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    Entries by WatchYourDirt (173)


    Post Fire Erosion Control Tips - NATURAL SUCCESSION

    The devastation from the Carr Fire in west Redding was severe, especially in the areas around Old Shasta, Keswick and Rock Creek Road.  The severity of the fire can be correlated with the amount and type of fuel, e.g., species and density of trees and brush.  The area that burned the hottest were often dominated by Knobcone Pine and Manzanita sp.

     Lets talk about Knobcone pine for a bit.  This pine is a fire dependant species meaning the cones require fire to germinate, and when they get fire, well sprout they do.  I recall studies done over 20 years ago, when we were working in Middle Creek Watershed on erosion control and fire prevention.  The studies indicated that, historically, the natural wildfire fire intervals in the region was averaging about every 10-15 years. Because of development in the urban interface and modern fire suppression efforts the last big wildfire was over 30 years ago. Meaning the fire was severe because of fire suppression!  Also meaning many of the dense stands of knobcone pines occur today because of a wildfire 20-40 years ago, which aided the germination of the cones, ergo the stands of Knobcone Pine that promoted the recent conflagaration were born in the last wildfire.  Foresters know one can count the whorls of limbs on conifers to roughly determine the trees age, each whorl is one year.

     This is a knob cone pine. Counting all the whorls indicate about 35-40 years old, The cones are now ready to start a new fire cycle !!

    The Knobcone pines on the ridge in back show the "even age" nature. The unburned pines in closer are probably Ponderosa Pines.

    Many ecologists believe that by planting properly selected (by mimicing the indiginous system) California native grasses (pioneering species) we can "set the stage" for establishing a more natural successional process - grasses succeded by shrubs, followed by oaks and conifers.  The 'do nothing approach' will likely result in more of the same, Knobcone pines and manzanita. Wherby CA Native grasses, given a leg up (advantage) by adding mycorrhizae fungi and biotic fertilizers, is likely to result in a more natural and less fire prone landscape.  Remember also that this landscape has not been "natural" for some time.  Anthropogenic (human-caused) land uses, like the smelters at the turn of the century, severely altered the land and denuded the Ponderosa Pine forests that predominated the region historically.  Maybe now, after the Carr Fire disaster, we can turn the tables and set the stage for natural succession.  We will need to do erosion control anyway, especially in many locations where infrastructure and dwellings will be threatened by potentially severe erosion.  So why not select and apply Best Management Practices (BMPs) that include Native Grasses, mycorrhizae fungi, and Slow-release, biotic fertilizers?    

    This is in fact what Caltrans is doing along the 299W highway corridor.  I will be sharing the seed mixes and mulches and amendment specifications that are currently the best state-of-the-art.  Coming soon!


    CARR FIRE - Post Fire Erosion Control Tips

    Some of the post-fire remediation may include seeding and mulching the bare soil.  By consulting your natural resource or Erosion Control Specialist you can determine the extent and range of treatments necessary, and an experienced professional can help you evaluate the risks.


    But generally, if seeding is recommended, in the urban / wild land transition area you will want to look at re-seeding with a “native seed mix”.  This is so important from an ecosystem point of view.  Grasses native and endemic to your area will develop deep roots, set the stage for "natural succession” of other native shrubs and trees, be drought tolerant (they are California natives after all ) and reduce risks of developing an even more fire prone landscape.  Try to avoid the temptation of using quick n’ cheap erosion control blend of seeds that are non-native annuals, like Italian rye grass.  In three or 4 years you’ll probably end up with a nice stand of weeds, burrs, and star thistle.

    Also consider adding mychorrizae fungi and a biotic organic fertilizer.  Consider AM-120 Mycorrhizal Inoculum and Biosol or Sustane organic fertilizers.  Most California Native grasses, especially in our North state area, have a symbiotic relationship with mychorrizae fungi.   CA 'natives' don’t need commercial fertilizers with high water soluble N, however weeds and annuals love commercial fertilizer - so feed the good seeds, not the weedy annuals!

    Seeding and then mulching with straw is the most common means to “protect" smaller areas, say <0.5 acres.  Straw Mulch should be "clean" and weed-free. On construction site, especially highway projects, the straw should be anchored so it doesn't blow away.  Anchoring is not that critical on restoration or fire rehab sites - the first rains will "lay the straw down".
    Hydromulch and hydroseeding, that slurry you often see spread by a big mulching truck, is another way to go.  It will be much more cost-effective for large areas and much quicker - with good access and available water (to make a new mix) an experienced Hydromulching professional can treat 2-5 acres a day.  While Straw Mulch is the most common hand-applied mulch, hydromulchers use mulch derived from wood fiber.  Wood fiber mulches can be the “Mercedes Benz” of mulches, long lasting and very effective.  Profile Products make a reputable line of products.  There is a relatively new hydraulically applied mulch made from sterile wheatgrass, called Hydrostraw.  Then the seed and fungi and fertilizer can be added to the slurry.




    There is so so much to know with regards to proper erosion control.  It is so much more than “Common Sense”.  A practitioner friend often says, “ erosion control is not brain surgery or rocket science - it is much more difficult!  

    Stay tuned for a few videos on this subject coming here soon!






    This year 1.5‭ ‬day BMP Summit‭ (‬April 3-4‭) ‬is followed by 2-day CISEC TRAINING‭ (‬April 5-6‭).  ‬

    The EXHIBIT Hall will be in the Classroom‭ (‬the‭ ‬“Barn”‭). ‬You will have a chance to be involved in the dialog and discussions‭. ‬Every break will be an opportunity to mingle and connect‭.‬

    John and Craig Benson‭, ‬combined with the excellent Shasta College Venue have attracted 50-100‭ ‬attendees in the past‭. ‬

    The CISEC Training‭, ‬lead by Jerry Fifield and Tina Evans‭, ‬is being offered for the first time in Northern California‭.  ‬We are anticipating some attendees will stay for both offerings but the CISEC Training will definitely attract participants from another‭ ‬pool of professionals‭. ‬


    Check out this BMP video‭:‬‭ ‬https‭://‬



    Showcase Exhibitors receive dedicated time on the agenda to demonstrate their product and/or equipment in the field with opportunities to interact with attendees‭. ‬Both Showcase Exhibitors and Indoor Exhibitors are provided with display space in the classroom to connect with attendees and will be given a chance to introduce themselves and their products/company‭.‬


    Showcase Exhibitor: Limited to 6‭ (‬Indoor exhibitor for two days‭, ‬PLUS dedicated time to demonstrate use or application of your product‭. ‬Bare soils or slope provided‭. ‬Exhibitor must come self-sufficient to demonstrate product or installation‭. ‬More complex installation to be done in advance‭. ‬Includes refreshments and meals for 2‭ ‬attendees‭.‬

    $800 Early Bird Registration, $850 Otherwise


    Indoor Exhibitor: ‭(‬Inside table/booth for two days‭), ‬includes refreshments and meals for 2‭ ‬attendees‭.‬

    $400 Early Bird Registration, $500 Otherwise



    2018 BMP SUMMIT – April 3rd and 4th - Shasta College Erosion Control Facility

    Register for the Erosion Control BMP Summit before March 15 and qualify for the EARLY BIRD Discount!

    How are your BMPs doing?  Come to the SUMMIT, – April 3rd and 4th, where the combination of classroom and field training is intended to allow you to confidently answer this question.

    The Erosion Control BMP Summit at Shasta College promises to be Extra Special this year.  We are ALSO hosting a two-day training, on April 5th and 6th,  for becoming a Certified Inspector in Sediment and Erosion Control.  Jerry Fifield and Tina Evans will teach this course that is required to become a CISEC or CISEC-IT.  This offering has a separate registration from the SUMMIT so visit    

    Why not take both BMP SUMMIT and CISEC Training?

    In four days you will get an intimate knowledge of the most effective BMPs, how you select BMPs given complex conditions, and how to make them work as intended.  Combine that with Jerry and Tina’s class – also focusing on BMPs but also the management and inspection of your construction site.  Plus becoming a Certified Inspector may be a great career enhancement.

    Craig Benson will help John teach and demonstrate BMPs.  Craig Benson has 25 years of professional experience in a wide variety of watershed management, water resources engineering, erosion & sediment control, and ecological restoration projects in the United States, West Africa, and South America.  

    Mr. Benson is the Director of the Natural Resources Services Division of the non-profit RCAA in Eureka, CA.  He also lectures in the Environmental Science Department at Humboldt State University.   Craig has served two terms as the President of the Western Chapter of the International Erosion Control Association (IECA) and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Region 1 IECA.  Craig and John provide a teaching synergy that can’t be beat!

    More questions to bring with you; 1. Can your BMPs be more cost effective and sustainable?  2. How can you select the most effective BMP that will fit the site conditions and resources available? and 3. What are the main functioning elements you are looking for when inspecting BMPs in the field?  We want you to have confidence in the BMPs you are responsible for.  The Field Day will give you that confidence in the BMPs you specify, implement, or repair. John will provide a BMP Manual to you that he has been updating and perfecting since Erosion Draw, the manual on CD, was first published in 2000.

    We are going to become familiar with many of the most effective and sustainable BMPs in the industry.  You will get to help install and inspect, in the field;

    • Skimmer Sediment Ponds

    • Straw and Coir Fiber Rolls as slope interrupters.  Try different installation methods

    • Turf Reinforcement Mats, anchors, effective staple patterns

    • Track Walking and Soil Preparation

    • Hydraulic Mulches, BFMs, and Biotic Soil Mulches

    • Rolled Erosion Control Blankets and Mats

    • Inspect an installed Compost Berm a highly effective alternative to silt fence – The FINN Compost blower makes quick work of this BMP

    • Bioswale – inspect and discuss

    • Compost Blankets – Hoping to apply with FINN Compost Blower – or Express Blower - 98% effective

    • Learn to operate a FINN T-60 and T-70 Hydroseeder

    • Coir Netting for TRMs and Slope applications with Hydromulch added

    • Install and Inspect Silt Fence.  Demo the Silt Fence Installation by Slicing Machine for cost and labor savings

    • Install Compost Socks – a environmental and cost effective replacement to silt fence.  See the Filtrexx Siltsox specially designed to be highly effective in filtering stormwater.

    These are just some of the BMPs offered.  You will also be provided with a copy of The BMP Manual, adapted and derived from the widely sold, Erosion Draw, authored by John used in his Shasta College Class, IECA Courses, UC Davis courses and more.   

    And don’t forget that the College will provide breakfasts and lunches.  The meals provided are always a highpoint to our trainings.  

    See you soon!