How a beer maker and a bottled water company want to save Sierra forests

California’s forests are in crisis. A lethal combination of drought, wildfires, warmer temperatures and pests has destroyed 66 million trees in the past six years.

Restoring our forests won’t be easy. Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature recognized the importance and magnitude of the task by allocating $40 million in cap-and-trade funds. At the same time, President Barack Obama visited Lake Tahoe to announce $29.5 million to improve forest health and decrease the threat of catastrophic wildfires.

They’re prioritizing these investments because they know that California’s forests are critical to our water supply. Forests help reduce erosion and recharge aquifers.

Government funding is vital, but it’s not enough. We need innovative thinking and support from private partners with resources and expertise, such as a recently launched effort in the Sierra Nevada, one of the most important sources of water for drought-stricken California.

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Fire that scorched American River Parkway started by ‘human activity’

A grass fire that burned an estimated 173 acres along the American River Parkway and prompted the evacuation of Cal Expo on Thursday was caused by “human activity,” according to fire investigators.

A statement released Friday by the Sacramento Fire Department said investigators “cannot state whether the blaze was accidentally or intentionally set.”

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Chris Harvey said in an interview that there are “homeless camps up and down the American River Parkway,” but the exact cause of the fire has not been pinpointed.

“They’re still interviewing witnesses. It’s very difficult right now to tell how it started,” Harvey said.

Harvey said fire units were dispatched at 1:13 p.m. Thursday, with a second alarm sounded shortly thereafter as the blaze spread quickly amid dry grass and breezy conditions.

At the height of the fire, officials said more than 30 engines and 130 firefighters were involved. Equipment on the scene included bulldozers and helicopters.

An unidentified Sacramento firefighter from Engine 19 showed symptoms of excessive smoke inhalation while battling the flames. He was taken to an area hospital, where he was treated Thursday night and released.

Cal Expo spokeswoman Sabrina Rodriguez said two events – an RV show and rental housing association conference – were being held on the venue grounds and had to shut down about 2 p.m. Thursday due to the fire. Rodriguez said event participants and staff members left the property. Cal Expo also moved its monorail trains as the fire was burning near the monorail barn.

Jim Lofgren, executive director of the Rental Housing Association of the Sacramento Valley, said about 1,000 people attending the association’s annual one-day conference were directed to leave Cal Expo.

The American River Parkway was closed Thursday afternoon as firefighters, trucks and heavy equipment moved into the area. Park rangers used loudspeakers to announce that the parkway was now off limits. The bike trail was reopened Friday morning.

Harvey said that as the fire spread eastward, “there was a possibility of neighborhood evacuations” along the west side of the Howe Avenue corridor south of Arden Way. However, evacuations were called off when the eastward spread of the fire was stopped near Ethan Way.

Harvey said overhead power lines in the area began arcing due to high flames and heat, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District turned off the lines. Nearby residents as well as some homes in Davis and West Sacramento reported power surges and some power loss during the fire, Harvey said.

Firefighters also had to deal with spot fires as winds blew embers into dry grass bordering the path of the main fire.

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12 tons of trash pulled in Great Sierra River Cleanup

More than one thousand volunteers in the Sierra Nevada Region helped pull 12 tons of trash from rivers, lakes, and streams on Saturday.

The event was all a part of the 8th annual Great Sierra River Cleanup.

Estefan Galvan, 25, is a diver with seven years experience who helped cleanup Saturday.

“Diving is a whole different world. It’s an entirely different world,” Galvan said. “When you get under water it’s a completely different feel, your away from everything at the surface.”

Galvan joined a crew of a dozen divers in Folsom, California who pulled several items from the American River.

“Our main focus is going to be under the cliff diving spots and under the bridges where people tend to be looking over the edges or jumping off or throwing things over,” Galvan said.

The group pulled a bicycle, fishing rod, cans, glass, anchors and more from the American River.

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Mop up continues on American River Parkway fire

Sacramento firefighters kept an overnight vigil on the American River Parkway fire that blanketed parts of Sacramento in smoke and ash Thursday evening.

Firefighters contained the blaze at around 176 acres, but continued to mop up hot spots that smoldered Friday morning.

Under a full moon, embers rained down from trees left smoldering in the blackened area behind Cal Expo.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though the origin did appear to be near a homeless camp, according to the fire department’s spokesman.

The evacuation order at Cal Expo was lifted after an estimated 1,000 people were asked to leave the grounds Thursday afternoon.

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Crews Contain 176-Acre Fire Near Cal Expo

UPDATE 6:16 p.m.: Crews with the Sacramento Fire Department have contained a grass fire that burned 175 acres on the American River Parkway near Cal Expo Thursday. The blazed prompted officials to close the bike trail for evening commuters.

As of 6:24 p.m., crews are mopping up and will continue to clean up through the night. Officials say there are multiple fires still burning within the perimeter of the blaze.

UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: The Sacramento Fire Department is fighting a two-alarm fire between Cal Expo and the American River bike trail Thursday afternoon.

Chris Harvey is with the department. He says the winds moved the fire fairly quickly.

“Along the bike trail there, it’s relatively flat and the fuels are more like shin-high to waist-high fuels,” says Harvey. “But, once the wind started blowing it to the north, it started getting into some of these taller cottonwoods and the star thistle and then the fire really takes off.”

Cal Expo employees and people who live at the stables were evacuated.

Park rangers evacuated the homeless camps in the area.

One person was treated for smoke inhalation.

No cause has been identified. This is the third fire in the area in the last 48 hours.

Firefighters will be mopping up for several hours.

UPDATE:  Sacramento Fire officials say the blaze at American River Parkway continues to burn Thursday afternoon.

Helicopters have been unable to drop water close to the fire due to power lines in the area.

Some homeless people living on the parkway have been evacuated. Cal Expo employees and residents nearby have also been evacuated.

Officials say two fires have been started in the area within the last 58 hours.

One person was treated for smoke inhalation.

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Large fire burns along American River Parkway

Firefighters are battling a large blaze burning south of Cal Expo near Business Interstate 80 along the American River Parkway in Sacramento.

The blaze broke out sometime before 1:15 p.m. near mile marker 5 along the American River.

Crews were getting a handle on the fire when flames jumped a fire road and burned toward Cal Expo. LiveCopter 3 spotted sparks coming from transformers and power lines in the area where the blaze was burning.

People at Cal Expo have been evacuated because of the fire as much of the smoke moves that direction. The blaze is moving to the northeast, away from Business 80.

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CHP Helicopter Crew Rescue Man Who Took 20-Foot Tumble in Rugged Terrain

A California Highway Patrol helicopter crew rescued a man Sunday who took a 20 foot tumble in rugged terrain.

The victim, identified as 58-year-old Donald Stockard of Antelope, was hiking with a group, trying to reach the American River from the North Fork Campground near Emigrant Gap when he fell.

The hikers were able to use a cell phone to call for help. Cal Fire crews hiked in and prepared Stockard for a helicopter hoist lift.

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Folsom Lake Crossing to close for blasting

Drivers will have to find an alternate route around Folsom Lake Crossing as engineers close the busy road for blasting as part of the Folsom Dam Auxiliary Spillway project.

Blasting is scheduled between 7 and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Monday and running through Sept. 30, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

During those times, Folsom Lake Crossing Road between Folsom-Auburn Road and Natoma Street will be shut down, as well the bike trail.

The blasting operation is designed to clear out rock from the outlet of the auxiliary spillway, creating an exit channel for water to flow from the spillway to the American River, officials said. This is expected to be the final round of blasting for the project.

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Federal Project Aims To Increase Salmon, Trout In American River

Gravel, sand and rocks are being sorted and washed along the American River – preparing the area for salmon and trout.

It’s a huge federal project underway with a plan to increase the number of salmon and trout.

So who’s footing the bill, and how much does it cost?

About a mile west of Sunrise Boulevard is where workers are cleaning and sorting rocks getting the river primed for salmon. Heavy construction equipment traverses the banks of the American River at Sacramento Bar four miles downstream from Nimbus Dam.

“They’ll be habitat in here for the small fish. We’ll put wood in here and some willows growing up,” said John Hannon, a fish biologist with the Bureau of Reclamation.

This federally backed program has a mission: a home makeover for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout.

“The existing gravel is too large for the fish to use in this area, so this new gravel is smaller and the fish will be able to reproduce successfully,” Hannon said.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the number of spawning fish here has been on the decrease since early 2000.

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Old pipe removal requires less American River flow

Flows on the American River will be lower and rafting will be excluded one morning later this month to allow for removal of an old water pipe.

The Carmichael Water District on Sept. 13 will take away concrete debris from the south side of the river and remove an existing 33-inch steel water pipeline crossing the river just upstream from Ancil Hoffman Park.

Flows are scheduled to be reduced from 1,500 cubic feet per second to 1,000 cubic feet per second starting in the morning and continuing through 2 p.m. Sept. 13. The old pipeline is in the river but is partially exposed.

“This removal of the old pipeline is one the things we are most excited about – to restore the river to its original condition,” said Chris Nelson, Carmichael Water District spokesman.

Also beginning at dawn and continuing until about 1 p.m., watercraft launching in the water will be prohibited beginning at Rossmoor Bar and at other upstream access points, including at Sunrise Boulevard. The watercraft prohibition between those points is needed for safety reasons due to heavy equipment being used that day to remove the pipeline.

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