July, August Meetings Cancelled

Unfortunately due to covid-19 it is again necessary to cancel our meeting, this time in July, and although there is a speaker willing and able to attend a meeting in August it is unlikely that the state and county will approve such gatherings until at least September.  Therefore although we could maintain social distancing at Turtle Rock Park we have decided to also cancel the August meeting.  Many people are still nervous and others would not be allowed to attend: either by their agency or their spouse.  The ABC doesn’t have a budget that would accommodate video conferencing, and even if the ABC could do that the most productive part of the meetings is the informal back and forth between participants which is next to impossible on a video conference.

Despite the current hiatus in the ABC’s activity the ABC 501(c)(3) did receive a generous donation which was gratefully received.  The ABC 501(c)(3) has begun following up on the scoping study and is reaching out for possible developers to take on the project.

This is frustrating for all of us so thank you all for your patience.

If there is a September meeting it will be Tuesday September 1st at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Stay safe!

June Meeting Cancelled

Unfortunately due to covid-19 it is again necessary to cancel our meeting, this time in June.  Although we could maintain social distancing at Turtle Rock Park many people are still nervous and others would not be allowed to attend: either by their agency or their spouse.  Provided we can convince a speaker to come, and meet Dr. Johnson’s (Alpine County’s Public Health Officer) requirements, I am hopeful that we can hold a meeting in July.  However it will depend on how covid-19 behaves in Alpine and surrounding counties and the Governor’s evolving Executive Orders.

The County’s Wildfire Risk Mitigation Plan has settled on three priority projects: Hot Springs Road Corridor and Markleevillage, above Upper Manzanita Lane and the Sierra Pines Trailer Park, and the west side of Bear Valley.  Details are available here.  The required environmental review for these three projects is beginning and the object is to have the three shovel ready projects by March, 2021.  There are several other areas that did not rise to the top of the priority list but the work done to date on them will help justify grant applications for these areas in the future.

If there is a July meeting it will be Tuesday July 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Stay safe!

Projects Update

As previously announced the April meeting is cancelled due to covid-19.  As soon as it is safe to resume our meetings we will do so.

The final report for the scoping study has been released and can be downloaded from the ABC downloads page.  There are two possible productive uses for the excess biomass in our forests that will help improve forest health, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and help improve the local economy.  The two productive uses are a district heating system at Kirkwood and a biomass-to-bioenergy facility to generate electricity in the Woodfords area.  High Sierra Community Energy, the project consultant, is following up with the respective entities that may be interested.  ABC will also be following up with possible developers, but with the current situation due to Covid-19 not much will happen in the short term.  Like all similar projects the project economics depend on monetizing some of the benefits such as the reduced cost of wildfire suppression, less adverse air quality impacts due to wildfire, reduced climate change due to improved carbon sequestration in a healthier forest, and improved water quality and quantity.  Its success will also depend to a large extent on the Forest Service being willing to allow for a stable supply of biomass.

The scoping study was financed by an $80,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration and a $20,000 zero percent non-recourse loan from Community Vision.  Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) was instrumental in helping the ABC getting the funding and acted as the fiscal agent.

Unfortunately the ABC’s application for a Fire Prevention Grant from CALFIRE for the Hot Springs Road Corridor Project was not successful.  Feedback from CALFIRE indicated that the application scored in the “middle of the pack”, with no major flaws.  It was difficult to compete with other projects that protected more people and structures at a lower cost/person or cost/structure.

If there is a May meeting it will be Tuesday May 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Stay safe!

April Meeting Cancelled

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak the ABC April meeting is cancelled.  Even though Turtle Rock Park is big enough to maintain the required separation between attendees, travel restrictions for agencies and the age of some of our participants is such that it is best to cancel the meeting.  Once things settle down we will regroup, and I hope to be able to have the May meeting but that will depend on how things go.

March Meeting Summary

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Photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on March 3rd, 2020 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 24 members of the public and agencies.  High Sierra Community Economic Development Corporation (HSCEDC) presented the results to date of the scoping study on how best to utilize the excess biomass in our forest and improve local economic development.

The presentation was made by Meagan Hartman and Andrew Haden of HSCEDC.  There are approximately 41,000 bone dry tons (BDT)/year of excess biomass practically available on a sustainable basis.  HSCEDC considered 27 possible uses of the biomass and the uses that rose to the top were biomass-to-bioenergy, either to generate district heating or electricity.  Pro-forma financial analyses were performed for district heating at Kirkwood and a gasification facility to generate electricity along with solar panels and battery backup in the Woodfords area.  In addition to consuming a significant amount of excess biomass, this second option would also serve as a micro-grid which could supply electricity to eastern Alpine County in the event of a power failure.  As soon as the final report is received it will be posted on ABC’s download page.

The ABC approved submitting a letter of support for the Intertribal Stewardship Workforce Initiative (ISWI) efforts to require FEMA to engage tribal and local crews in forest restoration after the Camp Fire.  Almost all the funding has gone to a select group of corporations closely aligned with FEMA.

Organization Update:  A MOA signing ceremony is planned for the April meeting.  Agencies and organizations will have one representative, but individuals who belong to a particular agency or organization may also sign as individuals.  Please check with your organization or agency to determine who will be signing, or whether you need to sign as an individual.

Hot Springs Road Corridor Update:  It is expected that CALFIRE will be announcing the awards this month.

Participant Updates:  (Updates that were not related to the ABC mission statement are not included).  David Griffith reported ABC’s financial statements are complete and tax returns will be filed in the next few weeks.  CALFIRE’s programmatic EIR for fuels reduction should help fuels reduction projects move through the environmental process more quickly.  CALFIRE or CARB will have a smoke app for phones available in June.  Coreen Francis reported that the Aspen Training has been tentatively scheduled for June 8th-9th.  BLM has grant opportunities; Good Neighbor Agreements are a focus.  The link will be posted on ABC’s website.  Applications are due April 28th.  Steve Wilensky reported CHIPS has certified 20 Washoe Tribal workers for hazard tree removal.  Washoe crew members visited the Camp Fire and trained 50 people.  CHIPS has signed a power purchase agreement with PG&E.  CHIPS has been awarded $3 million for work on Highway 4 and $2.5 million for work on private lands in Calaveras and Amador Counties.  Thurman Roberts reported CHIPS is hosting a job fair on March 7th from 9:00 am- 5:00 pm at the Hung-A-Lel-Ti Tribal Gym.  30 more workers are needed.  Training will include chainsaw safety.  Greg Bennett reported training CHIPS crew members has been a fulfilling experience.  Irvin Jim (CHIPS) reported the unemployment rate at the Hung-A-Lel-Ti has dropped from 78% to 49% as a result of CHIPS.  Matt Driscoll reported SNC’s Watershed Improvement Program will be held on March 4th in Sacramento from 12:30 pm – 4:00 pm and SNC’s Board meeting is on March 5th in Sacramento.  Mo Loden reported the AWG will host a meeting to share its water quality monitoring data on March 10th at the Hung-A-Lel-Ti Education Center from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Volunteers for water monitoring are needed and there will be a refresher training at the March 10th meeting.  Mark Schwartz recommended www.purpleair.com and www.weatherunderground.com for local air quality information in real time.  David Griffith cautioned that the Purple Air units are not certified and recommended simply looking out the window to determine whether it was necessary to take precautions due to smoke.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday April 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  The meeting will feature the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Agreement and presentations on prescribed and managed fire.  Presenters are Rich Adams, CA State Parks, Matt Zumstein, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and Phil Kiddoo/Ann Logan, Great Basin Air Pollution Control District on the District’s Smoke Management Plan.

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