- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Helicopters are dumping thousands of pounds of wood mulch on Oregon’s Malheur National Forest three months after a wildfire tore through the area.

The mulch is supposed to slow soil erosion and prevent flooding through the fall and winter, reported The East Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1MEWxSx).

The wildfire destroyed more than 40 homes and spread over 171 square miles in the Canyon Creek Complex earlier this summer. The mulching is part of the Burned Area Emergency Response plan developed by Malheur Forest staff and local landowners.

Without enough vegetation to soak up moisture, the main concern in the area is flooding. Forest deputy fire staff member Todd Gregory said mulch will help keep the ground stable and limit the speed that water drains into the creek.

The helicopters have dumped from 75 to 90 loads of mulch per day in recent weeks, he said, and each load is about 2,500 pounds.

It usually takes about a dozen drops to cover an acre of land, said Gregory.

“The hard part is figuring out at what height and what speed to get the best coverage,” he added, explaining that forest staff hope to treat between 1,000 and 1,500 acres with mulch before the snow starts falling heavily.

Forest workers have also placed log jams over parts of Canyon Creek, Vance Creek and Overholt Creek to catch burned-up debris that could wash down in a storm and cause flooding.

The Forest has spent about a half-million dollars treating the area so far.

“We’re working as hard as we can, as quickly as we can, to limit the damage of erosion and flooding before winter hits,” Gregory said.

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.com

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