5 May 2010, 10:55pm
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by admin

Feds asking ski areas, water utilities for help with beetle-ravaged forests

By Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, 05/05/2010 [here]

The threat to watersheds from fire-prone dying forests is growing so severe that federal forest managers are seeking help from water utilities, ski resorts and others in ravaged Western states.

“The federal government doesn’t have enough resources to deal with this,” said Harris Sherman, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.

But enlisting the likes of Denver Water to fund the removal of beetle-killed trees may be difficult because utilities probably would have to raise rates for customers.

The problem is erosion of sediment, which clogs water-supply reservoirs and delivery systems as it did after the 2002 Hayman wildfire southwest of Denver. Today, with more than 17 million acres of national forest killed by the beetle epidemic (3.5 million acres in Colorado), authorities are bracing for fires that could cause more erosion in watersheds.

The Forest Service already is spending about $1 billion a year to clear and treat beetle-ravaged forests. The total cost of treating forests “is in the billions of dollars,” Sherman said.

Denver Water officials are weighing the federal appeal, including the concept of a surcharge.

“It’s in our self-interest,” said Penfield Tate, president of Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners. “It will be far more cost-effective to manage the watershed than it would be to wait for another forest fire to occur.”

No one is committed to charging water users more, he said, “but we recognize we already have a cost we incur, and it would probably be better spent avoiding the damage rather than paying for the cleanup after the damage.”

Dealing with erosion from the Hayman fire is expected to top $41 million. Denver Water contractors still toil at dredging reservoirs and clearing pipes. … [more]

Note: Thanks for the news tip to Chuck H. who writes,

Locking up large acreages in roadless areas, mostly in the upper reaches of watersheds that will be major contributors of fuel and clogging debris downstream, just does not make good sense and should be a concern of user groups that will be asked to pay part of the bill to clear out this debris in the lower reaches of the watersheds.

If water users and other user groups are going to help pay the bill, especially after large fires like Hayman (ignited by a FS employee), then it seems reasonable to me that the user groups should have some part in the land management decision making. With recent appointments of retirees and other informed citizens and officials to NF advisory committees it seems this subject should come under heavy discussion by these advisory groups.



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