Helicopters will soon begin dropping certified weed-free straw and wood mulch and seed on more than 1,100 acres in the Hill Gulch area as Phase One of the High Park Fire mitigation, the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins announced today.
The cities, in partnership with Larimer County, the Tri-Districts—Fort Collins-Loveland, North Weld County and East Larimer County water districts—and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) plan to begin the first phase of mitigation Friday.
The Hill Gulch area is located in the Poudre River watershed, which drains directly into the Cache la Poudre River, one of the main water sources for the region’s water providers. Of the 2,600 acres identified as most severely burned and most critical to the watershed, as well as the public’s safety, Hill Gulch is the top priority for mulching. The High Park Fire, which ignited on June 9 and was contained July 11, burned more than 87,000 acres north and west of Fort Collins.
Mitigation, via helicopter, is critical to stabilize burned hillsides that have become slick and unable to absorb even light rainfall due to the High Park Fire’s intense heat. The straw retains moisture, helps prevent mudslides and allows seeds to germinate and regenerate vegetation.
This, in turn, protects our high-quality drinking water by reducing ash and debris washed into the Poudre River,” Kevin Gertig, Fort Collins Utilities manager of water resources and treatment, said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) determined 5,600 total acres of non-federal land are top mitigation areas.
Greeley completed a similar process in the watershed surrounding its Milton Seaman Reservoir, which was burned in the Hewlett Gulch fire in May,” Jon Monson, director of Greeley Water and Sewer, said. “The results of mulching are proving, for the most part, successful in reducing erosion.”
The cities and their partners are collaborating on managing mitigation costs for non-federal lands in the Poudre watershed. They also are working with NRCS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other groups to acquire federal assistance. The NRCS Emergency Water Protection Program works with local sponsors and provides cost-share assistance to landowners to relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by natural disasters, including wildfires.