Bald Eagle spotted over Santa Fe Dam

Northern Arizona Gazette photo.

We went to check out Santa Fe dam, today, which is not suffering from the recent snow. It appears to have risen slightly as the snow melts off. There is a slight chance of rain today with a 40% chance of snow Friday and Saturday.

While there I was surprise by the flight of a familiar, but rare, sight around Santa Fe dam. A bald eagle flew before me. I did not have my good camera, but managed to get some fair shots with my cheap mobile phone.

Eagles tend to stop at Santa Fe dam, once in a while, to catch any fish that might remain from the fishing season.

Safest decision when snow is forecast? Put off driving

PHOENIX – Because of the rapidly changing nature of winter storms, the Interstate 40 grade west of Williams got so much snow in brief period overnight Tuesday that the freeway temporarily closed.

This illustrates one of the central messages of the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Know Snow campaign: If you can put off driving when snow is expected to be falling, do so. The amount of snowfall can exceed initial forecasts and be especially heavy in areas that make driving an even greater challenge in winter weather, as is the case with Ash Fork Hill on I-40 between State Route 89 and Williams.

In addition to the obvious safety risks, slide-offs and crashes on highways slick with snow and ice can tax first responders, exacerbate traffic backups and make it more difficult and time-consuming for ADOT snowplow drivers to clear roadways. For the snow that began Tuesday night, slide-offs and crashes also occurred on Interstate 17, which remained open but slowed to a crawl in areas.

When driving on a slick roadway, the keys to safety include slowing down, leaving plenty of room between your vehicle and the one ahead, and avoiding sudden braking that can result in a skid.

Those looking to head north this weekend to play in snow should park in designated areas and keep in mind that highway shoulders for emergencies only. Parking on a highway shoulder can endanger you, your passengers and other drivers. In addition, first responders may need to use the shoulder.

ADOT has installed 24 signs at higher elevations of US 180 northwest of Flagstaff to remind drivers that shoulders are for emergencies.

Those traveling to popular snow-play areas should leave prepared to spend significant time in winter weather, as traffic at day’s end is often heavy on highways including US 180 toward Flagstaff. Locations of designated snow-play areas around Flagstaff are available at flagstaffarizona.org (click the Winter Recreation link) or by calling 1-844-256-SNOW.

ADOT’s winter-driving tips available at azdot.gov/KnowSnow include dressing for frigid temperatures, having a fully charged cellphone, keeping your tank at least three-quarters full and packing an emergency kit that includes blankets, extra clothes, snacks and water, sand or cat litter for traction, and a small shovel.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT. When a freeway closure or other major traffic event occurs, our free app available at ADOTAlerts.com will send critical information directly to app users in affected areas – where possible, in advance of alternate routes.

Pile Burning continues on Williams Ranger District

Kaibab Forest Service photo

WILLIAMS – Conditions remain optimal for fire managers to continue burning slash piles on the south side of the Williams Ranger District and crews will move forward with burning an additional 94 acres on Thursday of this week near Coleman Lake adjacent to County Road 73. As moisture in the area remains, additional acres will be identified and treated.

Recent snow fall levels have allowed for the opportunity to work at least two more days in the area. Fuels specialists are accomplishing the objectives they hoped for with no control concerns. Pile burning will likely continue throughout the winter months as weather permits and conditions remain favorable.

Smoke may be visible during the early part of the day but is expected to be minimal in volume and disperse rapidly. No overnight impacts are expected.

Visitors are always reminded to use caution when traveling in the vicinity of prescribed fires, as firefighters, fire-related traffic and smoke may all be present.

All prescribed fires are subject to approval by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. For additional information on the Smoke Management Division and to view prescribed burn authorizations for any given day, visit www.azdeq.gov/programs/air-quality-programs/smoke-management

Notifications of upcoming prescribed fires are provided regularly throughout the year. This information can be found at the following sources:

· Fire Information Recorded Hotline: 928-635-8311
· Twitter: www.twitter.com/KaibabNF (Text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404 to receive text messages.)
· Kaibab Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaibabNF
· Kaibab website “Recent News”: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
· Kaibab South Zone Rx Fire: inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5160/

Williams Ranger District plans small pile burns on Wednesday

WILLIAMS – Fire managers on the Williams Ranger District are planning to burn two small units of slash piles totaling 16 acres on Wednesday of this week. A 2 acre unit of machine piles on the southwest side of Sitgreaves Mountain and a 14 acre block of hand piles near forest road 108 south of I-40 are the specific locations scheduled for treatment.

“Conditions are ideal for cleaning up these two areas with the impending weather forecast bringing snow overnight” said Fuels Specialist Zach Boness. “We expect full consumption of the debris with no potential for fire to carry on the ground.”

Smoke is expected to rise just above tree top levels and disperse rapidly to the east moving away from the local area. Short duration smoke impacts may occur on County Road 73, and on the south side of the district throughout the day however no overnight impacts are expected.

Visitors are always reminded to use caution when traveling in the vicinity of prescribed fires, as firefighters, fire-related traffic and smoke may all be present.

All prescribed fires are subject to approval by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. For additional information on the Smoke Management Division and to view prescribed burn authorizations for any given day, visit www.azdeq.gov/programs/air-quality-programs/smoke-management

Elk poaching investigated northwest of Williams

WILLIAMS – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is investigating the poaching of a bull elk, which occurred on Sunday morning, December 17.

The elk was shot and left to waste in Game Management Unit 10 along U.S. Forest Service road 6, south of Martin Draw northwest of Williams. There was not a lawful bull elk season going on at the time and the elk was shot with a large caliber rifle behind the shoulder.

Investigating officers are seeking information to locate two individuals last seen wearing orange hats that may have left the scene in a low-profile Nissan Titan pickup truck accented with chrome.

“This crime isn’t the act of an ethical, responsible hunter. It is the action of a criminal,” said Game and Fish Wildlife Officer Noah Silva. “Poaching is a crime. These people are stealing wildlife from the citizens of Arizona and we need those who have information to come forward to help bring these criminals to justice.”

Anyone with information about the case can call the Department’s Operation Game Thief Hotline toll-free at (800) 352-0700 or use the online form at www.azgfd.gov/ogt. Callers should provide case number 17-004934 and may remain anonymous upon request, and all identities will be kept confidential.

A reward of up to $1,500 is being offered in this case for information leading to the arrest of the violator(s).

Williams holds annual Christmas pageant

WILLIAMS – People crowded around heaters to watch the Williams annual Christmas pagent tonight. Before the pagent there was some excitement as a light appeared in the sky.

It was not the Star of Bethlehem, however. It appeared in the west. That light was a Space X Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

This pageant represents the second annual presentation of the nativity with scripture readings from the Holy Bible by various pastors of the churches of Williams. Between train interruptions, there were songs and some surprisingly good presentations by the kids of Williams.

The pageant could

Kaibab National Forest partners with The Nature Conservancy on forest restoration project

Heavy equipment being used during mechanical thinning operations along Forest Road 122. Photo by Dyan Bone. Credit Kaibab National Forest.

WILLIAMS – The Kaibab National Forest is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to complete critical forest restoration and watershed protection work around Bill Williams Mountain near the City of Williams.

The tree thinning work within the 2,496-acre Clover project area began this week and is expected to continue over the next two years, depending on weather and ground conditions at any given time. The work is occurring within the larger 15,200-acre Bill Williams Mountain Restoration Project footprint and is a top treatment priority for forest managers due to the area being the primary watershed and municipal water supply for the City of Williams.

“Getting this work accomplished is incredibly important to us as forest managers and as members of the Williams community,” said Samantha Flores, timber staff officer for the South Zone of the Kaibab National Forest. “By partnering with The Nature Conservancy through a stewardship agreement, we are able to meet our shared goals of greatly improving forest and watershed health while also making the City of Williams safer in the long run from threats like wildfire and flooding.”

As thinning work is implemented, residents and visitors can expect to see heavy, mechanized equipment and workers in the project area as well as an increasing number of log trucks, including some that may need to travel through the City of Williams. Haul routes will include forest roads 111, 106 and 140 as well as County Road 73 and Interstate 40. It is possible that there could be a significant number of trucks hauling timber through the area until project completion.

Members of the public are urged to use extreme caution near timber removal and hauling operations. Besides the presence of heavy equipment and log trucks, there will also be trees being felled and stacked into log decks, which can be unstable. Visitors to the area should not camp near nor climb on them, as they often shift and have the possibility of collapse.

While there are no official closures in place associated with this forest restoration work, visitors interested in hiking Bill Williams Mountain are encouraged to use the Bill Williams Mountain Trail rather than the Benham Trail for the duration of the project due to the likelihood that temporary detours or re-routes of Benham Trail might be necessary at various points, depending on harvesting activity.

Besides the Clover project, other forest restoration efforts are also underway in the Bill Williams Mountain Restoration Project footprint. Kaibab National Forest employees have planned and laid out more than 3,500 acres to be included in timber sales. This has involved developing prescriptions for these acres and marking trees within them. Members of the public may notice the marked trees while visiting the area. The Forest Service will be seeking to offer these acres in timber sales in the near future to local contractors and others who may be able to support the forest restoration effort.

Also, 700 acres are being treated using hand thinning operations on the steep slopes of the south side of Bill Williams Mountain. Because of the inability of most heavy equipment to reach these challenging areas, crews are carrying in chainsaws to accomplish the work.

Finally, more than 200 acres are being treated using mechanical thinning, meaning heavy equipment, along Forest Road 122, also known as the Twin Springs Road, south of Bill Williams Mountain. This treatment is intended to serve as a buffer for any wildfires that might get started south of the mountain. This is a particularly important place to treat given prevailing winds in northern Arizona and the typical direction of wildfire spread due to those winds. This is also a critical treatment due to the high recreational use in this area and the resulting potential for unwanted, human-caused wildfires that could pose threats to the mountain and to the Williams community.

“For many years, even decades, on the Kaibab National Forest, we have been working toward this goal of treating Bill Williams Mountain in a truly significant way that will help not only in terms of forest health but also community protection and public safety,” said Mike Uebel, fuels program manager for the Williams Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest and the implementation team leader for the Bill Williams Mountain Restoration Project. “To see all of the time, energy and preparation we’ve put into this effort turning into actual work on the ground is very rewarding and something we hope the Williams community will be pleased to see in action.”

Fire managers to conduct prescribed fire southeast of Williams tomorrow

WILLIAMS – Fire managers for the South Zone of the Kaibab National Forest plan to treat up to 320 acres with prescribed fire tomorrow in the Sunflower Project area on the Williams Ranger District.

Specifically, fire managers plan to ignite the 320 acres in an area just south of Forest Road 139 and east of Hyde Hill about 8 miles southeast of the City of Williams. Ignitions should be complete by early afternoon, and fire managers do not anticipate conducting any other prescribed fires on the Williams Ranger District this week.

Smoke from tomorrow’s prescribed fire in the Sunflower Project area is expected to largely remain south of Williams and potentially impact Barney Flat and Cougar Park. It is possible that light smoke impacts may occur along County Road 73 and in Williams.

Prescribed fire projects require approval from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and are dependent on weather and wind conditions, so any project may be canceled if approval is not received or if conditions are not suitable. Members of the public can view approved prescribed fires for any given day on ADEQ’s website at http://www.azdeq.gov/environ/air/smoke/index.html. Prescribed fires on the Kaibab National Forest begin with the identifier “KNF.”

Fire plays a beneficial role in maintaining the ecological stability of many landscapes including the Kaibab National Forest. Managers use prescribed fire to reduce risks associated with uncharacteristic wildfires that can pose significant threats to public health and safety.

During prescribed fires, motorists are cautioned that smoke may be present for short durations, which may impact roads and populated areas. Motorists are reminded to use caution, drive slowly, turn on headlights, and avoid stopping in areas where fire personnel are working.

Notifications of upcoming prescribed fires are provided regularly by news releases throughout the season and also through the following resources:

Sign up to receive news releases from Kaibab NF: www.fs.fed.us/news/subscription.shtml (Choose “Southwestern Region.”)
Kaibab NF’s website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab (Look under “Recent News.”)
Kaibab NF’s Twitter account: www.twitter.com/KaibabNF (Text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404 to receive text messages.)
Kaibab NF’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/KaibabNF
Kaibab NF’s Inciweb page for the South Zone (Williams and Tusayan Ranger Districts): https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5160/#
Kaibab NF’s Inciweb page for the North Zone (North Kaibab Ranger District and North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park): https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5632/#
Kaibab NF’s Fire Information Recorded Hotline: 928-635-8311

A map of the Sunflower Project area is provided below. The map shows the entire 15,195-acre Sunflower Project. Tomorrow, fire managers plan to burn only 320 acres in the northeast corner of the larger project area just south of Forest Road 139 and east of Hyde Hill.

Kaibab National Forest to implement large grassland restoration project

WILLIAMS – The Kaibab National Forest will soon be able to begin implementation of a large-scale grassland restoration project across the Williams and Tusayan Ranger Districts thanks to a decision signed today by District Ranger Danelle D. Harrison.

The South Zone Grassland Restoration Project will implement thinning, prescribed fire and other activities to restore the structure and function of grassland and pinyon-juniper grassland, also referred to as savanna, ecosystems in an effort to improve their resilience to disturbance and changing climate regimes.

Specifically, Harrison’s decision allows for a combination of commercial and non-commercial mechanical treatments as well as prescribed fire on approximately 80,000 acres of grasslands and 63,000 acres of pinyon-juniper grasslands within the 550,000-acre project area, which covers large portions of both the Williams and Tusayan Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. These areas represent historical occurrences of grasslands and pinyon-juniper grasslands on the South Zone.

As part of these treatments, conifers – primarily juniper – will be selectively removed using mechanical means or hand thinning. Additionally, thinning will be used to restore connectivity between grassland habitats for wildlife species such as pronghorn antelope. Broadcast and pile burning will be used where necessary to reduce fuel loading, control regeneration of conifers, and promote understory plant vigor.The decision includes a number of other provisions including collaborating with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to both install wildlife waters in strategic locations to encourage the movement of ungulates and other wildlife species and to translocate populations of Gunnison prairie dogs to serve their role as a keystone species in grassland ecosystems and assist with the mixing of soil contents.

The purpose of this project is to restore the structure and function of the South Zone’s grasslands and pinyon-juniper grasslands by reducing tree densities, reestablishing natural fire regimes, and promoting grassland-associated wildlife species. As a result of historical livestock grazing, fire suppression, changes in wildlife populations, and climate change, these areas have experienced substantial encroachment and infilling by woody species over the last century. This has reduced habitat quality and connectivity, and impacted nutrient cycling and water availability.

“This decision is significant due to the important ecological role that grasslands play,” Harrison said. “We recognize the value of these ecosystems, and we also recognize that they have been greatly altered over the past century. The South Zone Grassland Restoration Project will help set us on a course to functioning, healthy grasslands that can support a variety of species.”

To review all analysis and documentation associated with the South Zone Grassland Restoration Project including the Final Environmental Assessment, a Final Finding of No Significant Impact, and a Final Decision Notice, please visit the Kaibab National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=44132.

Members of the public can find additional information on the Kaibab National Forest through the following sources:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/KaibabNF (Text ‘follow kaibabnf’ to 40404 to receive text messages.)
Kaibab website: www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
Kaibab Facebook: www.facebook.com/KaibabNF

Williams City Council meets Thursday

WILLIAMS – The City of Williams City Council will meet Thursday, November 9 at 7 p.m. at 113 S. First Street.

After normal administrative items, the following presentations will be made:

  1. Greater Williams Community Fund-Who they are and what they do.
  2. Historic Photo Project-Progress, Goals and Accomplishments by Andrea Dunn & Margaret Hangan
  3. Grand Canyon Racing “Thank you” to Mayor, Hoch Ortiz and David Garibay. Judge Krombeen

After the meeting is public participation. The Council cannot act upon items presented during the public participation portion of the agenda. Individual Council members may ask questions of the public or may respond to any criticisms, but the members are prohibited by the open meeting law from discussing or considering the items among themselves until the time that the matter is officially placed on the agenda. The open meeting law does, however, allow the City Council to ask staff to review a matter or ask that it be placed on a future Council agenda.

The rest of the agenda consists of:

  1. Approval of Purchase Orders
  2. Approval of Check Register for Month Ending October 31, 2017
  3. Council will discuss and may make a decision regarding a request from the Williams Hospital District Board of Directors to waive the building fees required for construction of the new healthcare facility at 301 S. 4th Street.
  4. Council will discuss and may make a decision to purchase a Lowboy 50T Trailer.
  5. Previously tabled item: Council will discuss and may make a decision to hire a codification firm to codify the William’s City Code.
  6. Council will discuss and may make a decision to purchase a new network recording system for the PD’s dispatch.
  7. Council will discuss and may approve a proposed Task list from the City’s Engineer.