Projects Look At Fire’s Water Supply Impacts
Aspen Fire’s Repair Work Is Under Way Near Mammoth Pool
Even as thousands of Sierra Nevada acres within the San Joaquin River watershed were beginning to burn northeast of Fresno, a new federal and private program was being launched last month aimed at reducing the impact of wildfires on regional water supplies.
A major Sierra National Forest blaze, the Aspen Fire, was started by lightning above Mammoth Pool on July 23. As of August 18 it had consumed 22,800 acres north and northwest of Huntington Lake, Big Creek and Camp Sierra.
Although flames came to within a few miles, none of those mountain communities was evacuated. The Mammoth Pool Resort and a dozen Sierra campgrounds were evacuated. No structures were damaged. The fire never jumped the river into Madera County and its heavily-forested watershed.
The fire has been mostly under control since August 10 with mop-up and environmental rehabilitation and repair under way to reduce erosion and sediment flows into streams, the San Joaquin River and Mammoth Pool during the coming winter. A small area along the north side of Kaiser Ridge continued to burn August 18.
Those involved in the new partnership say millions of dollars have been spent in the aftermath of large wildfires to make just the sort of repairs now under way near Mammoth Pool. Accumulation of ash and debris in streams and reservoirs as a result of wildfire is a common problem.
Through the newly created Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior will work together with local water users and agencies to identify and mitigate wildfire risks to the nation’s water supply, irrigation and hydroelectric facilities.