"Myrtle Creek Watershed Collaboration"
Myrtle Creek Watershed Collaboration KVRI Subcommittee Meeting Kootenai River Inn, Bonners Ferry July 29, 2004 Introductions/Purpose of Meeting – KVRI Joint Powers City of Bonners Ferry (Darrell Kerby) Myrtle Creek is the main source of drinking water for the City, County and Tribe. Purpose of this initiative is long-term protection and enhancement of the watershed for human drinking water source. Want to work collaboratively with land management agencies and private land owners. City has asked the Forest Service to evaluate and layout a framework for Myrtle Creek focusing on water for human consumption. KVRI is the appropriate collaborative group to consider this issue. It has existed for a couple of years and was developed to maintain the custom, culture, and economics of the region. Appreciate everyone attending. Want to work with private land owners as well as land management agencies. Why Myrtle Creek as the source of water and not another alternative? o Myrtle Creek has been the source of water historically for the area. o The water is soft, natural source that requires very little treatment before delivery. Tastes great. o Several million dollars has already been invested in system. o Geology of Boundary County means water cannot be found just anywhere by drilling. Not like the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. o Economics also plays a role. This is a gravity fed system. No pumping is required, no electrical consumption. System is very cost-effective. o Back-up systems currently in place cannot supply the demand. They are back-up only in nature. This process will focus on outcomes and not on specific methods. The outcome is water quality; no other issue, just water quality. Boundary County (Dan Dinning) To protect the watershed using available resources, science, etc. Kootenai Tribe (Patty Perry) Gary Aitken unable to be present but will be attending future meetings. Tribe has been here for eons. Has vested interest in landscape, Myrtle Creek and water supply. Tribe wants to keep the water supply going. Joint Powers Agreement has set a precedent for working together. This is the first real opportunity to work up front on a project with federal management agency instead of at the backside of the effort. This opportunity supports ecosystem approach and not just analyzing one small area or one species but a broad look at the landscape. USFS – History of Myrtle Creek Watershed; Fire; Current Conditions (Mike Herrin, Pat Behrens) Fire occurred less than a year ago in the watershed. That got our attention and has led us here today. Mayor Kerby and Mike Herrin watched the fire march over the hill. We knew the Healthy Forest Restoration Act was coming and we started talking then about what to do to protect the watershed. Fire History Prior to 1926 – About 2,000 acres burned every decade Average fire return interval between 35-40 years on dry, south slopes Nearly 80 years of fire suppression prior to 2003 Myrtle Creek Fire Myrtle Creek Timber Harvest History 1960’s – Heavy logging and road building in upper drainage Problems with Myrtle Creek water Practices led to site-specific BMPs for Myrtle Creek – things got better Not much harvest on National Forest again until late 1970’s, early 1980’s Harvest continued on private lands Myrtle-Cascade Project Planning process begins in 1993 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued June 2000 Final Environmental Impact Statement and (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) issued March 2001 Mama Cascade Timber Sale sold September 2001 Harvest begins January 2002 Myrtle Creek Fire September 2003 – o 700 acres had been treated with fuel left on the ground to leach potassium back into the ground o 5th year of extreme drought complicated the problem Myrtle Creek Stand Conditions Prior to Harvest – 2001 Lots of small diameter timber downfall Lot of big Pponderosa pine crowded by small diameter timber After Harvest Ponderosa pines apparent; with less small timber and downfall. Fuel is left on the ground of instead of taking it to landing in order to help with nutrient loss. Potassium cannot be obtained from atmosphere, must come weathered rocks in the soil. Most of the potassium (K) in trees is found in the needles and branches. Leaving this material maintains the K on site. If thinning had occurred ten years ago, whole trees would have been yarded to a landing. Small needles and branches would have been piled and burned. Fire of 2003 climbed into the trees and cooked them. It takes a lot of heat to kill a ponderosa pine. Mama Cascade project was one step away from achieving fuels management objectives. One more month we would have been into the rainy season, the slash could have overwintered and been burned safely in the spring. Myrtle Creek drainage is 17,000 acres. 13% burned on lower end of drainage. 1926 fire also burned on lower end of drainage. Essentially every acre of private land has been treated in last 20 years. Most of the Myrtle Creek drainage is Fire Condition Class II-III, with III being the worst and most degraded from the natural ecosystem. Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) – Municipal Watershed Provisions; NEPA Requirements (Maridel Merritt, Mike Herrin) HFRA is part of the 10 year Fire Plan. There is some need for short-term action and response. This will be the first NEPA project done under the HFRA. Myrtle Creek is not right close to the city under the Wildland Urban Interface but there are special provisions for municipal water supplies in the HFRA. The HRFA stresses collaborative and community involvement for outlining an outcome and goal, but not the process to reach it. Under NEPA there will still be public scoping and comments periods. The difference is the hope to make tweaks and changes prior to the decision. The HFRA includes a pre-decisional objection process and the decisions are not subject to appeal. People and organizations do not have to be part of the KVRI collaborative group to participate in NEPA process and give comments. Doug Nishek is going to head NEPA team. Approximately 13% of the watershed burned in the 2003 Myrtle Creek Fire; there is 87% of the watershed that did not burn. Prescriptions for work in the watershed will be based on modeling of fire behavior, baseline science and information, and public input. Wildlife biologists will be analyzing threatened and endangered species impact. Focus of effort will be on water quality since that is the biggest beneficial use of the drainage. Scoping will begin right after this group establishes a path forward. Forest Service would like to have goals/outcomes for watershed within a month or so. NEPA will examine 1 action alternative that will also be in agreement with the County Fire Plan. Ideally, NEPA documentation will be done by Christmas and work can begin next field season. Desire exists to have private landowners develop plans for coordinated management of their lands but that is more of a long-term goal. Right now the focus is on the short-term. The City can help facilitate working with private landowners. Funding for projects on private lands may come through Congressional support, state fire plan dollars, and ESPRI can help look for grants. KVRI Collaborative Approach (Patty Perry) KVRI was formed to help the community shape responses in a positive manner. Page 32 of The Healthy Forests Initiative and HFRA Interim Field Guide contains the language on collaboration. In response to the TMDL process in October 2001, a Joint Powers Agreement for natural resource issues was signed by the County, City, and Tribe. This lead to KVRI’s formation. KVRI has 11 board members and a large number of state and federal agencies and organizations as partners and work-group participants. KVRI is guided by the 11 member board. All projects are considered in working groups with anyone who wants to be at the table present as a subgroup of KVRI. KVRI assists with creating agendas and coordinating efforts between members. KVRI has had support from Governor Kempthorne, US Senators Craig and Crapo, and US Rep. Otter. KVRI works toward consensus to move forward. At times an issue is tabled until more information is available and the entire group can move ahead together. Bylaws do allow for votes and mediation. No group gives up its own autonomy by joining KVRI. Summary of Group Comments This type of KVRI work benefits the communities and allows input to policies. People in KVRI might not always agree but at least everyone is present and heard. Having input to Forest Service actions is always good. Having input before the outcome is always good. The common interest is the watershed and this is an important topic. Group is task-oriented and will identify something concrete and actually get it done instead of simply having meeting after meeting and just talking about it. HFRA allows getting something done on the ground. Map of Myrtle Creek is wanted for next meeting. Field Tour – Monday, August 23rd, 8:30 at the Ranger Station Attendees: Sarah Bigger ESPRI at Boise State email@example.com Jerry Garten Idaho Dept. of Lands firstname.lastname@example.org Leslie Falcon City Council Kurt Pavlat BLM Kurt_pavlat@blm.gov Mike Woodward City email@example.com Chuck Lycans City firstname.lastname@example.org Darrell Kerby City email@example.com Patty Perry KTOI firstname.lastname@example.org Bryon Holt USFWS Bryon_holt@fws.gov Josie Shottanana Kootenai Tribe email@example.com Rein Attemann The Lands Council firstname.lastname@example.org Doug Bradetich Riley Creek email@example.com Scott Bacon Idaho Dept. of Lands firstname.lastname@example.org Mike Herrin USFS email@example.com Eric Thomson BLM Eric_thomson@blm.gov Robin Ponsness BEDC firstname.lastname@example.org Mick Mellett City email@example.com Brian Triplett Bonners Ferry Herald firstname.lastname@example.org Russell Docherty City Jennifer Hickenbottom USFS email@example.com Maridel Merritt USFS firstname.lastname@example.org Mark Compton Rep. Otter Mark.email@example.com Dan Dinning County firstname.lastname@example.org Kirk Westfall USFS email@example.com Doug Nishek USFS firstname.lastname@example.org Pat Behrens USFS email@example.com John O’Connor Idaho Conservation League