Board Notes for 022112
The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday, 21 February 2012 in continued regular session in Loyalton. All supervisors were present.
It was a meaty session, and the Board addressed several significant topics. The meeting deserves a thorough analysis; unfortunately it won’t get one from the Fringe. Snow has finally come, and the old tractor needs new shoes; I’ll be trying to bully through drifts to open the road out.
However, here is a brief recap:
From Tim Beals, Director of Public works: Confirming that the county stands in opposition to the raising of Stampede Dam, and is asking Congressman Tom McClintock to defund the project.
Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council has been trying for some time to obtain an office in Sierraville at the old school. The building is jointly controlled by the County and the school District. The large old school doesn’t see many kids, but Stan Hardeman resisted the use of a small room just inside the front door. Mr. Beals has approved the occupation by the council, and Mr. Hardeman is considering allowing the council to use a portion of the large room to the left of the entrance, even though that is used for public meetings and the office wouldn’t be very secure. The council is willing to pay a reasonable fee. During the discussion Bill Bate asked about accountability; who oversees the Fire Safe Council? County Council Curtis allowed that the board had no oversight over the council; Auditor-Treasurer Tax Collector Van Maddox stated that the grants provided to the council by the county are audited. Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council Operations Director Mike Freschi invited the public to view the website and to ask if there are specific questions. There has been a brief flurry of concern over the Fire Safe and Watershed Council, and Mr. Bate asked a frequent question. The Council has just appointed two new board members which might help calm some fears, we shall see. There is a press release this edition, please see the front page.
The Board undertook a discussion of perspective projects for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, an important agency which has struggled to help Sierra counties. The Conservancy has decided not to fund acquisition projects, and is looking more carefully at other kinds of projects, thanks in large part to the efforts of Supervisor Bill Nunes. The Board considered 12 grant applications wholly or partly in Sierra County and supported, opposed, or took no position on each. In general, the Board showed a strong caution toward watershed restoration projects, particularly plug and pond projects which some very credible biologists criticize. No one fully understands the consequences of such projects, either ecologically, or politically. As is predicted by population concentration and growth, and climate change, California needs more water than it has, and very big money is riding on the outcome. There is a bill in congress to negate nearly 150 years of California water law to provide more water to the San Joaquin Valley, where agribusiness already gets Northern California water cheap, owing some badly written laws intended to encourage family farms. At one point, Supervisor Goicoechea said, “The Board is going to take an active role in protecting ag and other uses.”
Editorially, the Board is showing proper caution in troublesome times, and in some ways is even taking a leadership role among northern counties in the effort to at least slow the impact of outside interests in county water.
On the other hand, the Board supported hazard fuel removal projects, which are projects our communities and mountains desperately need.
One of the projects criticized by the Board was a project in Carmen Valley which incorporated both plug and pond and hazard fuel/excess fuel removal. Gale Dupree, Chair of the Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District, which is submitting the grant, stood and in his rather patient and studied way, tried to curse out the Board for taking a stance without consulting with the RCD. He maintained that the project had already begun years ago and that the only water holder was good with the project. He pointed out that some of the project is to remove fuel. It is not clear if SVRCD notified the County of the project, as they should have. The Board agreed to support the hazard fuel removal, but not the watershed restoration.
Supervisor Scott Schlefstein asked about money going to the Forest Service to do environmental studies on removing thistles. He clearly voiced a common opinion: the Forest Service needs to pay for its own work, instead of competing with local groups for grant money. Schlefstein made a statement which could be the motto of the day: The Federal Government should get its house in order.
George MacDougall appeared from Cal Parks to further muddy the frustrating issue of mixed vehicle use on rural roads. Its primary function was to give supervisors a chance to bitterly complain about the California Highway Patrol and the glandular mismatch of terms in the vehicle code and enforcement. It was noted that declaring some roads to be access, logging or fire roads has been a strategy for some counties to try to get control over local back roads, but there are legal problems with doing so. All together, it’s part of the death of the West we once knew.
Kenny Osburn, of Friends of Independence Lake, asked about a hazard fuel removal project at Independence Lake. During the discussion he pointed out that The Nature Conservancy is planning to give most of the land around the Lake (but not access or camping) to the Forest Service, thus taking a huge amount of land out of tax status.
A large portion of the last part of the meeting was given to a detailed discussion of the history and current status of the water system at Sierra Brooks. Director of Public Works Tim Beals compiled and presented the information, which included the most recent page of the long saga of Sierra Brooks. For background, please use SITEMAP and search “Sierra Brooks”.
Gotta go, good luck!