Friday, November 1, 2013

County decides on fire rehab

Will cooperate, share costs with federal agencies


The Beaver Creek Fire burns through Blaine County in August, when it scorched more than 110,000 acres of land. Express file photo

    Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday decided to pursue three primary courses of action to promote recovery from the Beaver Creek Fire.
    During a series of meetings on Monday and Tuesday, commissioners heard findings and recommendations from five cooperating agencies related to areas affected by the Beaver Creek Fire and subsequent heavy rains. The U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management each presented an update of their findings from the field, recommendations for treatment and proposed agency action plans.
    Based upon the recommendations and proposals, commissioners decided that:
l Blaine County and the USGS will cooperate in the placement of precipitation monitors and early flood-warning systems at six sites, plus modification of the existing Dollarhide Snotel site for timely flood warning. These sites include two stations in Baker Creek drainage, two stations above Deer and Willow Creek basins, and two stations at Croy and Greenhorn creek basins. The total first-year project costs—including installation, operation and maintenance—is estimated at $48,100. USGS has approximately $10,000 available for cost share. Blaine County also will pursue cost sharing with the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.

We’re taking a step-by-step approach.”
Larry Schoen

l In addition to some work already performed, the Army Corps of Engineers will conduct further study and analysis of high-risk terrain to avoid and enable preparation for future debris flows and flood risks. The Corps is particularly concerned with areas in the Greenhorn drainage, including the confluence of Greenhorn Creek and the Big Wood River, and areas in the Deer Creek and Croy Creek basins. In the event of a flood disaster, the Corps could be authorized to assist in a flood fight. Direct assistance is not being requested at this time.
l The NRCS will prepare a final Damage Survey Report as well as a contract between Blaine County (as sponsor) and NRCS to undertake a series of actions outlined in the report. Project components include aerial seeding, dredging or construction of sediment catchment basins, installation of debris fencing and contoured berms, and stream-channel and water-course enhancements. Project costs, including all components, is estimated at $1,582,900, of which NRCS could pay 75 percent. Blaine County, as project sponsor, would be responsible for the balance; however, the Board of Commissioners will seek participation by affected private landowners and homeowner associations. A local match can be in-kind rather than all in cash. Neither a final decision on the contract scope or a commitment to the contract has yet been made.
    “The board, just like the federal agencies, is most concerned about the safety and protection of life and property,” Commissioner Larry Schoen said Wednesday. “We’re taking a step-by-step approach, but will always weigh the public costs versus benefits in final decisions.”
    Schoen said commissioners will be “working hard in the coming days to refine the NRCS proposals and to find the private participation to be able to afford what we feel should be done—with public input, of course.”
    The Beaver Creek Fire burned more than 110,000 acres of land in Blaine County last August.

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