Summer is just around the corner, which means warmer weather, warm winds and drier conditions. These conditions could lead to disastrous consequences without a little planning and preparation.
The term “Best Management Practices,” or BMP, was introduced and defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a practice or combination of practices that is an effective, practicable means of preventing or reducing the amount of pollution generated by non-point (diffused or scattered) sources.
What is non-point source pollution? Sources of non-point pollution include sediment, nutrients, motor oil, and lawn care products that run off hard surfaces and yards into storm drains. Storm drains typically empty into nearby water bodies and wetlands.
A variety of local, state and federal laws, including the federal Clean Water Act, encourage or require the control of non-point source pollutants using BMPs.
Do you have a BMP on your property or in your neighborhood? Ponds, ditches and depressions that you see every day may actually be engineered stormwater facilities designed to reduce flooding and improve water quality. As development occurs, land is covered by roads, driveways, rooftops and other hard surfaces that do not allow stormwater to infiltrate (or soak) into the ground.
Without BMPs, the end result of development may be flooding and poor water quality in streams and lakes.
Once you have determined if your community has a BMP (or is working on one) you will need to determine how it will be carried out.
Cost, safety and effectiveness are key factors in determining who will carry out your maintenance needs. Some of the more routine maintenance tasks can be done by a BMP facility owner. Those tasks may include landscaping, educating the neighborhood, and litter removal.
It is recommended that a professional landscaping company be hired for the more difficult routine work. Mowing, burning, working around sloping embankments, stabilizing eroded areas, and replanting vegetation are tasks a professional landscaping company might best manage. Trainedprofessionals can also identify problems early on saving expensive repairs later.
TIPS FOR WORKING WITH LANDSCAPING COMPANIES
Your BMP is a water treatment system and requires special attention. Sit down with your landscaping company manager and discuss your BMP maintenance needs. Objectives might include:
- Communicate that the facility is a water quality device.
- Communicate mowing practices; for instance, mowing at a higher level and perhaps not as frequently, or not at all especially in the buffer areas. You also can request that use of heavy equipment be avoided where possible particularly in vegetated areas.
- Communicate the need to keep the BMP facility clear of grass clippings and leaf piles (convey this to the residents as well).
- Ask whether the company follows an integrated pest management (IPM) plan and minimize the application of pesticides and fertilizers. An IPM plan can include:
• Use of pesticides only as needed and only in trouble spots
• Use of alternatives to pest control or no control at all
• Policy of not applying chemicals when there is a heavy rainfall in the forecast
• Testing the soil before applying low-phosphorous fertilizer if needed.
TIP: The key is communication. If the company cannot agree or is not willing to agree to your needs, find another company that will.
Top Ten Tips for Weathering Storm Season By Mark Chisholm, Certified Arborist
Before the storm:
1. Develop a relationship with a certified arborist or tree care professional.
This will give you time to pick and choose the right company in your area. When a storm hits, you'll likely be prioritized as an existing customer.
2. Conduct a pre-storm assessment. Identify trouble spots before a storm hits. Some potential hazards to look for on your property:
- racks in tree trunks or major limbs
- Hollow, aged and decayed trees
- One-sided or significantly leaning trees
- Branches leaning more than 45 degrees over the roof
- Anything in close proximity to utility lines
- Shelf-like fungus or mushrooms >Trees with dangerous leans
- Note: Several of these features may suggest that the tree may be suffering from a condition called heart rot or possibly buckling under its own weight, and causing danger.
3. Take measures to prevent damage.
- After assessing possible hazards to your property, you and/or your arborist may need to take any number of measures to limit potential damage.
- Remove dead, diseased or damaged limbs
- Have leaning trees inspected and consider removing those with large cavities
- Prune branches too close to your house and over the street
- Check your gutters, and remove debris to prevent water damage. Many STIHL blowers can use optional gutter attachments.
- Call a professional to assess and potentially remove any within close proximity to utility lines; DO NOT attempt to do this yourself
During the storm:
4. Don't try to be a hero.
Your property is not more important than your life and the lives of your loved ones. Prepare in advance, follow guidelines for evacuations, and don't hesitate to get assistance.
After The Storm:
5. Put safety first.
- It's important to protect yourself as well as your property.
- Be on the alert. Stay away from utility lines and keep an eye out for dangers both up in hanging branches and down on damaged trunks. Broken limbs may still be lodged in trees, but can easily and unexpectedly fall. Loggers call these "widow-makers." Look for trees leaning against or touching downed phone lines or power lines – a tree in contact with a power line, and the ground at the base of the tree, can be energized and dangerous. When in doubt, call your arborist (See #8 below) If you're skilled enough to do work yourself, suit up properly, wear the proper attire and protective equipment. Many times we see newscasts of people wearing shorts and flip-flops to clean up storm damage. This is not what you should be wearing to do this type of work. Follow the guidelines in your instruction manual for any power equipment you're using.
6. Evaluate tree damage.
- Evaluate your trees carefully by asking the following:
- Other than storm damage, is the tree basically healthy?
- Are major limbs and/or the leader branch still remaining?
- Is at least 50 percent of the tree's crown still intact?
- Are there remaining branches that can form a new branch structure?
If you answer "yes" to the majority of these questions, there is a good chance the tree can be saved. When in doubt, consult a professional.
7. Take Steps to Repair Minor Damage & Debris.
- Remove any broken branches or stubs still attached to the tree.
- Remove jagged remains of limbs to reduce the risk of decay agents entering the wound.
- Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones.
- Resist the urge to over-prune. Don't worry if the tree's appearance is not perfect.
8. Do not try to do it all yourself.
- Evaluate what you can handle and what's for a pro — anything not on the ground should definitely be handled by a professional. Some of these things could be a threat to your life, so it makes sense to spend the money if you're not absolutely confident in your skills or if any of the below situations apply:
- Large limbs are broken or hanging or overhead chainsaw work is needed.
- If a tree is uprooted or downed, it can create an unnatural pattern of pressure points and tension. A chainsaw operator may be in severe danger if attempting to cut a tensioned limb or trunk (called a "springpole") – it may have an extremely violent, catapult-like reaction.
- If branches are too close or touching utility lines, report immediately to your local utility company. NEVER attempt to move downed utility lines.
- Any task you have not been properly trained to handle or are uncomfortable undertaking.
9. Consider wildlife.
Birds or bees may have been taking temporary storm shelter while you are doing work – always proceed with caution.
10. Stay educated.
Learn more tips on tree safety, chainsaw safety, finding a tree care professional, and how to prepare for storms at the following websites:
While wildfires may be beneficial and cause little damage to the land, some fires create situations that require special efforts to prevent further problems after the fire. Loss of vegetation exposes soil to erosion; runoff may increase and cause flooding, sediments may move downstream and damage houses or fill reservoirs, and put endangered species and community water supplies at risk.
Post-fire programs such as Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) addresses these situations with the goal of protecting life, property, water quality, and deteriorated ecosystems from further damage after the fire is out.
Wildland fires and fighting them sometimes cause damage requiring rehabilitation. Steep areas may need to be mulched for erosion control. Monitoring, removal of exotic species, and selective planting could be necessary to encourage the return of native species. Archeological sites and features may require mapping, stabilization, or additional preservation work.
Emergency stabilization and burned area rehabilitation are part of a holistic approach to addressing post-wildfire issues which also includes suppression activity damage repair and long-term (over three years) restoration.
An incident management team begins the process by repairing suppression activity damage. Emergency stabilization is planned actions performed by burned area emergency response teams within one year of wildfire containment to stabilize and prevent unacceptable degradation to natural and cultural resources, to minimize threats to life or property resulting from the effects of a fire, or to repair/replace/construct physical improvements necessary to prevent degradation of land or resources.
Burned Area Response is efforts undertaken within three years of wildfire containment to repair or improve fire-damaged lands unlikely to recover naturally to management approved conditions, or to repair or replace minor facilities damaged by fire. The process concludes with long-term restoration.
Along with River Dads of Carmel River School, Pacific Land Water & Home's Seth Parker recently completed a whimsical mural installation at Carmel River School. Parker provided the design and materials and he and the River dads provided the labor. The design of the mural, which includes a walkway and landscaping, is a colorful and whimsical representation of the sea and its creatures, including fish, birds, sea turtle, octopus and shark frolicking.
Storm water runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the land surface. The addition of roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other surfaces that prevent water from soaking into the group to our landscape greatly increases the runoff volume created during storms.
This runoff is swiftly carried to our local streams, lakes, wetlands and rivers and can cause flooding and erosion, and wash away important habitat for critters that live in the stream. Storm water runoff also picks up and carries with it many different pollutants that are found on paved surfaces such as sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, oil and grease, trash, pesticides and metals. It comes as no surprise that storm water runoff is the number one cause of stream impairment in urban areas.
To reduce the impacts of runoff on urban streams, the EPA expanded the Clean Water Act in 1987 to require municipalities to obtain permits for discharges of storm water runoff. As a result, many communities have adopted regulations requiring developers to install storm water management practices that reduce the rate and/or volume and remove pollutants from runoff generated on their development sites. (From The Center For Watershed Protection www.cwp.org )
Parker grew up in Big Sur in the 1970s. “It was a really different place then. It was completely isolated. We had no TV and had to be creative to entertain ourselves,” he said. That lack of pre-packaged entertainment provided the impetus for him to get outside and run around “in nature and the trees,” as he put it. As he grew and learned about botany and plant care from his father, Parker became enamored of the forest. “I fell in love with it and with the kinship everything has with each other.” He was fascinated by everything from storms to the region’s geography. In 1988, Parker began doing landscaping work, and before too long, he was not only a licensed landscaper, but a building and engineering contractor. By 2008, he’d opened his own landscaping business, Pacific Land Water & Home. After the Basin Complex Fire that year, he was a big part of the cleanup and gave free workshops in preventing erosion.
More help, please
In 2013, after the Pfeiffer Fire, the Big Sur Coast Property Owners Association called on Parker to help once again. According to a testimonial on Parker’s website from Butch Kronland, the association’s past president, Parker coordinated the cleanup with county, state and federal agencies, “and provided boots-on-the-ground expertise when it was needed most.” He is also a past president of the Fire Safe Council for Monterey County, and is a hired equipment operator and licensed timber operator through Cal Fire.
Parker sees fires as inevitable, and helps homeowners plan fire-resistant landscapes to prepare for them. He described humans’ relationship with fire as “intimate,” and noted that for many years it was the only way people could see 12 hours out of the day and it made cooking possible. It’s also an essential part of the ecosystem.
He described how when chaparral grows, it turns the soil alkali, making it hostile to native grasses. Not only does fire clear out the brush and make room for grass, it adds potash into the soil, raising its acidity. The grasses can then flourish, providing food for wild animals.
“That’s been going on for millions of years,” he said. “When you understand what’s going on out there, it changes how you approach it.”
According to Parker, if you want to live in that ecosystem, then native plants — which are now trendy — are the way to landscape. He said, for example, that grasses in the fescue family are flame-retardant because during the summer, when they dry out, they secrete a bit of silica. They don’t flame up like some non-natives; instead, when they burn, they smolder or “smudge.”
After all those years, and with all his experience, Parker said he still was surprised when the new owners of Carmel Valley Ranch called on him to help redo their landscaping in 2010. “Why’d you call me?” he said he wanted to ask. They moved oak trees from the rear of the property to the front and planted a vineyard with Figge Cellars.
A private concert
An even more unusual experience was his gig as arborist for Sean Parker’s infamous wedding at Ventana in 2013. On the night before the big event, he was hoisted by a crane into the trees — no climbing allowed — to string elaborate garlands of lights and flowers.
As he worked 80 feet in the air, he began to hear music. He looked down to find that Sting was warming up — and for two hours, he had his own private concert in the redwood forest.
Parker said he enjoys his clients and is friends with most of them. While his business is based in Big Sur, he and his wife, Liz, live near Carmel High School and his two kids attend Carmel River School. Liz is the reservations manager at Post Ranch.
When asked what he does for recreation, he laughed and said, “I’m a parent for fun.”
“My favorite thing is standing in a field watching my kids play, and talking to other parents — some of whom I grew up with — and saying, ‘Can you believe we live here?’” His love for the Big Sur wilderness hasn’t been diminished by his familiarity with it. If anything, it’s grown exponentially.
“We’re so lucky there’s so much wilderness. I’ve lived here my whole life, but I haven’t done it all yet.” He wants his children to experience as much of it as they can, too. “I really want my kids to get to try everything,” he said.