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Post-Fire Water Quality Activities

County Water Resources Department, Federal, State and Local Agencies Partnering to Protect Clear Lake Following the Mendocino Complex

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. (November 1, 2018) – Large scale wildfires drastically alter landscapes.  Hillsides stripped of trees and vegetation and scorched ground can increase erosion and runoff into adjacent waterways.  Phosphorus and nitrogen loading increases, and in some instances, heavy metals and organic chemicals can also make their way into streams and lakes.  

These conditions can affect aquatic ecosystems by triggering algae and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms, increasing aquatic plant and weed growth, reducing oxygen levels and degrading fish spawning habitat. Changes in sedimentation, metals, and water clarity can also impact drinking water systems, requiring additional treatments and management.

Luckily for some areas of Lake County, the several small rain events that have already occurred provided enough moisture to promote some land-based plant growth, stabilizing slopes and helping to prevent erosion and runoff.

Protecting our critical water resources in the aftermath of the largest wildfire event in modern California history, and minimizing its impact upon Clear Lake, requires a coordinated effort.  Multiple agencies are managing and monitoring post-fire water quality, and recently formed partnerships will help our community prepare for the coming winter and eventual rain.

Post-fire water quality activities include, but are not limited to:
•    The Lake County Water Resources Department (WRD) and the local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) office will distribute wattles to landowners within the county.  If you are interested in installing wattles please first contact NRCS District Conservationist, Korinn Woodard, at (707) 262-7091.  Also plan to attend our Wattle Distribution Day, Wednesday, November 14th, from 1-3pm in the parking lot at the County Department of Agriculture, located at 889 Lakeport Blvd in Lakeport. Supplies are limited will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Wattles have been generously donated by Sonoma County.  
•    The Lake County Resource Conservation District (RCD), with assistance from WRD, is installing erosion controls in Manning Creek, Scotts Creek, and Middle Creek.  Funding for the project is provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State Water Resources Control Board under the Federal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Clean Water Act Section 319).  Technical assistance is being provided by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Central Valley Region. If you have more questions about this effort, you can contact the Lake County RCD at (707) 262-7089.
•    WRD is partnering with Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians to monitor nine stream sites in fire-impacted tributaries that connect to Clear Lake.  Some of the parameters monitored will include oxygen, phosphorous, nitrogen, turbidity, suspended solids, and heavy metals. Funding for laboratory analysis is being provided by the State Water Resources Control Board.
•    WRD is working with Lake County Special Districts, several Clear Lake drinking water purveyors, and the State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water to communicate water quality conditions that might affect drinking water intakes and treatment during and after storm events.  
Educational materials about erosion, landscape restoration, vegetation, and being storm ready are available on the Lake County Recovers webpage under the “Property Damage – Erosion Control and Vegetation” Tabs or at: http://recovery.lakecountyca.gov/Property/Erosion.htm

If you have any questions or concerns about any of the above activities please contact the Water Resources Department, at water.resources@lakecountyca.gov, or by phone, at (707)263-2344.  You can also find further information by visiting WRD’s website, http://www.lakecountyca.gov/Government/Directory/WaterResources.htm or the Facebook page “Lake County Water Resources Department,” @lakecountywater.  

Wattles can be used to reduce erosion

Wattles can be used to reduce water running down slopes and causing erosion.

Staff identifying best method to manage burned slope

State, Federal and local agency resource conservation staff, identifying the best method to manage this burned slope, and monitor Manning Creek, along Hwy 175.