By: John Kingsbury, Executive Director, Mountain Counties Water Resources Association
Once the smoke cleared from the 2014 King Fire, MCWRA started coordinating tours with several partners through the fire area that consumed more than 97,000 acres of precious timber, wildlife habitat, and soil. These tours set up for the media, southern CA water purveyors, state agency representatives, county supervisors, my Board of Directors, and others, gave everyone an opportunity to see the landscape first-hand and to hear varied forest management practices and restoration efforts from both federal and private landowners.
The first time I set foot in the burn area I was walking on four inches of soil now sediment at the bottom of Pilot Creek in El Dorado County east of Georgetown. It was sort of an eerie feeling as remnants from tree stumps smoldered and the forest now appeared as if I was standing on the moon looking at nothing but dead trees. A vision of the long-term effects to one of our watersheds is troublesome. But we are not alone.
Last month I had a unique opportunity and pleasure to meet forester Robert “Bob” Williams. Bob is the president of Pine Creek Forestry and works on the east coast in New Jersey within the Pinelands National Reserve. We met up with Sierra Pacific Industries forester Rob Fecko and toured the forest already showing signs of erosion and silted creeks and rivers.
Throughout the day, I found it enlightening as these two foresters shared similar experiences and concerns regarding forest management practices and watershed restoration efforts. I shared the frustration that the watersheds in the Sierra are at great risk. From a California water supply perspective, we should all be concerned as the reservoirs and the natural conveyance system’s fill with sediment, degrading water quality, reducing hydropower generation and public water supply.
There are better ways to approach our forest management practices, but until that happens, as Bob Williams put it in his letter (attached), “it isn’t a question of if it will burn, but when it will burn.”
It is time to unite as this is not a west coast crisis or east coast crisis but a national crisis!
Letter from Robert R. Williams, C.F., R.P.F.: Pine Creek Forestry Letter to MCWRA 10-20-2015