PAWSD considers protection of water sources in wildfire situations


    By Lindsey Bright

    Staff Writer

    The question of how to best protect source water and watersheds from effects of fire was prominent during Tuesday’s Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s work session.

    Pagosa Ranger District Forester Steve Hartvigsen, former chair of the PAWSD board, and J.R. Ford, whose business was awarded the Pagosa Area Biomass Long-term Stewardship contract, spoke with the board regarding use of different techniques of fire mitigation and forest thinning as a means of protecting the quality of source water.

    The first thing to look at, Ford suggested to the board, is what prescription needs to happen at the watersheds. Before funding any projects, he said, start with an analysis of what needs to take place in the area.

    PAWSD has an intake on the San Juan River at West Fork, the main stem of the San Juan River, at Stollsteimer Creek and Dutton Ditch/Fourmile Creek.

    A main concern for the PAWSD board directors present (both Allan Bunch and Mike Church were absent) was the West Fork intake.

    However, Hartvigsen offered his expertise. “Higher elevation forests rarely burn,” Hartvigsen said, adding, “The greater risk is down low.”

    Discussion continued between the board, Ford and Hartvigsen. The PAWSD board consented that, before any commitment was made, an analysis should be done, which would include a prioritization of areas.

    Director Burt Adams, though, wasn’t convinced of this, stating that perhaps the best use of PAWSD funds was the purchase and use of filters or other source water protection devices.

    Director Roy Vega suggested that, at the next regular meeting of the board, the practical effects of fire mitigation versus remediation efforts be looked into.