An interesting thing that happens on this blog is that we get “into the weeds” or snags (?) of projects in different parts of the country, so we can compare the different approaches and concerns. We also have readers with on-the-ground experience in many of these areas. Thanks to Derek for submitting these articles about the South Shore Fuel Reduction in California. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, the size, the cost ($40 million), the ICW (Index of Comparative WUI-ness), and the fact it used the objection process. The three projects we are currently discussing are Colt Summit (Montana), Goose (Oregon) and now this one. In the past, we’ve examined a host of others.
10,000-acre thinning project may start in 2012 on S. Shore
Posted By admin On October 11, 2011
By Kathryn Reed
With parts of the forest near developed areas being in prime condition for a wildland fire much like in June 2007 when the Angora Fire consumed more than 3,000 acres, the U.S. Forest Service is ready to do something about that land.
Once the long-awaited South Shore Fuel Reduction and Healthy Forest Restoration Project gets under way – which could be next summer — 10,112 acres will be treated.
The 10,000-plus South Shore fuels project could begin in 2012. Photo/LTN file 
The 10,000-plus South Shore fuels project could begin in 2012. Photo/LTN file
Duncan Leao, U.S. Forest Service forester, calls the wildland urban interface (this is where the forest abuts development) on the South Shore one of the areas in the basin that most needs treatment.
“It’s important work to do. We don’t want another Angora Fire. The conditions we are looking at in many places on the South Shore are conditions we saw in Angora before the fire,” Leao told Lake Tahoe News.
It will take about four years to thin the trees, with another four years for follow-up treatments. In all, it is roughly estimated to cost $40 million. The U.S. Forest Service, mostly through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, has secured three-quarters of that figure.
Before a single branch is limbed or tree felled, comments on the project will be taken until Oct. 28 from anyone who submitted a comment when the environmental impact statement was first released. If anyone files an objection to the final EIS, it triggers a 30-day resolution period.
Ultimately it is up to the forest supervisor to sign off on the document, allowing the project to go forward.
Then comes the process to obtain the necessary permits. The one from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is the biggie.
However, Lauri Kemper, No. 2 at the regional water board, said the draft of the permit has been on hold since February 2010. But it takes more than a signature to make it valid.
California Environmental Quality Act regs are what Lahontan is going by. Lahontan officials must certify the EIS addresses CEQA concerns.
The project will involve working in stream environmental zones – that’s a main sticking point for the water board. It doesn’t mean no permit; it means a thorough review and not just taking the Forest Service at its word that the EIS is complete and addresses those concerns.
“We’re all for fuels reduction,” Kemper said.
What could hold up the project is the Lahontan board may not grant a permit until its May meeting. The Forest Service cannot go out to bid until all the permits are in place. This could delay work in what is already a limited season for thinning because dirt in the basin, per TRPA rules, can only be disturbed between May 1-Oct. 15.
A combination of mechanical and hand treatments are likely to be used.
Whether hand thinning could begin without the Lahontan permit depends on what type of permit Lahontan decides to issue. There are three possible ways it can permit the project.
Trees 16-inches and less in diameter are likely to be felled by hand, while those up to 30 inches would be taken out by machines. Most likely the process will be similar to what is being done in the Angora area  in terms of the machines used. The forest pattern will be different because Angora is mostly about removing dead trees.
“A lot of hand work goes pretty quick. Then (people) would see piles. Those may last a couple years,” Leao explained. “With the mechanical you do not see as many piles because most of it is removed.”
Trails used by recreationists will either be off-limits at times or rerouted to ensure no one is hurt as the work is being done.
“It will be a combo of biomass and merchantable material — stuff that could go to a mill will depend if there is a mill nearby. The market is very difficult to predict,” Leao said. “If no sawmill is open, then contractors would have to determine what to do with that. It’s very helpful to have both biomass and saw log markets.”
The USFS decides which trees to thin first based on size – taking out the smallest at the get-go. Then the health of the tree and species are determining factors.
Jeffery and sugar pine, incense cedar and larger trees are ones Leao said the Forest Service wants to keep.
Diseased trees, including ones with mistletoe, will be on the chopping block.
“Ideally, you want a forest with multiple sizes and age classes. You can’t do that with thinning alone,” Leao said. “As we get the WUI stuff done, the forest still has an even age to it. Fire and planting trees, and other methods could be used to get it into a healthier condition. That is more long term.”
To view the South Shore final EIS, go online. 
The comments are interesting also as they suggest a charitable firewood program for the elderly.
So I looked up the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, which will provide the funding
The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA) became law in October 1998. It allows the Bureau of Land Management to sell public land within a specific boundary around Las Vegas, Nevada. The revenue derived from land sales is split between the State of Nevada General Education Fund (5%), the Southern Nevada Water Authority (10%), and a special account available to the Secretary of the Interior for:
Parks, Trails, and Natural Areas
Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plans (MSHCP)
Environmentally Sensitive Land Acquisitions
Hazardous Fuels Reduction and Wildfire Prevention
Eastern Nevada Landscape Restoration Act
Lake Tahoe Restoration Act Projects
Other provisions in the SNPLMA direct certain land sale and acquisition procedures, direct the BLM to convey title of land in the McCarran Airport noise zone to Clark County, and provide for the sale of land for affordable housing.
Here are a couple of other links on this project:
January, 13 2012
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has approved a more than 10,000 acre project to reduce wildfire risk to communities at Lake Tahoe’s South Shore and restore the health of the area’s forests, according to a Friday statement.
The South Shore Fuel Reduction and Healthy Forest Restoration Project will thin trees and brush on national forest system land from Cascade Lake to the Nevada stateline. The project will take approximately eight years.
The project is designed to provide defensible space, reduce the risk of high intensity fire and create forests better able to resist drought, insects and disease, while restoring stream environment zones, meadows and aspen stands, according to the statement.
Thinning by crews with chain saws, removing trees using tracked and rubber-tired equipment and prescribed fire are included in the project.
The Forest Service plans to move forward with hand thinning as soon as conditions allow. Mechanical thinning will undergo permitting through the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board before starting.
“The fuel reduction efforts outlined in the South Shore project are critical to protecting our communities from wildfire,” said LTBMU Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson in the statement. “We will continue to work closely with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, and our goal is to begin implementing the project this summer.”
The Forest Service has coordinated with other public land management agencies and local fire protection districts to ensure the fuels reduction work will complement local Community Wildfire Protection Plans, according to the statement.
Detailed project information is available online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ltbmu/SouthShoreFuelReduction.