A community meeting was held Monday evening at the Cliff-Gila Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall to explain to residents how the Forest Service, Grant County and other agencies are collaborating to mitigate the expected flooding as a result of the Whitewater-Baldy Fire Complex, which is still burning in its interior.

Al Koss, Burned Area Emergency Response public information officer on the fire, moderated the meeting.

"Ten of us are on the fire currently," Tory Kendrick, incident commander for the fire, said. "We flew it this morning. It took us two hours to get around the perimeter. We are at 87 percent containment, but people are keeping eyes on the fire."

He said 20- to 40-acre parcels in the interior were still burning out.

"If anything changes, we will have a presence here," Kendrick said.

Koss explained the BAER process, in which the team looked at the satellite maps and, on the ground, determined the high severity burns.

"Our goal now is how to slow down erosion and water runoff from the watersheds of Whitewater and Mineral creeks into Glenwood and Alma, and from Willow Creek into Willow Creek and the West Fork of the Gila," Koss said. "The BAER dollars can only be spent on federal land to protect life, property, and natural and cultural resources downstream. We have a lot of modeling, and our predictions are based on a 25-year, six-hour precipitation event."

The BAER findings were taken to Gila Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell, who approved them, sent them to the regional forester, Corbin Newman, who then forwarded them to Washington, D.C., for final approval.

"They were approved and we got about $12 million for treatments," Koss said. "In the heavily burned areas, about 16,000 acres, we will do aerial seeding and aerial straw mulching. The fire burned everything there.  We want the seed and straw to impede erosion and runoff. The treatment on the West Fork will be seeding. To allow an opportunity for the water to run into the moderate and lightly burned areas, we will use a mix of New Mexico native grass seed and barley, which germinates quickly."

Treatments also include roadwork to prevent washouts. The Catwalk Bridge will be removed to prevent debris collection. Signage will warm people of the dangers of flash flooding.

Alert monitors will be put on Mogollon Baldy, Hummingbird Saddle and Bear Wallow to monitor extreme rains in high elevations. The monitors will tie into the National Weather Service, which can call computers, phones and the Sheriff's Department.

Requests for bids have already gone out and contracts are being drafted to provide the seeding and mulching.

"The goal is to have the treatments on the ground before the damaging rains come," Koss said. "We hope for gentle rains to soak in. These treatments worked in other places, such as areas of the Wallow Fire and the White Fire."

Anthony Gutierrez, Grant County planner Gila Valley resident, described the preparations the county is implementing.

"We have a different situation from Glenwood," Gutierrez said. "People here are more aware of what the river can do."

He said the large number of non-permanent structures along the river are dangerous.

"We want to permit to salvage roads and bridges," Gutierrez said. "Permitting is a lengthy process, but through the emergency declaration from the governor's office, we got an emergency permit

He thanked Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and T.J. McCauley for their help on highway 211. He said McCauley was working to protect the riparian areas for endangered species.

Gutierrez said the Department of Transportation would permit the highway 180 and 211 bridges for removal of vegetation and shoring up.

"We want to prevent the isolation of residents in an island around Gila," he said. "If Bear Creek is running high, we can't get people in and out.

"Unless you participate in the national flood insurance program, there is no money for private land and property," Gutierrez said. "The National Resource Conservation Service has only limited funding. Grant County is concentrating on infrastructure.

"The Corps of Engineers went to bat for us to get permits within three days, and the Environment Department let the permitting go quickly to save roads and bridges."

Jean Fortenberry of Grant County Dispatch explained Reverse 911. "If you have a landline phone, you are probably already enrolled."

The link to sign up for the service for cell phone and email  is http://alerts.deltalert.com/optin/start.xhtml?clientId=142409732 . The link can also be found on the town of Silver City and Grant County's websites.

"When an alert needs to be sent out, Dispatch is notified," Fortenberry said. "We will determine the epicenter of the alert area and will pan out for miles. A recorded message will go out telling you what to do."

She cautioned that often when an alert is sent out, "people do not listen to the message, but immediately call Dispatch, which just ties up the lines," Fortenberry said. "So listen to the message, and unless you have an emergency, please don't tie up the lines, unless you really need information."

Melanie Goodman of U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman's office had handouts for residents, including a flood insurance program resource sheet. She said Sens. Bingaman and Tom Udall, as well as Congressman Steve Pearce, had introduced bills to expedite the waiver of the 30-day requirement to obtain flood insurance. She cautioned residents to locate insurance agents who are knowledgeable about the flood insurance program.

The rest of the meeting, including questions and answers will be covered in a subsequent article.

Live from Silver City

Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates

Welcome to Three Times Weekly Updates! You will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.
You can unsubscribe anytime. We never share or rent your email to anyone.

Fire Alerts

Editor's Note

The Grant County Beat endeavors to post to the Elections page, under News, at the least, notices of candidates for Grant County races. Some candidates for statewide races have also sent their notices. 

The Beat continues to bring you new columnists.Recent additions  include the Christian Corner, for those who are already Christians or are exploring the beliefs.

The second is a business-centered column—Your Business Connection by the New Mexico Business Coalition. The group works to make policy in the state of New Mexico better for all businesses, large and small.

The Beat has a column for you gardeners out there. The Grant County Extension Service will bring you monthly columns on gardening issues. The first one posted is on Winterizing your houseplants and patio plants.

The Beat totally appreciates its readers!  


All articles and photos indicated by a byline are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ad on the Beat.

Feel free to notify editor@grantcountybeat.com, if you notice any problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

If you subscribe to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option on the left side of this page, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Note: This is another component that is in progress of going to a different software to make it easier for you to use and find classifieds that interest you. Check Out Classifieds. And look at Sponsors to see who is helping the Beat.

It's really easy to check to see if there's a classified ad. Just click on Classifieds in the blue menu and the page will open letting you know if there is a classified ad. Remember that your buying classified ads gives you a wide readership, as well as supporting the Beat. Post YOURS for quick results!

Note that if an article does not have a byline, it was sent to the Beat and written by someone not affiliated with the Beat

When you click on the blue and orange button on the upper left side of most pages, you will find out how you can help the Beat defray its expenses, which, with increased readership, continue to grow. You will arrive at a page that gives you options of how you can Help the Beat. All help is greatly appreciated and keeps the news you want and need coming into your browser.

Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News.

Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com