrom said, while keeping a watchful eye out for rattlesnakes. Another crew member is an unemployed civil engineer, while another is an unemployed operating engineer.
Surface said planting will provide six or seven weeks of work this fall and another six weeks next spring, when workers also will be removing invasive thistles. Planting is best in the fall and spring.
In all, the fire restoration projects are expected to create 121 jobs.
For the Hawken Fire, Western Botanical Services did the planning and subcontracted Ben Jesch, a local engineer, to do much of the scouting work.
Since he was a boy, Jesch said he has mountain biked and hiked in the hills that burned near Hunter Lake, above Caughlin Ranch.
Jesch helped document the best places to grow trees, where to reseed and where to plant shrubs in riparian areas, as well as mapping noxious weeds. Then, those areas had to be staked out.
"We spent a lot of time hiking, working our way up and down the creek and finding weeds, marking them for treatment," Jesch said. "It's exciting to work up here. I just felt I could provide a little extra insight."
In the past few weeks, 125 tree seedlings were planted near Frog Pond, hidden behind the first big knoll above Pinebluff Trail in Caughlin Ranch.
"This whole hillside, we lost all the trees," Surface said, pointing to blackened Jeffrey and Ponderosa pines. The burned trees, nearly 100 years old, stand as high as 120 feet.
The tree seedlings were planted below a steep, north-facing hillside to shield them from the full sun and give them the most moisture. Each is wrapped in a chicken wire cage and kept alive by a small pack of DriWater, a water gel that slowly melts over three months.
Over the decades, Surface said, the hope is the baby stand of trees will spread up the dead hill and beyond.
Miriam Smith, a Caughlin Ranch resident walking her dog, said she was initially concerned ATVs being used in the project were trampling a favorite spot of hers near Cross Peak. But then she spotted bags of native seed that had been dropped off.
"It seems like a good mission," she said. "At first, I was concerned about tire tracks."
When going cross-country, Kelley said drivers are careful not to go the same way and create new trails.
Additional Facts: Washoe County restoration projects paid for by stimulus funds
ARROWCREEK FIRE: Burned 2,788 acres in 2000. The grant would target 1,898 acres, where areas would be planted and reseeded with native shrubs and trees for wildlife habitat improvement, water quality improvement and soil erosion control, reducing the risk of future wildfires. The bi d was awarded to Soil Tech in September for $721,069, and work began last week. Resource Concepts is being paid $166,900 for planning work for the Arrowcreek and Gooseberry/Red Rock fire restoration projects. Expected jobs: 18.
GOOSEBERRY OR RED ROCK FIRE: Burned 3,038 acres in 2008. The grant targets 841 acres where invasive weeds would be treated with a herbicide, and native junipers, shrubs and grasses would be planted. The Washoe County Commission is scheduled to accept a bid on the project on Nov. 9. The grant provided up to $449,000 for this work. Expected jobs: 14.
HAWKEN FIRE: Burned more than 2,709 acres in 2007. Targeted are 760 acres in hills west of Reno. Plans include stabilizing stream banks and replanting Ponderosa and Jeffrey pine trees and native shrubs. Project was awarded to Kelley Erosion Control for $430,375, and work began in September. Western Botanical is being paid $130,795 for planning services for the Hawken and Peavine fires. Expected jobs: 22.
PEAVINE FIRE: It burned 1,079 acres in 2004. A total of 919 acres are eligible for restoration from near Verdi to near Rollan Melton Elementary School. The hills would be reseeded, while native shrubs and tree seedlings would be planted in clusters. Kelley Erosion Control was awarded a $367,375 bid to do the project and work began in September. Expected jobs: 18.
MARTIS FIRE: This project will restore areas burned near the Truckee River in the huge fire of 2001, benefitting 4,139 acres of Washoe County and Nevada County, Calif. Since the fire, thistle has invaded areas near the river. A call for bids will be made in December, and work is to begin in February. The grant provided $269,000 for this project. Expected jobs, 8.
BELLI FIRE: Burned 6,723 acres near Verdi in 1996. A total of 1,509 acres are targeted for work. Noxious and invasive weeds would be eradicated and areas reseeded and planted with native shrubs, trees and grasses. North slopes and riparian areas would be planted first to ensure the plantings take hold. Project is being rebid, and a contract award to be considered by the county commission on Nov. 9. The grant provided up to $538,000 in funding. JBR Environmental Consultants is to be paid $81,143 for planning work for the Belli and Martis restoration projects. Expected jobs: 17.
SIERRA FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT: The county commission in June approved $211,470 in grant funds for tree and brush-thinning projects at Crystal Peak, Davis Creek, Sun Valley and Hidden Valley regional parks. This has kept 12 seasonal firefighters on the payroll longer this fall.