Jolley Mesa slope too steep to reseed
Federal officials are leaning against trying to reseed a steep hillside burned in the Jolley Mesa Fire west of New Castle in June.The slope, just above County Road 335 and the Colorado River, is so rocky that Bureau of Land Management officials believe reseeding would have limited value and probably would not be worth the cost, said BLM spokesman David Boyd.”You want it to be successful and you don’t want it to be a situation where it won’t do some good because it is pretty expensive to do,” he said.The fire began at the bottom of the hillside, in the area of County Road 335 south of the Colorado River. It raced to the mesa top and burned a total of 581 acres.About 29 percent of the total is BLM land, with most of that consisting of the hillside, Boyd said.Fires can raise the risk of flooding and debris flows because of the loss of vegetation that helps shield soil from heavy rain and anchor it to hillsides.The Jolley Mesa Fire could increase the risk of runoff onto County Road 335, which runs between New Castle and Silt. But Marvin Stephens, Garfield County’s road and bridge supervisor, said county roads already are prone to runoff wherever one runs below a steep hill.”It makes it a little more so when it gets burned off but we deal with it a lot of the time,” he said. “It’s just one of the evils in the summertime, just like blizzards in the winter.”Runoff from Jolley Mesa also could add dirt to the Colorado River, which is the drinking supply of the town of Silt just downstream.Silt town manager Rick Aluise said the town always is concerned about what might wash down the river, but has a new treatment facility in place to deal with such problems. It includes systems that adjust for higher turbidity, an intake design that allows dirt to settle, and alarms to warn of problems. Boyd said that despite the concerns for the road and river, simple reseeding of the Jolley Mesa slopes wouldn’t suffice because the seeds would wash away on the rocky soil.Hydromulching, which involves applying a mix of mulch, fertilizer and seeds that sticks to the ground, could work, but requires the right amount of rain at the right time, Boyd said. And applying hydromulch would be costly because it would have to be sprayed from a plane, due to the inaccessibility of the area to trucks.After the Coal Seam Fire of 2002, which burned more than 12,000 acres near and in West Glenwood, the BLM used hydromulch successfully on about 500 acres. But the aerial procedure took eight days and 1,125 flights, and cost $1 million, not including ground work to prepare the area.After the Jolley Mesa Fire, the BLM did spread mostly native seeds on 1.3 miles of bulldozed fire line on federal land. Much of the fire line was “wet line,” created by spreading retardant rather than using a bulldozer, so it didn’t require reseeding.The BLM supplied information to the Jolley family about landscape rehabilitation options following the fire, and also gave the family about 100 pounds of seed. The National Resources Conservation Service also makes funds available for rehabilitation.Brett Jolley, one of the property’s owners, said the NRCS also is offering advice on what to replant.His top concern right now is replacing a few miles of fence lost in the fire.He said fields that burned probably will benefit from the fire, as happened from another fire on Jolley Mesa last year.”It looked like a lawn up there last September. It came back way better than I thought it would,” Jolley said.He hopes to reseed one hillside to prevent erosion and the spread of cheatgrass and other weeds.Jolley also needs to decide what to do with trees that have burned but remained standing.For Jolley, one of the hardest parts of the fire was losing woods that took generations to grow. The fire burned a historic bearing tree that dates back before the start of the 20th century and was used to mark the corner of four sections of land.
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