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USFS - Tahoe/Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit NF - Patrol District

Preliminary Application Comments


 My name is John Timmer. I enjoy hiking throughout the Tahoe National Forest. Many years ago, I discovered the area along the South Yuba River known as Pierce Meadows. My wife and I love to walk along the river and swim in quiet pools amid granite boulders and tall pines. The pools and waterfalls of this stretch are a beautiful, quiet and relaxing destination. That quiet beauty is in danger.

Over the years, I have been witness to the constant degradation perpetrated on the river, its riverbanks and the surrounding forest lands by Off Road Vehicles. I have witnessed the Forest Service’s almost annual efforts to correct the problems associated with allowing ORVs in and around the river and the associated streams of the Pierce Meadows Area. I have cataloged these problems and communicated my concerns to Forest Service representatives regularly. It is well past time to address these problems and create solutions that protect the Yuba watershed and its main artery, the Yuba River.

Due to my interest in the Pierce Meadows stretch of the South Yuba River, I have been involved the public participation that the Forest Service has encouraged regarding its plans for Travel Management on the Tahoe National Forest. By attending the numerous planning sessions hosted by the Forest Service, I have educated myself on the issues pertaining to at-risk forest resources and the balanced recreational needs of a wide variety of users.

I have learned that the funds to buy a half section in this area from private landowners were obtained through the California State ORV program. Since that time, over ten years ago, the Forest Service has introduced ORVs to the river banks and the riverbed of the South Yuba River to disastrous results. Past grant applications have secured small amounts of CA State grant funds to fix the problems along this river stretch but the damage by ORV enthusiasts is always re-visited on the area.

The S. Fork of the Yuba River should be protected from erosion and water pollution resulting from the interface of ORV routes and the River.

Solution: Close ORV routes that provide direct access to riverbed and buffer zone which create Resource Damage to the River and its water quality.

1) Problems resulting from Use of Riverbed of South Yuba River as ORV _areas_

• Upper Ford - 1300’ of riverfront between 20’ and 500’ at widest point has been reduced to a gravel bar. Willows are being trampled. River banks are being eroded away on both sides of the river by multiple entry points to the river and by indiscriminate ORV ‘play’. Trees are being toppled every year because the riverbank is weakened by ORV ‘play’. Willows on river right above ford have been clearcut to get over and around USFS barriers to closed campsites. This is not an play 'area' but a route. The impacts should be limited to less than 50' wide.

• Lower Ford – impacted area extends for over 430’ of river front (100’ to 170’ wide). Multiple cutbanks on either side of river. USFS tried to close all but one on each side in 2005. Defeated by flood and overtopped by ORV users. The Upper Ford provides a textbook example of what will happen to the Lower Ford in the coming years if ORV impacts continue. Also forested island in SE quadrant will disappear under ORV impact as ATVs drive over roots, compact soils and create cutbanks on the island.

• Below Lower Ford, river right – ORV users have driven around USFS barriers to access river bottom and beach. 450’ by 20’ to 60’. Watch for stream bank erosion and toppled trees. Roots are driven over, exposed and will be toppled. Adjacent to 3 parallel roads. Campfire ring within river bed.

2) Human waste – Prevalent throughout the entire area, within 100’of river in many cases and at Upper Ford actually in the riverbed while FS toilet is only 200 yards away. No apparent attempt to bury human waste.
Danger to water quality and human health.

3) Off route use – There are multiple routes leading off into forest that are not authorized – USFS has created barriers and ORV users have overtopped them or gone around them. Most barriers have failed to contain the abuse for more than one year. Current barrier schemes include dropping trees and digging ‘tank-traps’. While relatively cheap, these schemes do not foster a health regard in the hearts and minds of visitors. Some folks see them as ugly and others see them as an encouragement to wreak havoc themselves.

    * Law enforcement must be increased, laws must be enforced.
    * Trails and campsites must be shifted away from the river.
    * Unauthorized trails must be blocked. (these trails extend in every
      direction.)
    * Current trail blocking is done by the use of downing trees and
      digging 'tank traps'. This mode of blockage does not encourage the
      respect of ORV users to the area.

The lion's share of funds requested by the USFS - Tahoe National Forest is to continue to 'maintain' ORV routes. Very little of the money is alloted law enforcement or to fix the problems created by introducing this form of recreation into sensitive areas. The OHV section of the California Parks and Recreation Department should not fund grant applications that expect different results from the same actions. The State should favor grant applications that solve these long-standing problems and protect the water quality of our rivers. Stop throwing good money away after bad. Fix the problems endangering this river or close the area permanently. [John Timmer - 4/6/09]