GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- On Monday the Mesa County Commissioners approved an application for $1,050,000 in federal funding to mitigate environmental damage from the Pine Gulch Fire.
The funds are part of an Emergency Watershed Protection Program from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Although no specific problems and projects have been identified yet, local and federal authorities are preparing for fire mitigation work to last just under a year.
“Those projects will reveal themselves over time as the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) studies the area, the burn scar, and looks at the watershed issues,” said Andy Martsolf, Director of Emergency Operations in Mesa County.
Martsolf says it’s going to be a combination of local and federal authorities working to see what needs to be done. He adds any projects identified must be completed by June of 2021 to prevent long-term environmental impacts of the fire, and ensure the land in the burn scar is safe to use once again.
A local Bureau of Lang Management spokesperson says a big hazard is unstable terrain due to the fire.
“A lot of those hazards are landslides due to burned vegetation, burn severity, and things that would be at risk from that burn,” said spokesperson Eric Coulter.
Coulter adds the areas of the Pine Gulch Fire burned on federal public lands will be assessed by a Burned Area Response Team or BAER team ran by federal authorities. That’s where coordination with the county comes in, anything not designated as federal property will be handled by the county.
“We’ve identified a number of county-owned structures downstream of the burn scar that interface with drainages” Martsolf said.
Martsolf says these structures include bridges and culverts that could be at risk of flooding because of high rain run-off due to the unstable land. Any repairs on these county owned structures near the fire will be covered from the federal funds the county will receive.