Bear River Wildfire Recovery Project
The Bear River Wildfire Recovery Project will significantly reduce the negative impacts of the River Fire and improve forest health in the Bear River watershed by implementing fire fuels reduction treatment utilizing both mastication and hand crew and installing strategic erosion control to limit sediment transport.
The Bear River Wildfire Recovery Project is located on District-owned lands on the steep slopes of the Bear River canyon, between Chicago Park and Lake of the Pines in Nevada County. This area is part of the Sierra Nevada headwaters and is integral to water supply infrastructure that NID manages for communities in the area.
The project will advance wildfire recovery while significantly reducing future catastrophic wildfire risk on 150 acres. The project will reduce fire fuels by treating burned and unburned forest areas, expand defensible space adjacent to highly populated rural communities (Lake of the Pines and Alta Sierra), safeguard water quality and water supply, and promote sediment attenuation through erosion control measures.
This project will protect an existing water treatment plant and multiple communities, including both Disadvantaged and Severely Disadvantaged Communities within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The project is located within a “very high” (the highest rating) wildfire hazard risk zone with multiple communities at risk as identified by CAL FIRE.
The total budget is $770,400. On June 2, 2022, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy awarded a grant of $570,000 to facilitate the project.
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The River Fire began at the Bear River Campground in Placer County on Aug. 4, 2021, and was declared an Emergency Disaster by the NID Board on Aug. 25, 2021. This fire had widespread impacts within the Bear River watershed, which is a critical water conveyance feature in NID’s water system. This area has been assessed by District staff and expert consultants, FEMA, CalOES, Nevada County Environmental Health, CA Geological Society, and other resource managers. Burn severity varies within the burn scar, however all parties involved are in agreement that the River Fire dramatically altered the condition of the forest within the Bear River watershed, and water supply, water quality and watershed function will be impacted by this event.
NID prioritized and completed 80-acres of wildfire recovery actions in 2021 to address immediate impacts to water system infrastructure and to remove hazard trees, masticate and lop and scatter the “black forest” that was left after the burn to reduce the potential for excessive erosion, water system repair, impacts to public roads, hazards to people and property, and forest recovery.
Looking southeast toward adjacent NID parcel in Placer County. Emergency erosion control and hazard tree removal was implemented in autumn 2021 to protect the Bear River Canal and Bear River from hazardous post-fire debris and sediment delivery into the Bear River. The project will expand upon these efforts and include fuels reduction treatments and revegetation to promote forest recovery and protect the Bear River.