Board Notes 041911
The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session on Tuesday, 041911. All supervisors were present.
Under public comment a citizen took to the podium to read a letter from another local citizen, Tom Dotta. This reporter couldn’t hear the reader very clearly, except to hear Mr. Tim Beals’ name mentioned, so it is assumed the letter was commending county staff, and Mr. Beals in particular, on doing such a good job for the county. We agree: well done!
James Beard, Eureka City Councilman, addressed the Board and asked that Loyalton be represented in any decision making. Frequent readers of the Prospect know that the census is in, and as a result it might be time to redraw the supervisorial district lines. To that end, the Board has instructed Assessor Laura Marshall, Registrar of Voters Heather Foster, and Dogsbody Tim Beals to research the issue, see where the population has changed, and bring information back to the Board, who will make the decision on where the new boundaries are, before 1 November. There will be a full Board discussion, and public hearings as well, so everyone will be well represented in the discussion.
Indeed, under “department head reports” Assessor and county IT person Marshall was present to make an informal report to the board regarding redistricting. She has made arrangements with the provider of the county’s GIS overlay provider, California CAD Solutions, to provide a graphic overlay which would automatically figure the population in any designated district. The Board could actually use a laptop and redraw the lines during a meeting, knowing precisely how many people were in the district. All districts must have the same number of voters, plus or minus 5%. Thanks, Assessor Marshall.
Director of The End of The World As We Know it Tim Beals began a day long discussion of legislative and litigious bad news with a discussion about a lawsuit against the Forest Service for providing snow grooming for key counties. Sierra County is by any measure a “key” county since the program began here, thanks to our Board of Supervisors and, of course, Tim Beals. In a lengthy discussion the board tried to reconcile the need to do something with the inadvisability of doing something. County Council Jim Curtis struggled to explain the various implications of each suggestion: should the county “join the appeal on the side of the state?” A county of 3200 people can’t take on the organizations bringing the complaint, and it might not be wise to even think of it. Still, groomed snowmobile trails bring a lot of people to the county, and they’re part of the county’s recreation plan. Should the county write a letter?
That response, to write a letter, came up over and over during the day, as the Board had to admit it’s almost the only power they have: complain in writing. To be sure, letters from the Sierra County Board, often written by Tim Beals with input from County Council Curtis and the originating supervisor, have more impact than our 3200 souls might expect. Still, in the fight between California and those against any motorized use of our forest lands, the county is an ant screaming at elephants. Lee Adams spoke the reality: there are limits to what the county can do. In the end, at Supervisor Nunes’ suggestion, the Board directed Mr. Beals to find out who the other counties are (Mr. Curtis read a list of implicated counties) and see if we could form a coalition to fight back against what most people in the room saw as environmentalists running rampant over everyone else.
To be sure, the Sierra Access Coalition, founded in Plumas County to fight the curtailing of our rights to enjoy public land on motorized transportation, is comprised of older folks who simply couldn’t enjoy the wilderness if they had to walk or showshoe. The essential rights of some are being coopted in the name of an imagined pristine wilderness experience for others, and by those who pretend to speak for Bambi. It’s too large an issue to ignore.
The Board then had a brief break while Kathy Norris, the smart and busy manager of the Loyalton branch of the Alliance for Workforce Development, gave a presentation. She reported that there is an increase of long time workers coming in who have no resume and no interview skills. Often times their computer skills are poor and they can’t fill out computer based applications. The current Sierra County jobless rate is 18.9%. Generally, there are 60-200 applicants for each job available. The Sierra Work Connection has helped 223 people, and have enrolled 64. Trainings have been provided for local businesses, and the buy local “poker” campaign kept over $200,000 in the local economy. If you would like to find out more, contact Sierra Work Connection, 306 First St. Loyalton, 530 993 4295; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then, the Board was back to more grim news from Director Beals.
Prospect readers are familiar with the on-going grab for our water. The ways we’ve lived in the mountains are simply not appropriate in the eyes of the bloodsucking bureaucrats at the State. The attacks on our ranchers and farmers simply don’t stop.
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board held a meeting in which Sierra ag water users were denigrated, and a state assemblyman insulted. The Board is calling for changes in reporting on ag water quality, both surface water and ground water. The standards for things such as dissolved oxygen, coliform and stream temperature are more rigid than ever, and reporting requirements are enough to drive some families from the ranching business.
According to Tim Beals the Board approved an EIR over the objections of major groups including the Farm Bureau and the Environmental justice coalition. They approved elements which have never been seen before.
Carol Dobbas, a local rancher and executive director of the Upper Feather River Watershed Group stated that the new regulations were like “a bad piece of beef, the more you chew it, the bigger it gets.” Dave Roberti, local rancher and Farm Bureau spokesperson said the situation will certainly be enough to cause some old Valley ranchers to simply give up. Cows, and especially calves, shed nitrates and E. Coli bacteria. Ranchers can’t fence the entire valley, and that is what is essentially being asked.
Dave Goicoechea stated that the Valley ground water was in good shape. The Sierra Valley Ground Water Management District has monitored the Valley for years. Ground water is OK.
The Board determined they would write a letter to the Central Valley Water Bastards, or whatever the group was.
These impositions on water quality will be yet another blow to our oldest families, driving the old to leave the life they love, and the young to leave the county. And, it’s all so the people down below us get their water nice and pure. The Prospect used to joke about people sending all their water by tinkling in the river for the users down below, hyperbole and a gesture of contempt at out masters. Now, we urge you not to piddle in the river, some cow in the Valley will be blamed if you do.
Next, the Board heard from County Health Elizabeth Morgan. Ms. Morgan reported back to the Board on AB885, and the State Water Resources Control Board. Readers will recognize the issue as one impacting our ability to use septic tanks in the county. In short, if the SWRCB gets its way, we won’t be able to pinch a loaf in the county. Many of us in the county like to eat, so number two is our number one concern.
The “State Water Board” as they like to be called (we prefer the Holdyer Water Board), has designated most of us in the county as users of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems. We are seen as polluters from the start.
The “Fact Sheet” put out by swrcb states who will be effected: “owners of existing septic systems adjacent to an impaired surface water body, someone installing a new or replacement OWTS, and owners of an existing system that has failed.” In short, either now or in the future, everyone in the county who takes a growler.
The Holdyer Water Board claims this new process is a great improvement over the previously released, and widely hated, regulations, but it still accomplishes the same goals: it costs money to small counties by making them responsible, and it will cost nearly all of us an arm and a leg to get a new OR REPLACEMENT septic system. Ms. Morgan informed the Board that 90% of septic systems are replacements. It is easily possible that, once again, those of us on the margins will find that the new septic system is worth more than we can afford, and homes will be abandoned.
Clearly, it’s time for us to fight for our lives. The environment is being blamed, but it’s really about water. Rural people, those who snowmobile, those who ranch, and those who live on septic tanks, are being thrown under the bus in the name of purity.
The Board will write letters, but is that enough? It isn’t too extreme to suggest we’re being exterminated, not only culturally, but literally.
Something more than a letter is called for. We need to react as a county to save our ranches and our homes. It’s time for a grand gesture, something even Sacramento can’t miss. I’d like to see our leaders lead, and see the Board of Supes do something nuts, but likely those prudent ninnies won’t, particularly under the counsel of County Counsel Curtis.
If you think the government can’t pass a bad law and put our people out of business, find an old timer who remembers when the Valley was busy with dairies and ask them about “grade B” regulations.
Fight for our lives.