Caples Watershed Project - Understory Buildup Creating Fire Danger
Our watersheds are vitally important to protect our pristine water supplies. Investments in managing these resources ensure continued high quality source water for our customers and help avoid unnecessary treatment expenses. EID works collaboratively with other agencies, non-profit organizations, and other partners with similar values and interests when it comes to protecting and managing this critical resource. We also work with these partners to actively seek support to offset the costs of protecting and managing those resources through grants and matching funding sources.
On December 8, 2016, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy governing board awarded EID a $476,709 grant to pay for all EID staff costs and a portion of U.S. Forest Service (USFS) costs to implement the Caples Creek Watershed Ecological Restoration Project. This is just the most recent on several grants EID has successfully obtained to invest in our watersheds.
The grant funds a portion of the forest management and restoration activities on 8,800 acres in total within the Creek Creek Watershed and larger South Fork American River Watershed, which is a primary water supply for the more than 110,000 residents within EID’s service area. Project work will include prescribed fire, meadow restoration, and aspen enhancement, and will be implemented in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Eldorado National Forest.
Work on the restoration project commenced during early fall of 2017. Restoration will initially occur over a four-year period through the grant with further re-entries over another 10 – 15 years to address accumulated fuels associated with a century of fire suppression in the Caples Creek watershed. This fire suppression has resulted in decreased forest health and resilience as evidenced by extremely high tree densities and large volumes of diseased, dead, or downed trees. Recent extreme drought conditions and insect infestations have further exacerbated the situation by increasing the amount of dead trees in the watershed.
“This grant represents a significant contribution to guard against catastrophic wildfire and protect the water supplies of our customers and community. It would not have been possible without the support and assistance of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Eldorado National Forest,” said EID Environmental and Water Resources Manager Dan Corcoran.
“It is important that we invest in projects like these through the Sierra Nevada Watershed Improvement Program because they help make our forests more resilient to insects, drought, large damaging wildfires, and disease,” said Randy Moore, USFS Pacific Southwest Regional Forester.
According to USFS data, 102 million trees have died statewide since 2010 with ninety-five percent of those dead trees in the Sierra Nevada region. With such rapid and significant negative changes in our forests the need to increase the pace and scale of restoration has become imperative.
“The grant will contribute toward the total five-year project cost of approximately $1.1 million to implement prescribed burning activities on 8,800 acres of the Caples Creek watershed downstream of Caples Lake as well as implement 25 acres of meadow and aspen stand restoration activities,” said Corcoran.
Funding for the grant comes from Proposition 1 Grants Program under California’s Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.
The balance of costs for the Caples project—approximately $590,000—will be funded by USFS. On-the-ground activities will be performed by USFS crews with assistance from California Conservation Corps, California Association of Local Conservation Corps, Generation Green, Washoe Tribe, and/or similar organizations providing field support.
Questions regarding this project can be emailed to EID at CaplesWatershedProject@eid.org.
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