USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station


Pacific Southwest Research Station
800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011

(510) 559-6300

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Defensible Space-Erosion Protection Tools Development

Proposal [pdf]

Lead Researchers:

Michael Hogan, Integrated Environmental Restoration Services, Inc.; Mark Grismer, Vadose Zone Hydrology/UC Davis


This project fills a critical information gap identified in the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program, discussed briefly in the Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Pollutant Load Opportunity Report and hinted at in nearly every defensible space directive– the need for practical residential defensible space practices that effectively reduce fire risk and while controlling erosion and reducing runoff. Unfortunately, current defensible space practices are tending toward removal of protective soil cover, thus increasing erosion and water quality risk. This proposed research will identify, study and quantify defensible space practices around homes that are capable of reducing or eliminating fire risk, while minimizing erosion, protection water quality, infiltrating stormwater and snowmelt, reducing runoff and gaining acceptance from fire agencies and homeowners. This research is, in fact, focused primarily on protecting water quality from poorly thought out defensible space strategies and perhaps improving water quality protection through implementation of defensible space practices. We propose to evaluate eight promising soil protection Best Management Practices (BMPs) for both flammability and erosion control parameters. We will directly measure both variables and, in coordination with BMP implementation staff, fire districts and homeowners, will implement the most mutually-effective BMPs at three residences to showcase defensible space practices that achieve both fire protection and erosion control-water quality objectives. We anticipate developing the information quickly by leveraging the large existing database of Tahoe Basin rain simulation data, projects such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) SNPLMA Round 9 Area-Wide Conservation Planning Grant, and current cooperation with fire agency representatives around the Basin through the Fire and Fuels Team. Our results will be developed such that they can be directly incorporated into TMDL load reduction estimation, tracking and crediting efforts through the Pollutant Load Reduction Model (PLRM) and the revision of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) BMP Handbook.

Relation to Other SNPLMA Projects

This research effort will integrate many previous studies completed by IERS and Dr. Mark Grismer using simulated rainfall and runoff to directly measure the performance of many soil-based restoration treatments. This long-term (>9 years) research program has produced many peer-reviewed publications including the forested upland chapter of the Lake Tahoe TMDL Pollutant Reduction Opportunities Report, which received SNPLMA Round 5 science support.

Expected date of final products:

August 2012

Last Modified: Mar 28, 2013 02:52:07 PM