Fire and Flood Risk. A Publication by the County of Lake. December watershed.co.lake.ca.us

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1 December 2015 watershed.co.lake.ca.us Fire and Flood Risk A Publication by the County of Lake Dear Property Owner, Lake County had several devastating wildfires in Over 1,300 homes were destroyed by the fires. You have received this notice because you own property within or near the Rocky, Jerusalem or Valley Fire areas or an area that may be impacted by the fires. You may be at an even greater risk of flooding after a wildfire. Normally, vegetation absorbs rainfall, reducing runoff. However, wildfires leave the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mudflow. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored up to 5 years after a wildfire. Flood flows can increase by as much as 100% due to burned landscape in the watershed. Some estimated increases in runoff include: Kelsey Creek at Jellystone Campground: 40% increase Kelsey Creek through Big Valley: 10% increase Seigler Creek in Lower Lake: 20% increase Copsey Creek in Lower Lake: 20% increase Anderson Creek: 80% increase Dry Creek at Middletown: 20% increase Putah Creek at Middletown: 60% increase Harbin Creek: 90% increase Big Canyon Creek: 80% increase Gallagher Creek at Hidden Valley: 30% increase Putah Creek at Hidden Valley: 50% increase Business owners and residents in mapped floodplains or near flood sources (draws, creeks, floodplains) are encouraged to purchase flood insurance. Because of the fires, your flood risk could be as much as ten times higher for the next few years until the watersheds recover. Scott De Leon Director of Water Resources Boggs Mountain State Demonstration Forest Unburned, floodprone home next to Anderson Creek Burned Putah Creek at Highway 29

2 Page 2 Fire and Flood Risk 2015 Flood Insurance It is important to know that standard homeowners insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and covers all surface floods. The NFIP insures buildings, including mobile homes, with two types of coverage: structural and contents. Structural coverage is for the walls, floors, insulation, furnace, and other items permanently attached to the structure. Separate coverage may be purchased for the contents in an insurable building. Flood insurance also will pay a portion of the costs of actions taken to prevent flood damage. Note: Current Board of Supervisors policy is not to distribute sandbags to the public during a flood event. A limited number of sandbags are being provided for emergency protection measures associated with the Valley Fire. Flood insurance covers damage from floods and from mudflows. In the steeper terrain of Lake County mudflows can occur, especially in the burned areas. For flood insurance purposes: A flood is a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land, or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow. Many conditions can result in a flood: overtopped levees, outdated or clogged drainage systems, and rapid accumulation of rainfall. Just because you haven't experienced a flood in the past, doesn't mean you won't in the future. Flood risk isn't just based on history, it's also based on a number of factors: rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surge data, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development. Mudflows are rivers of liquid and flowing mud on the surface of normally dry land, often caused by a combination of brush loss and subsequent heavy rains. Mudflows can develop when water saturates the ground, such as from rapid snowmelt or heavy or long periods of rainfall, causing a thick liquid downhill flow of earth. Mudflows are different from other earth movements, such as landslides, slope failures, and even moving saturated soil masses in which masses of earth, rock, or debris move down a slope where there is not a flowing characteristic. Damage from mudflows is covered by flood insurance; damage from landslides and other earth movements is not. Mudslides can also be covered, if defined exactly as the Standard Flood Insurance Policy defines Mudflow. A 30-day waiting period usually is required before a flood insurance policy takes effect; this means insurance must be purchased before the rains start in order to be covered during a flood. If you do not have flood insurance, we recommend you talk to your insurance agent. If you do have flood insurance, check your policy to ensure that the coverage is adequate and that contents also are insured. Additional information is available on flood insurance at Valuable Resources Information on fire, flooding, safety during a flood, preventing flood damage, fire recovery and weather and flood conditions can be found online at:

3 Fire and Flood Risk 2015 Page 3 Flood Warning For many years, the California-Nevada River Forecast Center (CNRFC), a joint operation of the National Weather Service (NWS) and California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) have been provided projections for Clear Lake based on flow models and forecasted rainfall. In 2015, they have added additional forecast points for stream gages at: Putah Creek near Guenoc, located just east of Hidden Valley Lake, Kelsey Creek near Kelseyville, located 3 1/2 miles south of Kelseyville, Scotts Creek near Lakeport, located at Eickhoff Road, and Middle Creek near Upper Lake, located at Rancheria Road. As a result of the of the major wildfires in Lake County this year, the CNRFC and their partners added several new rainfall gages and stream stage gages in the fire areas to improve their forecasting ability. With the damage from these fires and the forecasted El Niño event, the NWS will likely be issuing more flash flood watches/warnings this year. In addition, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) modeled the Valley Fire area to determine the risk from mud flows and debris flows. The NWS will be issuing debris flow warnings based on the following forecasted rainfall intensities: 0.2 inches rainfall in 15 minutes 0.3 inches rainfall in 30 minutes 0.5 inches rainfall in 60 minutes NWS will notify using the news media, Nixle, and cell phone notifications. Links are available at El Niño: Rainstorms and Flood Risk According to the National Weather Service (NWS), El Niño is a disruption of the usual oceanatmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific. Changes there have important consequences for weather and climate around the globe. In the United States, El Niño often changes typical weather patterns and could bring drier conditions to some areas and intense rainfall amounts to others. The NWS forecasts that El Niño will bring heavy rainfall this winter, especially to the southern tier of the United States. Current forecasts indicate Lake County will also receive above normal rainfall. The intensity of rainfall in the coming months could lead to devastating floods, especially in areas affected by prolonged drought or areas scarred by past wildfires. Risks from Drought and Fire Normal vegetation absorbs rainfall, reducing runoff on sloping ground. However, drought hardens the earth, slowing absorption. Wildfires leave the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mudflow. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored up to 5 years after a wildfire. Library Park, Lakeport, El Niño

4 Page 4 Fire and Flood Risk 2015 Soil Erosion After Wildfire The potential for severe soil erosion exists after a wildfire because as a fire burns it destroys plant material and the litter layer. Shrubs, forbs, grasses, trees, and the litter layer break up the intensity of severe rainstorms. Plant roots stabilize the soil, and stems and leaves slow the water to give it time to percolate into the soil profile. Fire can destroy this soil protection. There are several steps to take to reduce the amount of soil erosion. A landowner, using common household tools and materials, can accomplish most of these methods in the aftermath of a wildfire. More specific information on how to implement soil erosion control techniques is found under the Erosion Control at Hydrophobic Soils In severe, slow-moving fires, the combustion of vegetative materials creates a gas that penetrates the soil profile. As the soil cools, this gas condenses and forms a waxy coating. This causes the soil to repel water a phenomenon called hydrophobicity. This hydrophobic condition increases the rate of water runoff. Percolation of water into the soil profile is reduced, making it difficult for seeds to germinate and for the roots of surviving plants to obtain moisture. litter before the fire; a severe slow-moving surface and crown fire; and coarse textured soils such as sand or decomposed granite. (Finely textured soils such as clay are less prone to hydrophobicity.) The hydrophobic layer can vary in thickness. There is a simple test to determine if this water repellant layer is present: 1. Place a drop of water on the exposed soil surface and wait a few moments. If the water beads up and does not penetrate the soil then it's hydrophobic. 2. Repeat this test several times, and each time remove a one-inch thick layer of the soil profile. Breaking this water repellant layer is essential for successful reestablishment of plants. In addition, freezing and thawing, and animal activity will help break up the hydrophobic layer. A simple test can determine whether a water repellent layer is present. At a Glance The most immediate consequence of fire is the potential for soil erosion. Intense heat from fire can make the soil repel water, a condition called hydrophobicity. Landowners should take quick action to minimize erosion once it's safe to return to the property: Fell damaged trees to slow water runoff after rainfall; Create check dams in drainages Spread straw to protect the soil and reseeding efforts; Hydrophobic soils do not form in every instance. Factors contributing to their formation are: a thick layer of A simple test can determine whether a water repellent layer is present. Erosion Control Techniques The first step after a wildfire is reseeding grass in the severely burned areas. Remember many plants can recover after fire depending on the severity of the burn. It is important to leave existing vegetation if the plants do not threaten personal safety or property (hazardous trees in danger of falling should be identified first).

5 Fire and Flood Risk 2015 Page 5 A positive initial step after a wildfire is to reseed grass in the affected area Seeding Tips for Hand Planting 1. Roughen the soil surface to provide a better seedbed by breaking through the hydrophobic layer. A steel rake works well for this, or, depending on the slope, a small tractor drawn harrow could be used. 2. Broadcast the seed (a "Cyclone" seeder works well). Seeding rate depends upon the variety of seed sown. 3. Rake or harrow in 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch deep. 4. If the area is small enough, roll or tamp the seed down to ensure good soil/seed contact. 5. Spread certified, weed-free straw. If the area is small, crimp the hay into the soil with a shovel. (This will help keep both soil and seed in place during wind and rain.) 6. Control Weeds as needed by cutting of the flower heads before they can seed. 7. Do not use herbicides for broadleaf weed control until after the grass has germinated and developed five leaves. Figure 1 Weed Control Weeds are among the first plants to recolonize after a fire. In many instances they are not a problem. However, if the weeds are listed as noxious, they must be controlled. Noxious weeds displace native plants and decrease wildlife habitat, plant productivity, and diversity. They can spread downstream or into agricultural areas, resulting in high control costs. Control of noxious weeds is best accomplished through an integrated plant management system that includes chemical, biological, mechanical, and cultural controls. Straw provides a protective cover over seeded areas to reduce erosion and create a suitable environment for revegetation and seed germination. If possible, the straw should be crimped into the soil, covered with plastic netting or sprayed with a tacking agent. If you can only broadcast the straw, do so; it's better to have some coverage than none at all. The straw should cover the entire reseeded section and extend into the undamaged area to prevent wind and water damage. Care must be taken to insure that you use only certified weedfree straw to avoid spreading noxious weeds. (Contact the State Department of Agriculture for a listing of Certified Weed Free Straw growers.) Straw should be applied to a uniform depth of two to three inches. When applied at the proper density, 20 to 40 percent of the soil surface is visible. One typical square bale will cover about 800 square feet. (Figure 1). On slopes the straw should be stabilized by crimping it into the soil or covering it with plastic net-

6 Page 6 Flood Rsk Notice 2013 Fire and Floo Figure 2. Contour Log Terrace. These barriers are an effective, first year treatment for hydrophobic soils, low ground cover density, and severely burned areas (graphic courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation Service). Spread straw over seeded areas to prevent erosion ting. When crimping, work across the slope. Punch the straw 4 inches deep with a square end spade or similar tool. Make a punch every 12 inches. When covering with plastic netting follow the manufacturers instructions on how to secure the net to the slope. Contour Log Terraces Log terraces provide a barrier to runoff from heavy rainstorms. Dead trees are felled, limbed, and placed on the contour perpendicular to the direction of the slope. Logs are placed in an alternating fashion (Figure 2) so the runoff no longer has a straight down slope path to follow. The water is forced to meander back and forth between logs, reducing the velocity of the runoff, and giving water time to percolate into the soil. Felling of trees can be dangerous and is best done by a professional logger or arborist. Logs should be 6 to 8 inches in diameter and 10 to 30 feet long (smaller logs can be used but will not hold back as much water). The logs should be bedded into the soil for the entire log length and backfilled with soil so water cannot run underneath; backfill should be tamped down. Secure the logs from rolling by driving stakes on the downhill side. It is best to begin work at the top of the slope and work down. It is easier to see how the water might flow by looking down on an area to better visualize the alternating spacing of the logs. Felling of trees to form log terraces Straw Wattles Straw wattles are long tubes of netting packed with excelsior, straw, or other material. Wattles are used in a similar fashion to log terraces. The wattle is flexible enough to bend to the contour of the slope. Wattles must be purchased from an erosion control material supplier. Straw wattles are used in a similar fashion to log terraces

7 Page 7 Silt Fences A silt fence is made of a filter fabric that has been entrenched, attached to supporting poles, and sometimes backed by a plastic or wire mesh for support. The silt fence detains sediment-laden water, promoting sedimentation behind the fence. These should be used in areas where runoff is more dispersed over a broad flat area. Silt fences are not suitable for concentrated flows occurring in small rills or gullies. Silt fences are made from materials available at hardware stores, lumberyards, and nurseries. (Figure 3). Figure 3. Silt Fence installation details What to do Minimize Flooding Problems Do not throw anything into ditches or streams: Every piece of trash contributes to flooding even grass clippings and branches. Blocked channels cannot carry water, and trash dumped in streams degrades water quality of the stream and downstream water bodies, such as Clear Lake. Report dumping of debris in ditches or streams: This is a violation of Section 9-3 of the Lake County Code. Contact the Lake County Community Development Department at Remove debris, such as trash, loose branches, and vegetation growing in the stream channel: If you own property next to a ditch or stream, please do your part to maintain flow capacity. Remove vegetation growing on the stream bottom. Vegetation growing on stream banks should not be removed com- pletely since plant roots hold the banks in place and reduce erosion. Prior to removing vegetation, call the Department of Fish and Wildlife at (916) to determine whether an agreement is required. Reduce the risk of damage to your home.: If your home has been flooded in the past, several practical, cost-effective methods can reduce or eliminate the risk of it being flooded again; these include elevating the home, constructing floodwalls or berms, relocating to higher ground, flood-proofing, and protection of utilities. Be Prepared: Stock emergency supplies and be prepared to turn off utilities when it floods. Refer to the First Aid and Survival Guide in the front of the telephone book for readiness guidelines. Obtain a building permit, if required: To minimize damage to buildings during flood events, the County requires all new construction in floodplains to be anchored against movement by floodwaters, resistant to flood forces, constructed of flood-resistant materials, flood-proofed or elevated so the enclosed space is a minimum of one foot above the level of the 100-year flood, with all utilities constructed to be resistant to flood damage. This includes new buildings and additions to existing buildings. Check with the Community Development Department, Building and Safety Division, before you build, alter, grade, or place fill on your property; any of these actions could cause drainage problems on other properties. Section 5-22 of the Lake County Code prohibits property owners from changing the course of any channel or waterway in any manner that would change its place of entry or exit from the property or creating flooding problems on adjacent properties. If you see building or filling that does not appear to comply with these requirements, please contact the Building and Safety Division at

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