August Meeting Summary

Our Zoom meeting on September 7th was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.  The presentation by Dr. Jeff Dozier of the University of California Santa Barbara was on snow in the Sierra Nevada: Historic Context and Trends.  There was also a brief discussion on the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) report for the Tamarack Fire.

Some sixty million people in the Western U.S. and nearly two billion people worldwide depend on mountain snow for their water resources.  Of the likely effects of a changing climate on California and Western Nevada, consequences in the Sierra Nevada are the most important.  The presentation focused on empirical evidence (ie not theoretical) about interannual variability and trends.  Currently some 67% of our precipitation and water come from snow, which is the most important seasonal reservoir that we have.  Below is a graph from Dozier’s presentation showing the trend in the maximum amount of snow averaged over 25 snow pillows in the Sierra Nevada.  Even if the total amount of precipitation does not change, the lower amounts that fall as snow mean a diminished reservoir, and consequent shorter season for surface water flows.

Tamarack Fire:  The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (HT) met with the Markleeville Water Company on September 8th to discuss restoration for the Musser and Jarvis watershed which supplies Markleeville with 70% of its water. The HT intends to do restoration in the Musser and Jarvis watershed including re-forestation, seeding and dropping trees to support the seeding and tree planting.  HT’s implementation is 1-2 years out and will require analysis and conformance with NEPA.  The HT will also be working with the National Forest Foundation, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and internal funding to pay for this work.  The HT will also expedite any necessary permitting for any restoration work that the Markleeville Water Company wishes to do in the short term.

The BLM is still assessing the damage by the fire and developing an Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Plan.  Potential future actions include salvage logging, reforestation of areas that are ecologically sensitive or that would enhance recreation, visual and other values.

Participant Updates:  Anna Belle Monti offered to share her expertise regarding hazard trees and reforestation.  Private land owners can contact her with questions.  Mo Loden has accepted a position as an Environmental Scientist for the Lahontan Regionals Water Quality Control Board.  AWG is hosting two events before her departure.  Markleeville Creek Day is September 18th at 9:00.  Volunteers will meet at the library.  AWG’s stakeholder meeting is September 21st.  Brian Hansen reported the Tamarack Fire is still active in spots.  The HT will be closed until the fire is put out.  Matt Driscoll reported the State budget for SNC could be $50 million for wildfire resilience grants and $10-$11 million for climate resilience grants.  SNC will know details by September 10th and the information will be posted online.  Trevor Seck reported the NFF has received funding from the California Division of Fish and Wildlife for 850 acres for fuels treatment and aspen restoration on the Carson Ranger District.  Implementation is planned for October.  David Griffith reported that he got the GIS files from the BAER report from USFS. The Tamarack Fire took care of the Tier 1 projects identified in the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan, but the Tier 2 and 3 projects still need to be done.  Hopefully In the next month there will be meetings with CALFIRE regarding the next priority for fuels reduction.  Alpine County hopes to open the Turtle Rock Park Community Center October 1st.

Future Meetings:  The October meeting will be a joint public meeting sponsored by the Alpine Watershed Group, Alpine Trails Assoc., Friends of Hope Valley and the Alpine Biomass Collaborative.  The subject of the meeting will be restoration of public and private lands after the Tamarack Fire, and will feature presentations by the different agencies and an opportunity to ask questions and communicate our expectations of what restoration needs to be done.  There was little to no restoration done after the Washington fire and that must not happen this time.  Assuming that the County is able to reopen the Turtle Rock Park Community Center the meeting will be there at 6:00 pm on Oct. 5th.  Masks or face shields will be required and we will need to maintain social distancing.  If for some reason the Community Center is still not open it will be on Zoom.

At either the November or December meetings we will have Michelle Cappoletta, Ecologist, Forest Service presenting on post-fire management of vegetation and fuels.

Our Zoom meeting on September 7th was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.  The presentation by Dr. Jeff Dozier of the University of California Santa Barbara was on snow in the Sierra Nevada: Historic Context and Trends.  There was also a brief discussion on the Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) report for the Tamarack Fire.

Some sixty million people in the Western U.S. and nearly two billion people worldwide depend on mountain snow for their water resources.  Of the likely effects of a changing climate on California and Western Nevada, consequences in the Sierra Nevada are the most important.  The presentation focused on empirical evidence (ie not theoretical) about interannual variability and trends.  Currently some 67% of our precipitation and water come from snow, which is the most important seasonal reservoir that we have.  Below is a graph from Dozier’s presentation showing the trend in the maximum amount of snow averaged over 25 snow pillows in the Sierra Nevada.  Even if the total amount of precipitation does not change, the lower amounts that fall as snow mean a diminished reservoir, and consequent shorter season for surface water flows.

Dozier_ABC_2021-09-07

Tamarack Fire:  The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (HT) met with the Markleeville Water Company on September 8th to discuss restoration for the Musser and Jarvis watershed which supplies Markleeville with 70% of its water. The HT intends to do restoration in the Musser and Jarvis watershed including re-forestation, seeding and dropping trees to support the seeding and tree planting.  HT’s implementation is 1-2 years out and will require analysis and conformance with NEPA.  The HT will also be working with the National Forest Foundation, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and internal funding to pay for this work.  The HT will also expedite any necessary permitting for any restoration work that the Markleeville Water Company wishes to do in the short term.

The BLM is still assessing the damage by the fire and developing an Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Plan.  Potential future actions include salvage logging, reforestation of areas that are ecologically sensitive or that would enhance recreation, visual and other values.

Participant Updates:  Anna Belle Monti offered to share her expertise regarding hazard trees and reforestation.  Private land owners can contact her with questions.  Mo Loden has accepted a position as an Environmental Scientist for the Lahontan Regionals Water Quality Control Board.  AWG is hosting two events before her departure.  Markleeville Creek Day is September 18th at 9:00.  Volunteers will meet at the library.  AWG’s stakeholder meeting is September 21st.  Brian Hansen reported the Tamarack Fire is still active in spots.  The HT will be closed until the fire is put out.  Matt Driscoll reported the State budget for SNC could be $50 million for wildfire resilience grants and $10-$11 million for climate resilience grants.  SNC will know details by September 10th and the information will be posted online.  Trevor Seck reported the NFF has received funding from the California Division of Fish and Wildlife for 850 acres for fuels treatment and aspen restoration on the Carson Ranger District.  Implementation is planned for October.  David Griffith reported that he got the GIS files from the BAER report from USFS. The Tamarack Fire took care of the Tier 1 projects identified in the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan, but the Tier 2 and 3 projects still need to be done.  Hopefully In the next month there will be meetings with CALFIRE regarding the next priority for fuels reduction.  Alpine County hopes to open the Turtle Rock Park Community Center October 1st.

Future Meetings:  The October meeting will be a joint public meeting sponsored by the Alpine Watershed Group, Alpine Trails Assoc., Friends of Hope Valley and the Alpine Biomass Collaborative.  The subject of the meeting will be restoration of public and private lands after the Tamarack Fire, and will feature presentations by the different agencies and an opportunity to ask questions and communicate our expectations of what restoration needs to be done.  There was little to no restoration done after the Washington fire and that must not happen this time.  Assuming that the County is able to reopen the Turtle Rock Park Community Center the meeting will be there at 6:00 pm on Oct. 5th.  Masks or face shields will be required and we will need to maintain social distancing.  If for some reason the Community Center is still not open it will be on Zoom.

At either the November or December meetings we will have Michelle Cappoletta, Ecologist, Forest Service presenting on post-fire management of vegetation and fuels.

 

Snow and Its Importance to our Water Supply Under a Changing Climate

Our September meeting will almost certainly be over Zoom as the County has not yet reopened the Turtle Rock Park Community Center after the Tamarack Fire.  If at the last minute we can use the Community Center there will be an update with that information.  The presentation will be by Dr. Jeff Dozier of the University of California, Santa Barbara on mountain snow and the likely effects of climate change on this important source of water for us.  Whether your water supply is from ground or surface water (Markleeville Water Company), the amount of snow, its timing, and when and how it melts all affect the security of your water supply.

Abstract:  Sixty million people in the Western U.S. and nearly two billion people worldwide depend on mountain snow for their water resources.  Of the likely effects of climate change on California and Western Nevada, consequences in the iconic Range of Light (the Sierra Nevada) are the most important. The presentation focus on empirical evidence about interannual variability and trends.

Biography:  Jeff Dozier is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he taught for 44 years before retiring in 2018. He founded its Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and served as the first dean for six years before promoting himself back to the faculty.  His research focuses on snow, hydrology, and remote sensing.  He has published over 300 scientific papers and books and is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  He serves on the Board of Directors of Friends of the Inyo, dedicated to protecting public lands in the Eastern Sierra.

BAER Report:  The public version of the Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) report for the Tamarack Fire is available here.  There will be time for a short discussion of the report and what needs to be done to restore our community.

Future Meetings:  Although no date has been fixed, Michelle Coppoletta, an Ecologist with the Forest Service will be making a presentation on her recent paper with Dr. Brandon Collins on post-fire management of vegetation and fuels.  Depending on feedback the ABC may want to host a public meeting on what needs to be done and how best to restore our community and the damage done by the Tamarack Fire.

The September meeting it will be Tuesday September 7th at 6:00 pm via Zoom video conference unless the County opens the Turtle Rock Park Community Center.  The Zoom link will be active beginning about 5:45 pm to give people time to chat and resolve any technical problems.  The connection information is below.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86385568257?pwd=aDlCb0JpQ3IwemU1Q0RSaTJhT3pZdz09

Meeting ID: 863 8556 8257; Passcode: ABC; Phone: 408-638-0968 or 669-900-6833

July Meeting Summary

Our Zoom meeting on July 6th was attended by twelve members of the public and agencies.  The presentation was a video on The Value of Environmental Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change.  It was part of the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership’s (ESSRP) project to develop sustainable recreation in the eastern Sierra.  The presentation was originally made to the Economic Development Committee of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, one of the ESSRP’s partners.  Other partners include Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties, the City of Bishop, the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests, the BLM, and National Park Service.

The Eastern Sierra region is largely dependent on natural ecosystems and essential resources to sustain the recreation and tourism economy.  Natural hazards associated with climate change may also adversely affect or degrade the unique landscape in the Eastern Sierra that provides for the recreation-based economy that local communities currently depend on.  An understanding of the economic value supplied by the ecosystem services in the eastern sierra and how climate change may threaten the people, assets, and economic benefits of ecosystem services in the region is important as we move forward.  The economic value of ecosystem services in the eastern sierra is an astounding $95 billion per year, of which over $1 billion per year are from recreation and tourism.  More detail is available in the report Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative; A Changing Climate | Vulnerability in California’s Eastern Sierra which is available here.  The following graphic illustrates the value of the different ecosystem services.

AChangingClimateEcoServices

Resource Advisory Committee (RAC):  The Forest Service has received 17 applications for the RAC.  After a review at the local level their recommendations will be passed up the line for a final decision on the RAC membership from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in Washington.  Hopefully this process will be completed in a few months and the RAC will be able to meet.

Participant Updates:  Shane Romsos: STPUD is working on a water reuse strategy.  Coreen Francis: The BLM is looking at WUI areas in California.  A six member team has been assembled and will be deployed to post-fire areas to make roads safe from hazard trees.  Tim Roide (BLM): Indian Creek campground construction (upgrades) ongoing through likely August.  Continue to run into challenges.  Finished the majority of the hazard tree removal at the Indian Creek Campground.  The Washoe Tribe to pull the last of the firewood out this fall.  Contract awarded for 286 acres of brush and tree thinning for fuels management and forest health on the Poor Boy Ridge, south of Turtle Rock Park, between Curtz and Summit Lakes and in and around the Indian Creek Campground.  Expect to start work this October, finish by Christmas.  Matt Driscoll: The California State budget has been passed but the amount for wildfire prevention funding is unknown.  JT Chevallier: Is looking forward to being a part of the ABC and meeting people in person.  January Riddle: Welcomed JT Chevallier.  The Death Ride is July 17th, some 2,500 riders are registered.  Drive carefully and appreciate the revenue the ride brings to the County.  Anna Belle Monti: The HT was awarded its SNC grant and its CDFW grant for work on 1,200 acres in West Carson and Monitor Pass.  In addition, there are three contracts for summer and fall for West Carson, Monitor Pass and Markleevillage.  Special thanks to Matt Millar and Trevor.  Mo Loden: There is a stakeholder’s meeting on July 13th.  The community is encouraged to attend a meeting at 1:30 pm with the Alpine County Fish & Game Commission.  Afterwards there will be a meeting at Heritage Park to see the progress Caltrans is making on the bridge replacement.  Markleevillle Creek Day is Saturday, September 18th.  AWG needs volunteers at the Death Ride both Friday and Saturday; contact Mo Loden.  Matt Millar: Thanked Anna Belle for working through grants agreements.  There will be funding for local work on fuels reduction (CHIPS) and for the AWG to help monitor aspen restoration.  David Griffith: County is open for business effective Monday July 12th.  On the scoping study the Sierra Institute has retained an engineer to take a 2nd look.  Northstar is looking at a similar system that is estimated to cost half as much.  The scoping study was in part paid for by a $20,000 zero interest forgivable loan from CA Vision to CHIPS.  CHIPS wants to get it off their books and ABC has offered to assume it with the understanding that we are not a good credit risk.  The Alpine Fire Safe Council has an ambitious Fuels Reduction Grant application with CalFire that will do much of the recommended fuels reduction in the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan Tier 1 areas.  It will include some logging with the logs to be hauled to the SPI mill at Sonora.  The County will apply for a CA FSC funded coordinator position.  California Air Resources Board (CARB) has released its SmokeSpotter app which is available through the iPhone or Android app stores.  It has some smoke forecasting abilities and will be upgraded over time.

Future Meetings:  There will be no August meeting.  The September meeting will feature Dr. Jeff Dozier of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Earth Research Institute on snow and what we can expect going forward with respect to snow.   Barring another covid surge this will be an in-person meeting.   Any suggestions for possible speakers that fit within our mission statement are welcome.

The September meeting will be at 6:00 pm on Tuesday September 7th at Turtle Rock Park.

The Value of Ecosystem Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change

Our July meeting over Zoom will feature a video presentation on the Value of Ecosystem Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change.  This is a product of the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP) and specifically addresses the impacts to the region of Alpine, Mono, and Inyo counties.  The forests and watersheds of the region supply some $95 billion/year in ecosystem services and the region earns over $1 billion/year from tourism.

AChangingClimateEcoServices

Abstract:  The Eastern Sierra region is largely dependent on natural ecosystems and essential resources to sustain the recreation and tourism economy.  Climate change poses a threat by potentially increasing the frequency and intensity of natural hazards, which in turn may threaten or destroy critical ecosystem services needed for local communities and visitors.  Natural hazards associated with climate change may also adversely affect or degrade the unique landscape in the Eastern Sierra that provides for the recreation-based economy that local communities depend on.  To proactively manage for these potential risks posed by climate change, the report, Vulnerability in California’s Eastern Sierra, summarizes the results of the Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative’s (SRTI’s) “Climate Adaptation and Resilience Assessment,” which includes an Adaptation & Resilience Assessment and a Natural Capital Assessment.  Based on these efforts, the report provides Recommended Actions for the Eastern Sierra’s adaptation to climate change.  The purpose of this report is to provide an understanding of the economic value supplied by the ecosystem services in the SRTI Study Area, analyze how climate change may threaten the people, assets, and economic benefits of ecosystem services in the region, and specifically focus on how the effects of climate change may directly or indirectly affect outdoor recreation, tourism, and economic stability (Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative; A Changing Climate | Vulnerability in California’s Eastern Sierra, p. ES 2).  The full report is available here.

Biography:  More information on the ESSRP is available at www.essrp.org.

Scoping Study:  The Sierra Institute for Community and Environment has retained David Featherman, P.E. of Wildephor Consulting Services to review some of the assumptions used for the Kirkwood District Heating project with the object of improving the economics.

Future Meetings:  At the moment there is no presentation scheduled for the August meeting so it may be cancelled unless someone comes up with a possible presentation of interest.  In September Dr. Jeff Dozier of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Earth Research Institute will make a presentation on snow and what we can expect going forward with respect to snow.  Without snow in Alpine County there wouldn’t be the forests and watersheds that we rely on.   The September meeting will be in person at Turtle Rock Park assuming that covid-19 remains under control.  Suggestions for possible speakers are always welcome.

The July meeting it will be Tuesday July 6th at 6:00 pm via Zoom video conference.  The Zoom link will be active beginning about 5:45 pm to give people time to chat and resolve any technical problems.  The connection information is below.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84244004600?pwd=Tzl0Q2c4ekdHMVRDOTF3YXZ6NGdMQT09

Meeting ID: 842 4400 4600,  Passcode: 095318

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June Meeting Summary and Fuels Reduction Field Tour

First of all an apology to all those whose surname is in the last half of the alphabet as I clicked on the wrong e-mail list and instead of you all getting the meeting announcement a totally different group got an e-mail that would have looked strange to them.  Sorry.  The video recording of the meeting will be available here for the rest of the month for those that are interested.  It is 290 MB in size.  If anyone would just want to review the slide presentation let me know and I will send it to them.

Our Zoom meeting on June 1st was attended by only eight members of the public and agencies due to the lack of distribution of the meeting notice as described above.  Dr. Marc Meyer of the U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Ecology Program made a presentation on the new Framework for Post-fire Restoration in California’s National Forests.  The presentation was a summary of the recently published report PSW-GTR-270 which can be found here.  There was also a major discussion on how best to get property owners comfortable with fuels reduction and willing to sign letters of commitment

Guiding principles for forest recreation include restoration of key ecological processes, consideration of landscape context, promotion of regional native biodiversity, sustainability of diverse ecosystem services, establishment of a prioritization approach for management interventions, and incorporation of adaptation to agents of change.  Implementation means thinking more broadly and strategically especially in terms of landscape-scale goals, and identifying different areas that would benefit most from maintenance or restoration and defining the desired conditions.  New tools, especially spatial data tools, should be used.

The Need for More Competitive Grant Applications:  The County was not successful with its grant application to the Sierra Nevada Conservancy for a fuels reduction program in the Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan (WRMP) Tier 1 projects.  Essentially the project was not competitive due to lack of demonstrated property owner support and willingness to sign a letter of commitment to the project.  This has been a problem for some time and there was a major discussion on how best to give property owners the information they need to feel comfortable with a project.  Don Hittenmiller suggested the most effective way to do this would be to show property owners examples of pre- and post-fuels reduction.  Further discussions subsequent to the meeting have resulted in plans to host property owners within the WRMP Tier 1 area on a field tour on a weekend in late June or early July.  The Forest Service will provide the technical experts, the County will cover invitation printing/mailing and food/refreshment costs, and the ABC will contribute organization.

Resource Advisory Committee (RAC):  The Forest Service is working with the Board of Supervisors to recruit members for the RAC.  It will be advising the Forest Service on what projects to fund in Alpine County for the benefit of Forest Service land.  The initial amount available is ~$120,000.  The time commitment is for two to four meetings per year.  The primary qualification is to be a California resident, which means for example that someone that may work in Alpine County but live in South Lake Tahoe would be eligible.  The aim is to have members of the RAC that represent a broad range of interests in Alpine County.  Historically projects funded through this program have included those proposed by volunteer groups working to improve the environment in Alpine County, so it is in your interest to participate.

For application forms or questions contact Carson District Ranger Matt Zumstein, matthew.zumstein@usda.gov, 775-884-8100, or myself, dGriffith.9@gmail.com.  The deadline for accepting applications is July 2nd, so please don’t let this sit on the back burner.

Pyregence’s Forecasting Tool Demonstration:  There is a demonstration of this new tool for forecasting wildfire behavior on June 18th.  To register or learn more go here.  Some of the researchers that have made presentations to the ABC over the years are part of the team that developed this tool.  Thanks to Shane Romsos for the information.

Participant Updates:  Matt Driscoll reiterated that the major reason the Alpine County application was not funded was not having enough landowner support.  The SNC is waiting for the June budget to be passed; they don’t anticipate major contention over wildlife funding.  Anna Bell Monti reported that the National Forest Foundation (NFF) was awarded a grant through the SNC for treatments on approximately 800 acres on the West Carson and Monitor Pass projects.  Steve Brink reported the North Fork Bioenergy Plant is erected but not running yet.  The interconnection fee with PG&E has not been resolved.  The project cost $15 million for the two megawatt plant.  David Griffith reported USFS is working with the BOS to recruit 15 members for the Alpine County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC).  The purpose of RAC is to make recommendations to the Forest Service on which projects it should pursue in Alpine County.  There is $120,000 available.  The committee will meet two to four times per year.  David Griffith urged ABC members to volunteer for RAC or recruit others.  The deadline is July 2, 2021.  David Griffith reported that, unfortunately, Zach Wood is leaving the County to work for a consultant.  It will take time for new employees to acquire Zach’s skill set.  He also reported there is some progress on the scoping study which identified two projects with excess biomass.  Though the SNC Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan grant was not funded due to lack of letters of authorization from landowners, the CalFire grant that the County applied for on behalf of USFS for 600 acres of fuels reduction west of Grover Hot Springs, looks promising.  A generous donation from an anonymous donor allowed the ABC to hire Brian Peters to write the grant; we should know in July if it gets funded.

Future Meetings:  July:  Depending on when the field tour for property owners discussed above is scheduled there may not be a July meeting.  If there is it will be a presentation on the Value of Environmental Services and the Risk to Alpine County’s Economy from Climate Change.   Any suggestions for possible speakers are welcome.

The July meeting is pending, but if there is one it will be via video conference at 6:00 pm on Tuesday July 6th.