Short and Long Term Impacts of the Rim Fire on the Tuolumne River Watershed
The Tuolumne River is the circulatory system for the health of the Tuolumne River Watershed which sustains a large portion of the Stanislaus National Forest in the Sierra Nevada of California, including Yosemite National Park. The Rim Fire, located primarily in the Tuolumne River Watershed, has burned over 253,000 acres as of September 9, 2013. In efforts to contain the fire, Cal Fire in coordination with the National Park Service and with input from the San Francisco Public Utility Commission (SFPUC), has been bulldozing fire lines across ridge tops, dropping fire retardant (2 million gallons as of Sept 5, 2013) on active and advancing fire perimeter, as well as back-burning areas to contain (different than extinguish) the fire which continues to burn through the northern and western Stanislaus forest, now well into Yosemite National Park.
As a small part of it's ecological function, the Tuolumne River Watershed drains water into Lake Eleanor, Cherry Lake, as well as the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir collected behind the O'Shaughnessy Dam in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River. The rights to these collected waters are owned by SFPUC, the Modesto and Turloch Irrigation Districts and the people of California. The SFPUC diverts roughly 33% of the Tuolumne River into the Hetch Hetchy Water Transfer System to provide 85% of their total water supply for San Francisco's, as well as selling water to many water districts in Silicon Valley (customers to SFPUC, organized under BAWSCA), providing family clean water to nearly 2.5 million people.
Even as the fire continues its expansion, many, many people are questioning the immediate and long-term impacts on the watershed of ash, fire retardant (well over 2 million gallons as of Sept 6) and soil entering the river via winds and rains over the next few years are being raised in relation to watershed health - soil, water and wildlife, as well as drinking and irrigation water quality. What will be the long term impacts on the Tuolumne River Watershed's capacity to restore the fire area's once vibrate-ecosystem, and what will be the short and long term impacts on the water supply for the SFPUC and their BAWSCA customers, as well as Turloch and Modesto, the two Irrigation Districts utilizing this river as supply?
Join Wholly H2O and a panel of experts to discuss this immediately critical issue.
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