Crews began a $100,000 reseeding project Monday on 2,600 acres of land that burned in the late August fire on Wasatch Mountain.
A bulldozer equipped with seeding equipment started working the lower, flatter areas charred in the fire that claimed the lives of two firefighters and destroyed 18 cabins. Most of the terrain is too steep for the ground-operated planting equipment, leaving 2,200 acres to be seeded from the air by a helicopter, which is scheduled to begin Thursday, said Dick Buehler, northern regional manager for the Division of State Lands and Forestry.Bulldozers will be used to chain about 800 acres of the burned land to help bury the seeds and cut grooves in the soil that will trap small amounts of water and reduce erosion, Buehler said.
Stabilizing the soil to prevent erosion in an important watershed area and replacing vegetation used in the winter range by wildlife are the primary objectives in the reseeding project.Buehler said deer that usually winter in the area burned in the fire will be displaced this season. Occasional blades of Kentucky bluegrass are already poking through the charred soil, but most of the area fully involved in the fire remains black and lifeless.
The reseeding project should return the area vegetation to 80 percent of pre-fire conditions within two years.
Soil Conservation Service range specialist Mark Petersen said the seeds being planted include a mix of grasses and brush. Sweet clover has been added to the mix because it grows quickly and the deer like it. "It will also keep them from eating the shrubs we've planted."
Trees Utah, a private group, also plans to plant 8,500 to 10,000 brush seedlings beginning Nov. 17, replacing vegetation that was common to the area before the fire, Buehler said.
In addition to the reseeding efforts, work crews from the Utah State Prison have started building more than 70 temporary sedimentation fences. The fences are designed to keep unprotected soils from washing down mountain slopes, causing damaging erosion and fouling Midway's water supplies and the water that flows into Deer Creek Reservoir.
The wire sedimentation fences are lined with excelsior that helps trap soil saturated during the spring runoff season before it can accumulate into major mudslides. Reducing the runoff will reduce erosion that could damage the numerous cabins in the area that were threatened by the fire.
"What we don't want is a wet spring," Buehler said. "We need it, but we don't want it" until ground vegetation can begin to grow and stabilize the soil.
Buehler said the state has also given the area homeowners association permission to build a second road into the subdivision in Devils Hole canyon that would serve as an emergency exit for homeowners in the event of another fire. The subdivision currently has only one road, and homeowners could be trapped if a fire broke out.