Board Notes 040312

Board Notes 040312


The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session in the Village of Downieville; Supervisors Schlefstein, Nunes, Goicoechea, Adams and Chair Huebner were all present.

The meeting began with a verbal loyalty oath to the sovereign, who even at that very moment was violating California’s rights and the civil rights of her people down in Oakland.  But, no matter.

The meeting began with a report from Bill Nunes who demonstrated what a remarkably organized person he is.  He provided a beautifully concise recent history of watershed in the county, recounting the various events which caused local concern over watershed issues to grow to the point that Sierra County and Plumas County have both issued resolutions requiring participants to notify the county about watershed projects.  Supervisor Nunes suggested the Board might like to consider upgrading to an ordinance.  Nunes listed the meetings he and Supervisor Dave Goicoechea attended, briefly described each and named primary participants.

He went on to describe some of the players in the watershed game, identifying Plumas Corp, the Forest Service and most recently Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council, Inc. 

Nunes was not specific about recent concerns with the Fire Safe Council, but they include a growing mistrust of the council, the realization that staff probably make too much money, and a recognition that staff is engaging in the kind of empire building that results in a “watershed coordinator” position that is generally useless and potentially harmful. 

In order to restore trust in the Council Supervisor Nunes suggested that the Council Board be composed of a number of individuals representing different county groups, including but not limited to timber (Irv Christianson is a member), agriculture (Kathleen Goicoechea is a member), the chambers of commerce, the planning department (Andrew Winberry is already a member) and other relevant groups.  He said he would like to see Council board members approved by members, a system the Council recently changed*.   

Nunes noted that the Fire Safe Council is a non-profit corporation and the Board has no direct influence over it, but in discussion it emerged that it receives money from the county, lots of it, and the Board is often asked to support Council grant applications, and further, if the Council continues to ignore a growing sense that it’s becoming another renegade non-profit in the county, landowners will simply stop cooperating.  To avoid the loss of a potentially important non-profit resource, Nunes will put the issue on the agenda for the next Board of Supervisors meeting.

Chair Peter Huebner announced that, though he was a voting member since the Council began about ten years ago, he feels uncomfortable voting for something as a Council board member and then acting on it as a Supervisor. He feels something needs to happen on the Council.  Supervisor Goicoechea affirmed the history which Nunes had relayed, and remarked that water is the “third rail of politics” in the West.  The “third rail” refers to the electrified rail of subway rail system which, if touched, will fry a person in an instant.

Under director’s reports, Tim Beals, director of Public Works, put closure to the previous discussion by again encouraging the board to hire a qualified person to watch over water issues.  He also reported that the California Department of Fish and Game is interested in doing the necessary land swap which would allow an improvement to the Sierra Brooks water system.

Health and Human Services director Janice Maddox reported on environmental health news that she had analyzed the new changes to wastewater regulations and is hopeful that there are no impacted bodies of water near our residential centers, meaning the impact of the law shouldn’t be too bad.

Genice Froehlich, Yuba District Ranger, appeared before the board to report on the following:  A timber sale twice advertised has twice had no takers.  Problem: no biomass facility.  Bills for 112 cabins are coming out, and people are going to be pissed.   

Doug La Malfa, state senator, appeared before the board.  La Malfa has been approved by rural groups, gun owner groups and small business groups.  He’s running for office; more later in this election season.


Doug La Malfa


There was a brief skirmish during which board members struggled with news from Chief Probation Officer Jeff Bosworth which said that the Community Corrections Partnership had selected the CPO to determine who, under the realignment scheme (here ya go) would receive probation on electronic monitoring.  For a while the room was against Bosworth, who insisted he hadn’t volunteered for the position, but that it was a useful tool.  There was a strong defense of the idea that elected officials should make that determination.  The CPO is not elected and not even appointed by the BOS, but by the court.  Bosworth is a strong character, a bit hard edged, and there is the general feeling that he’s probably kind of a d—k.  However, in this instance, though he communicated the facts rather clearly, there was resentment that the CPO might let people out of jail where the sheriff might not.  In reality, the discussion involves a different population, one that is already out of jail.  The board determined to hear the issue again at the next meeting, but among those who actually understand the discussion, it’s clear that Jeff Bosworth is the right person for the job.  He may or may not be a d—k, but he’s right in this instance.


The subject of Aquatic Invasive Species came up again.  At the last meeting the board received a letter from the Fish and Wildlife Commission.  Not surprisingly, this group wants AIS stopped.  Rather than pressure the California Department of Fish and Game, the agency legally charged with preventing AIS, the commission chose to again visit the board, this time in person.  The representatives remarked that it seemed like the Board was just doing nothing instead of joining a cool mish mash of counties and cities and what not hoping to get grant money and, best of all, have the counties pass ordinances on AIS for the Little Truckee Watershed, including Weber, Independence and Stampede lakes in Sierra County.  The Board assured the commission members that they had not forgotten AIS, and in fact had implored the state to take over on what is clearly a state issue.  Though it was not mentioned this time, in past discussions it was pointed out that there are already state laws against AIS, and it is not at all certain that Sierra County has the authority to pass ordinances over lakes, which they don’t own.  If they do have that kind of power, I suggest they pass an ordinance requiring owners of private lands around Independence Lake and Weber Lake to allow free access of the public to their public waters.  But I doubt they have that kind of power.  Tim Beals said the county couldn’t wait for someone else to do something, but this turns out not to be true.  Further, as Supervisor Goicoechia has pointed out, there is very little hope of preventing AIS no matter what we do.  If laws and “education” could work that kind of miracle, teen pregnancy and disco would be things of the past.  Genice Froehlich, still Ranger at the Yuba District of the Forest Service, stated that the Forest Service controls the ground and the DFG controls the water.  Zig Ostrum, of the F&W Commission said he thought most recreational users are ignorant, and he favors having the county determine its own rules; I hope that means he feels the county should also legalize marijuana here.  Jim Johnston, of the commission and Camp Yuba pointed out that this is an economic issue and the residents of the county have to do something.  In truth, though, there simply is no money, and it is unlikely pamphlets are going to change much.  Dave Goicoechea was on board, in theory: we’d stop this tomorrow, if we could.

In a brief moment of relative peace, Health and Human Services Director Janice Maddox whipped several items out, including classes for local emergency workers, a new O2 refilling station which meets the code, and she presented Carolyn Widman, from the Sierra County Child Abuse Prevention Council.  Ms. Widman presented the idea that it was April and so child abuse prevention month.  She noted that the Council has done some good things, including working to save the homes of families at risk from foreclosure and linking with a Nevada food bank to serve the east side of the county.  She encouraged everyone to “be kind to a child” though she didn’t specify who or how.  Then, an attempt was made to play a cool video about how miserable child abuse is, but the technology failed.  Maybe at the next meeting.  We agree with Ms. Widman, be kind to a child, and it doesn’t matter which child.


The Board then heard the issue of the Forest Service tearing down a residence at the old station behind the courthouse.  Genice Froehlich again stood to take abuse, looking as though she’s aged 550 days in the last year and a half.  Tim Beals said he didn’t like having a house removed from the middle of Downieville, where flat ground is at a premium.  Supervisor Lee Adams said it was losing a residence and seeing the Forest Service station dismantled a stick at a time, ensuring the Forest Service would never have to honor its debt to the county.  What was the value of the building and why was it lost?  Ranger Froehlich said she understood how people felt, but she has 70 buildings to take care of and only $4000 a year to do it.  The little house was allowed to go to hell under her predecessor, and it was a shame, and she understood their frustration about the FS blowing off Sierra County lo those 30 years ago.  The building has mold and asbestos haz mat issues, and they need a permit from the county to dump haz mat in the dump.  Supervisor Goicoechea was clearly unhappy with the removal.  He suggested that if it is surplus property it be provided to the County of Sierra.   Ms. Froehlich noted that there were places where local groups had saved a historic building from Forest Service destruction, and named Shady Flat and a second cabin.  Lee Adams asked how much the beautiful new ranger station in Truckee cost and asked why Sierra County got instead the “south end of a northbound skunk”, indicating the county always gets the shitty end of the stick from the Forest Service.  To be fair to Ranger Froehlich (something we won’t make a habit of) she has only so much influence on the Tahoe, and she had earlier brought the council what good news she could.  There is no way around the anger and frustration locals in addition to the board of supervisors feel about our interactions with our increasingly restrictive and punitive federal masters.  In the end, though, the Board told her to bite farts (not their actual words) and told staff not to give the FS a permit to tear it down.  “If they can go around us, let them” was the sentiment.  Tim Beals asked four really good questions: was external funding sought to save the building; is there a plan for a new building; can we see the master facility plan or inventory; was a NEPA review done?  Ranger Froehlich said, no; no; yes; probably not required.  The issue ended with the Board of Supervisors grumpy and unhappy and Ms. Froehlich tired but unbent.  Kudos to everyone, but the Forest Service still sux.

Then the next assault on historic Downieville was launched.  It was announced that an effort was being made to list the three single lane bridges in Downieville as historic places.  Being listed as a historic place makes changing the structure miserable, but it would maintain Downieville as the quaint and wonderful place it is.

But, no, Lee Brown, acting as protector of the public said that as fire chief he has to object.  He said the narrow bridges are a safety hazard.  He said he would complain to the state.

Make one thing clear: it’s OK to squabble within the family, but when you call the cops, you’ve gone too far.  Lee Brown is offering to call the cops.  Lee Adams offered to have him fired.  Brown’s point is murky at best, since most of the roads in town are single lane and you’d have to tear out the houses along most roads to make them wider.  This being the case, we’ll suggest this remedy:


Seeking New Fire Chief; a new chief for Downieville Fire Department is being sought.

Lee Brown insisted he didn’t want to be sued because he didn’t complain as fire chief when someone dies because the bridges are historical.  What little gas that balloon had rushed out when County Council Jim Curtis, not quite smirking, assured Lee Brown he had nothing to fear for not making a complaint.   He referred to it as “mythical liability.”  Chair Peter Huebner said the bridges had served Downieville for many years and would serve for many more.

The Bridges of Downieville


Courthouse Bridge



49 Bridge


Hensen/Pearl Street bridge



A typical Downieville Boulevard: this road needs a two lane bridge?


Finally, after closed session, the board announced a temporary lull in the battle over Timber Production Zones with High Sierra Rural Alliance.  For the time being no single family dwellings will be built on TPZ parcels.


That’s all I remember.


Good Luck!




*The reporter was on the board of the Fire Safe Council and approved most of the changes which have been revealed to be problematic, including eliminating a membership class, changing the mission statement to include a state program within the statement, and approving the grant for the watershed coordinator.  All I can do is say I’m sorry.  At the time it seemed like a way to provide actually useful and beneficial services to the landowners and residents of the county.


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