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News Release

Cochise County Receives $131,000 from NRCS for Monument Fire Recovery

Reducing Severe Soil Erosion and Accelerated Water Runoff

Severe burn areas cover the Huachuca Mountains, caused by the Monument fire.Sierra Vista, Ariz. July 20, 2011 – Though the Monument fire reached full containment earlier this month, the burned area is at severe risk for excessive erosion and flooding. To help prevent possible damage from summer monsoon rain, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing $131,000 of financial help through its Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP)

Seventy-five percent of the financial assistance is provided through EWP funds, and Cochise County, the EWP sponsor, is providing the remaining 25 percent. NRCS administers the EWP Program, which responds to emergencies created by natural disasters, such as wildfires and floods. Funding for the program is provided through emergency congressional appropriations. Additional EWP funds may be obtained and NRCS will notify the local sponsor and the public if additional funding becomes available.

The Monument fire began June 12, 2011 on the eastern slopes of the Huachuca Mountains in the Coronado National Forest. Residents in nearby Sierra Vista and Hereford watched as the fierce fire engulfed 31,000 acres leaving only devastation and severely burnt mountain sides behind.

Impacts from a wildfire go beyond burnt vegetation. The potential for severe soil erosion and accelerated water runoff exists after a wildfire due to the lack of plant material to stabilize the soil and absorb the rainfall from intense monsoon storms. Soil erosion and water runoff can cause severe damage to property and pose safety hazards. NRCS is working with Cochise County in recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Monument fire.

After NRCS and Cochise County assessed damages, they found Miller Canyon and a site in Carr Canyon to be of highest priority. Multiple measures are being taken to divert water runoff away from homes upstream and therefore also protect houses downstream. Through the current agreement twenty homes will be protected in the high risk area.

Cochise County is responsible for installing the erosion and flood structures. Concrete barriers and sandbags will be placed in strategic areas by county employees and contracted work crews. Main water channels clogged with debris, such as downed trees and rubbish, will be cleared, allowing water to flow smoothly and the integrity of the channels be kept. Two sites will have bank stabilization measures implemented, helping to direct water in areas where the current channel bank is eroded and threatening homes.

Gerry Gonzalez, Douglas Field Office District Conservationist, meets with landowners to assess runoff and erosion potential.Douglas NRCS Field Office District Conservationist, Gerry Gonzalez has spent time with landowners impacted by the fire, assessing erosion and flood potential.

“In many cases people just want reassurance that what they have already done is good enough,” said Gerry. “It is a scary thing to hear rumbling of boulders flowing down stream channels due to flooding from typical rain fall because of fire damage. We are here to help and inform the public about what they can do to protect their homes.”

Sandbags are a simple yet highly effective way to prevent or reduce flood water damage around your home. Properly filled and placed sandbags act as a barrier to divert moving water, surface drainage and sediment around, instead of through, buildings. Though this method does not guarantee a water-tight seal, it does provide effective protection in most situations. Visit the Hereford Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD) website at http://www.herefordnrcd.com/Soil-Erosion-Control-after-Wildfire.html or the Arizona NRCS website at www.az.nrcs.usda.gov for more detailed information.

NRCS is also providing conservation planning to farmers and ranchers who have been impacted or are in close proximity to areas that were affected by the wildfire. Conservation planning is a fundamental starting point for maintaining and improving the natural resources that support a productive and profitable agricultural operation. Following a natural disaster, such as a wildfire, conservation planning can help restore the productivity of the land.

Cochise County determines the sites receiving EWP assistance, due to their role as program sponsor. For more information about participating in EWP please contact Cochise County Engineer, Karen Riggs, at (520) 432-9301. Contact your local NRCS field office in Douglas at (520) 364-2001for more information in receiving technical assistance on your property. Access pictures of current Monument Fire EWP projects at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrcsaz/sets/72157627116670005/ .

Helpful Links

Wildfire Risk Reduction and Recovery Tips for Homeowners

Seeding Information for Private Land Owners Affected by Southeastern Arizona Fires


Coconino County Flood Preparedness Guide

Technical Assistance

Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP)

Conservation Planning and Technical Assistance