Storm might have eroded Rim fire soil

09/22/2013 5:49 PM

09/22/2013 5:50 PM

The weekend rain might have caused soil erosion in part of the Rim fire while helping firefighters trying to wrap up their 37-day battle.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a measure that would speed up salvage logging of some of the burned timber, which is suitable for sawmills if removed before it decays.

The storm dropped about 0.6inches of rain in the burn area, which stood at 257,097 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park as of Sunday, federal officials reported.

Details on the erosion were not reported, but federal experts estimated last week that 7percent of the fire perimeter has severe soil damage and a high erosion risk. Especially hot flames can create a crust that hinders the ground’s ability to absorb water.

“Some erosion may have occurred on deeply burned, water-repellent soils,” according to the Sunday morning update on the fire.

The damaged soil is in the Tuolumne River watershed, which supplies the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts and a San Francisco-owned system that serves much of the Bay Area. They are monitoring the situation.

Federal officials are planning measures to prevent erosion in areas at risk, such as physical barriers and grass seeding.

An estimated 37percent of the burn has a moderate risk of erosion, while 56percent was found to be lightly damaged or not burned at all.

Containment of the fire remained at 84percent Sunday. The update said that thanks to the rain and increased humidity, “fire behavior should be more limited to isolated smoldering” on Sunday.

The blaze is believed to have started from a hunter’s campfire Aug.17. It grew to be the third-largest in the state’s recorded history.

The salvage logging measure, approved on a 243-172 vote Friday, would waive judicial review for any such projects resulting from this year’s wildfires around the nation. It was added to an overall forest management bill that has not yet been considered by the Senate.

The logging would take place on the national forest part of the burn, not Yosemite.

Some salvage logging in the past has drawn opposition from environmentalists, who contend that some of the dead timber should remain as wildlife habitat and to help with seeding of new growth.

The amendment’s co-sponsors include Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, and Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, whose district includes the fire area.

“My hope is that this amendment will speed up timber salvage projects on the acres burned in this tragic fire and that the timber can be used for much-needed jobs benefiting local economies throughout the state and nation,” Denham said in a news release.

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