Board Notes 062211

Board Notes 062111


The Sierra County Board of Supervisors met in continued regular session Tuesday June 21 at the Loyalton Social Hall in, of course, Loyalton.  All supervisors were present, the agenda was pretty mellow.


The meeting began with a prayer to Washington D.C., and public comment.

Bill Bate of Calpine thanked Tim Beals for working on “coordination”, a process by which the county might find some greater ability to wrestle with glandular giants like The Forest Service.


Robert Haug mentioned that the county is still claiming mileage for county roads 350 and 351, roads the public can’t use at Independence Lake.


Kenny Osburn rose to say that the TNC (The Nature Something) has released its recreation management plan.  We already reported on it, it doesn’t allow out of basin boats and only rents motorboats every other week.  The emphasis is still on paddle boating, what they are now calling “quiet recreation” which we have long called “Muirish Pristinity Fantasy”. 


Tim Beals, Defender of Planning and Building Inspection, reported that Truckee-Donner Public Utilities District and Truckee Sanitation District have both applied to the Local Agency Formation Commission to expand their territories to, or into, Sierra County.  The Board might decide if they don’t want Truckee folks operating on their turf.  There are no doubt many in the county who would take up arms to battle Truckee purview grabbers, and hopefully push the county line to south of Independence Lake to where it should be anyway.  Probably, though, Tim Beals will go to meetings instead.


Mr. Beals also reported that The Something Conservancy will move the gate at Independence Lake back to the property boundary when the snow clears.  This will add about 100 feet to the distance towards the lake the public can approach.  It isn’t much, but it’s something.


Ranger Youngblood from the Sierraville Ranger District appeared.  In answer to a question from Supervisor Nunes, he assured the board that the Forest Service would do everything it its power to be sure the water rights owners of the Sierra Valley Water Company ditch, that brings Little Truckee water into the Feather River watershed in Sierra Valley, won’t be shorted water from the restructured Perazzo Meadows watershed.  The FS has been using “Plug and Pond” streambed restoration, even though no one really knows what the end result will be, or even what the natural lifecycle of an alpine riparian meadow is.  Should a study now being conducted reveal that the project, which is intended to return a natural and healthy stream and meadow to the watershed, is not allowing the water through to the Valley ranchers that it should, the Forest Service will send Bill Murray up to murder a bunch of beavers who have horned in on the Forest Circus’s natural meadow making monopoly. 


Bill Murray; Plan B  (Copyright by someone, we couldn’t find out who).

Also, the stream has naturally taken out three of the plugged ponds.  Don’t worry, folks, experts are in charge here.  Though it was not reported, the project is functioning according to its primary purpose: to store water through spring and summer to contribute to the Truckee River in late summer and fall.  The Prospect has gone on record as supporting Ranger Youngblood’s handling of thorny local problems, but we also strongly support beavers of every sort. 

Ranger Youngblood also stated that, because of the remaining deep snow, several campgrounds are not yet open. 


The Board Discussed a preliminary budget.  It’s difficult to plan ahead much because no one knows what those wacky legislators might do.  The Board discussed various contingencies, which discussion was a sincere effort to compute without sufficient data, but which sounded more like “when I grow up I’m going to marry a billionaire.”  The state is no doubt going to “realign” the county like a lion “realigns” a baby gazelle.  The Prospect Fringe Editor encourages Sierra County to zone, permit, tax, encourage and as appropriate, use medical cannabis.  There is an unconfirmed rumor that the Loyalton Cogen plant might spin again soon; add value to the electricity and hot water it will produce by encouraging state of the art medical cannabis grows, before the market is saturated.  Otherwise, we all need to learn to live on gruel.  Still, Sierra County has done an amazing job of staying in the black, thanks, in part, to county staff who know the county, know the job and work hard. 


The Board entertained Dan Morrison, from the Humboldt Toyabee National Forest, who discussed the travel management plan for the far eastern part of Sierra County.  The district has had a functional travel management plan for some time, and does allow mixed vehicle travel in some places.  There were some modest changes to the HT TMP, but they didn’t seem to involve more than a few miles of road.  Some miles were also added.  Not the beating Genice Froelich, from the Yuba District, generally takes over the TNF TMP.  County Supervisor Scott Schlefstein asked Mr. Morrison if there was information available, perhaps including GPS coordinates.  There are, on line, here. 

Van Maddox, County Auditor, reported to the board that the fees from the Watermaster on parcels that have water rights have arrived in the county.  More on the major boo hooing from area ranchers, who will likely ask the county to support a local watermaster program.


The supervisors allowed Dr. Carol Roberts to contract for mental health services for those of us who are too far gone to get away when they come for us. 


The Board then took time out for an enormous hug fest in honor of one of the most memorable characters in a county chock full of memorable characters: Joe Marin.  Joe has lived in the county since just after the Civil war, roughly ninety years, save for some years he spent as a hero in the War.  Mr. Marin has given much to the county, particularly county emergency services and the Loyalton Fire Department.  He started his career with the Loyalton Fire Department in 1957, at a time most of our readers weren’t yet born.  As fire chief for 46 years he saw tremendous change in fire science.  Joe Marin also served on the Sierra County Board of Supervisors in the 1980s, but has almost completely recovered from the experience.

The celebration of Mr. Marin was attended by another grizzled and much loved old fire chief and county supervisor, Jerry McCaffery.  Mr. McCaffery also gave many years of his life to emergency services, and there are many of us who remember when the Sierraville Fire Department ran the ambulance on the west end of the valley, and Jerry was admired for his ability to B.S. equipment for the department.

Other dignitaries and crusty old residents were present; Lee Adams spoke warmly; Quentin Youngblood praised him for his cooperation with the Forest Service on emergency calls; Tim Beals called him one of the “jewels” of Sierra County.  But the spotlight was on Joe, a fierce supporter of Loyalton, a valued collaborator on emergency services, and a right tough old boy.


Jerry McCaffery, seated photo far left; Joe Marin seated far right: Dave Goicoechea reading a glowing resolution, standing and obscuring Joe’s wife of 56 years, Dana.

This reporter remembers reporting on Joe Marin when he was on the Board of supervisors, and it’s amazing how little he’s changed.  Mr. Marin, and a handful of men and women in the county, represent a volunteer effort which literally tallies into centuries, and a cultural treasure of life and change in Sierra County.  Thanks to Joe and all our valued old farts in the county.


The Board resumed “normal” business, but became a little schizophrenic. 


The Health Department put forth Elizabeth Morgan to seek permission for a grant to develop a Hazardous Materials Emergency Plan, and Mr. Beals stood for permission to contract for a Local Multi-Jurisdiction Hazard Mitigation Plan.  These two plans are essentially different parts of an overall Disaster Mitigation effort which might well include the County Fire Safe Plan which the Fire Safe and Watershed Council is putting together. 

Mr. Beals explained the plans and the Board give Mr. Beals a quick pat, granted his piece before he could even really request it and sent him on his way.

Ms. Morgan, though, faced a completely different board.

The plan her department is attempting to create is mandated just as the LMJHMP is, but the supervisors took a different approach.  Ms. Morgan’s department would be required to determine who in the county might have hazardous material.  It takes very little to be considered hazardous material by the state; 55 gallons of hazardous material; 250 cubic feet of a gas, or 500 lbs of a solid.  What liquid, gas and solid?  It could be almost anything.

Supervisor Goicoechea bristled on behalf of his rancher pals who might suddenly find themselves a hazardous materials site over a couple of barrels of diesel and a few bags of ammonium nitrate.  They might even be potential (gasp!) terrorists, with that arsenal, who knows?  Supervisor Goicoechea said what we’ve all waited a long time to hear him say: if this is mandated, let the state ding us for it.

Let the state ding us for it?  That’s bold talk from a man who insists he isn’t running next term and so wouldn’t be in his seat to take the repercussions. 

Still, we all loved it, and a couple of people around the room agreed, “tell the state to go to hell.”

Ah, it felt good.

For some; Ms. Morgan is a professional with a long career of meticulous adherence to the law.  She’s still responsible to produce the plan, but without grant money, she’ll have to do it on her own. 

Supervisor Schlefstein has years left to serve, and he was thinking a little more clearly.  He asked Ms. Morgan, “what will happen” if we ignore the state?

Ms. Morgan was still incredulous that the Board would blow off the state on this, and I wondered aloud why this and not something better?

Ms. Morgan replied that the state would de-certify the county to do certain work, and would have the work done and charge us, or perhaps people wouldn’t be able to get some kinds of permits.

But, the specter loomed of having the government inventory farmers, ranchers, construction companies, miners and homesteaders over every day items.  Those who remember the Forest Service raid on the “Nixon Mine” recall that there was a brouhaha over “hazardous waste” found on site; most of which is in the average garage.

People also remember that water quality management in the Sierra Valley was initially kind of a voluntary thing, but the information gained from that is now being used to squeeze Valley ranchers over water. 

In short, nobody wants the Health Department to snoop into everyone’s business. 

Tim Beals had made it clear, with the hazardous materials plans in place the county can get reimbursed for fees. 

Supervisor Schlefstein said it for all of us: “It bothers me” when the government collects information on people. 

Dr. Roberts attempted to appeal to reason: these are federally and state mandated plans; allow staff to get a grant and obey the law.

But, though the Board OKed residential sprinkler requirements, and though they scarf up the state’s stuff on so many issues, the power of rebellion was strong within them.  They refused to permit Ms. Morgan to apply for the grant, and sent her away to gather information about the kind of information she would be gathering.

Not exactly 1776, but still some sign that, at long last, the Board is sick of the Sultan of Sacramento. 

The Board also decided to give a bunch of bucks to plow snow so the Downieville Bicycle race could be held.  I missed how much; there was talk of ten grand from here and five grand from there; I think about $15,000 bucks were contributed to hold a bike race that most people in the county consider a pain in the butt, but which West side merchants might profit from.  How much profit; would it be cheaper to simply give the merchants a few grand each and keep the road clear of spandex bibshorts and freakazoid helmets?  Someone should look into it.


In a final note, the Board, in closed session, decided to dodge High Sierra Rural Alliance’s witless challenge to the Timber Production Zone Ordinance by vacating that ordinance and eventually addressing the matter in a more comprehensive ordinance down the road.  This makes sense given the fact that the county is about to suffer from the state budget, and besides, they have to defend against a 30 million dollar claim in federal court over alleged improprieties in Child Welfare Services.






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