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Volunteers work to protect 49 Fire site's Rock Creek in North Auburn

Shoring up streambanks comes ahead of rainy season
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Volunteers will give Mother Nature a helping hand this weekend at the 49 Fire site. California Conservation Corps members from Christian Valley will be among the volunteers spreading out dozens of bales of straw along the shoreline of Rock Creek in North Auburn and stabilizing steeper slopes with shredded bark. The effort is being organized by Auburn’s Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead organization, with guidance on erosion control coming from the Placer County Resource Conservation District. Scott Johnson, event organizer with the fish-habitat protection group, said Thursday that Sunday’s volunteer effort will help prevent ash and soil from running into Rock Creek. The creek eventually joins with Coon Creek, which is a Placer County tributary flowing into the Sacramento River. “It’s important to prevent erosion and sediment from going into creeks,” Johnson said. “The salmon are starting to come upstream now and this will help ensure the rivers won’t get silted up.” Volunteers are welcome to join the Conservation Corps and other volunteers in an area heavily damaged when fire roared through Aug. 30. The property – owned by Robert Montigny – was in the direct path of the fire and remains blackened with ash and soot. But vestiges of the plant life that once covered much of the property and the bushes that spread out near the creek are beginning to return. Johnson pointed to a green oak leaf rising from the blackened earth and grasses that had started to grow again in a marshy area downstream. Mark White, resource management planner with the resource conservation district, has been offering his services free of charge in the burn area to property owners concerned about erosion this coming rainy season. White said that anything from topsoil moving into streams to hazardous materials being flushed down storm drains from rebuilding work at home sites are concerns as the 49 Fire site’s natural environment recovers. While the property owner’s insurance pays for materials to prevent erosion there was no money for labor. Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead received a call from Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who plans to be on the site working Sunday, and that group helped enlist White, as well as the CCC. “It’s very encouraging this long after the fire to see volunteers extending not just money but a helping hand,” White said. “It’s an eye-opener to me.” The fire site covers about 350 acres, with much of the land is undeveloped. A total of 63 houses and three businesses were destroyed. White said that seeds on the ground and in the trees will have survived the fire and should be able to revive the landscape next year. Even blackened oaks and other trees on 49 Fire properties – although they may appear to be dead – could survive over the winter. He’s encouraging property owners to give the trees a chance over the winter and into the spring. “Once they’re removed, there’s no chance of them coming back,” White said. White said property owners within the 49 Fire area can contact him at (530) 885-3046 Ext. 117 if they’re interested in having him map out a soil-stabilization plan for their property. Volunteers should come equipped with work gloves, sturdy shoes, drinking water and long pants. Protective facemasks are optional. ------------ Rock Creek sediment prevention project When: Near the corner of Highway 49 and Locksley Lane When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday