Steve Frisch to present at October meeting.

At the October meeting Steve Frisch, President of the Sierra Business Council, will be making a presentation on the 20 MW Loyalton Biomass Cogen Facility in Sierra County.  This is a far larger facility than would ever be viable here, but illustrates how excess biomass from the forest can be put to productive use.

The Loyalton Biomass Cogen Facility officially flipped the switch to start generating power in April, 2018.  It can generate up to 20 megawatts of power and includes a 13 acre business park and over 100 acres of additional land zoned for industrial development.  The vision for the facility, newly named “Resource :: Regen”, is to build a hub for world-class innovation, research, and product development in energy-intensive industries and manufacturing.  The Sierra Business Council is working with Resource :: Regen to create a master plan for an innovative business model committed to efficient resource utilization of woody biomass for systemic regeneration of forests, communities and the economy.  They are committed to building a circular economic model and hub for world-class innovation that simultaneously enhances forest and community health by transforming wood waste and overgrowth into innovative wood-based products and opportunities

Steve Frisch is President of the Sierra Business Council and was one of its founding members in 1994.  He has been on staff since 2000, President since 2008, and has lived and worked in Truckee for 30 years.  For the last 18 years his work has focused on community planning and development policy including supporting roles in developing Sierra Business Council publications defining rural planning and economic development.  He has worked on open space and conservation including overseeing project management and community engagement for the Placer Legacy Open Space and Agricultural Conservation Plan, the Placer County Conservation Plan, and a combined Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Communities Conservation Plan.  He has also worked on climate policy and planning including very active involvement in development of legislative and agency policy addressing climate change impacts, and advancing economic development policy including the creation of the Sierra Small Business Development Center and developing community capital funds for local investment.  Mr. Frisch has been involved in preparing more than ten General Plans, community plans, specific plans, and climate plans.

There will also be a short presentation by Dr. Patrick Traynor, Alpine County Superintendent of Schools, on Measure B, which is on the November ballot.

The October meeting is scheduled for Tuesday October 2nd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

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September Meeting Summary

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Dr. Wesley Kitlasten, photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on September 4th, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 21 members of the public and agencies.

Dr. Westley Kitlasten of the US Geologic Survey gave a presentation on the Water for Seasons Project and the Sierra Wide Meadow Vulnerability Assessment.  Warming temperatures will mean an earlier runoff which may impact which crops can be successfully irrigated in the Carson Valley.  Meadow restoration does not make a significant difference in the amount of water available for agriculture, but can moderately improve base flows which help fish and other wildlife.

There is no news yet from the EDA on our grant application.  ABC’s 501(c)(3) application has been approved by the IRS, and the ABC can now provide tax receipts for donations made since February 28, 2018.  The Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) agreement which is a Master Agreement between the State of California and Region 4 of the U.S. Forest Service (Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest), was signed September 4th, 2018.  The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is working on a parallel GNA agreement.  These GNA agreements will allow state agencies to fund or conduct operations on Forest Service lands to improve forest health.  This opportunity will not last forever, and Alpine County will need to aggressively pursue grants and projects if it is to benefit.  Hopefully these agreements will allow for the Forest Service to get the resources it needs to move ahead more rapidly with their West Carson Project.  The ABC acknowledges John Brissenden as instrumental in getting the GNA agreement signed.

An informal working group is putting together a presentation for the Board of Supervisors to give the Board and County staff a better understanding of what the ABC is and does, and perhaps more importantly, what it isn’t and doesn’t do.  It is anticipated that the presentation will be made to the Board at its October 16th meeting.

Participant updates included the following.  Mo Loden reported that the 19th Annual Alpine Watershed Creek Day and social was Saturday, September 8th.  Kimra McAfee reported that the next AWG meeting is Tuesday, September 11th, at 5:30 pm, at the Hung A Lel Ti Indian Education Center.  The meeting is an opportunity to say goodbye to Americorps volunteers Julia Keane and Marina Vance.  There will also be discussion on restarting the Markleeville Creek Restoration Project at Heritage Park.  Ron Hames requested a letter from ABC to support the County in repealing the Lands Pass Access for Hope Valley.  The ABC agreed to a letter of support.  For future reference letters of support should be included in the agenda two weeks prior to the next meeting.  Irvin Jim reported that the Tribal Council is opposing a trail system at Northstar in Martis Valley because it impacts some of the oldest tribal lands.  CHIPS has achieved national recognition from the US Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture.  CHIPS is ahead of schedule on projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.  The CHIPS crew completed Basic 32 Fire Training in May and will complete the required field work on November 6, 2018.  Steve Wilensky displayed the new CHIPS/Washoe Crew shirts which replace vests and are cooler in hot weather.  Steve Wilensky reported that the CHIPS/Washoe Crew attendance this year is 94%, up from 74% and that the crew’s capacity continues to grow.  David Griffith reported that the County passed the Adjacent Lot Ordinance.  Julia Keane thanked the ABC and the Alpine community for sharing its resources and expertise.  Mary Rawson reported there was an unveiling of the Markleeville historic welcome signs several weeks ago.  The Markleeville Christmas Fair will be held on December 1st , 10-3.  Paul Foselier reported fuels reduction is planned on all BLM lands in Alpine County.  The required NEPA review is scheduled in 2019 with implementation in 2020.  Prescribed fire will be used as follow up.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday October 2nd at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Steve Frisch and Chris Mertens of the Sierra Business Council will be making a presentation on the Loyalton biomass-to-bioenergy facility in Sierra County.  November will feature a presentation by CHIPS and the Washoe Crew on their accomplishments.  In December Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be making a presentation.  The National Wild Turkey Federation does a lot of forest and habitat restoration on Forest Service lands nationally.  It is not planned to have a January meeting.  Tentatively February will feature a science presentation by Atlantic Richfield on the Leviathan Superfund site.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.

Dr. Wesley Kitlasten to present at September meeting.

At the September meeting Dr. Wesley Kitlasten of the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) will be presenting the USGS’s Water for the Seasons Project and also the Sierra Wide Meadow Vulnerability Assessment.  This presentation should be of particular importance to those interested in the future water supply in Alpine County and the effectiveness of meadow restoration.

Water for the Seasons (WftS) is a four year study funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  WftS uses the Truckee-Carson River System (TCRS) as a pilot study to learn how to best link science with decision-making in snow-fed arid-land river systems.  By working collaboratively with stakeholders, WftS aims to create a model for improving community climate resiliency, or ability to adapt to extreme climatic conditions.  Go here for more details on this project.

The Sierra Wide Meadow Vulnerability Assessment involves looking at ~8,100 meadows from 1985 to present to analyze meadow vegetation responses (i.e., their sensitivity) to contemporary variation in climate.  A decision framework will be developed that provides guidance on where to focus restoration and conservation actions based on meadow vulnerability assessment results. This framework can then be incorporated into existing meadow prioritizations to allow practitioners to more rigorously consider climate impacts and adaptation options.  More details are available here.

Dr. Kitlasten has a B.S. and M.S. in Geology from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis.  He worked for the Riverside Fire Lab (US Forest Service) as a hydrologist where he studied post-fire soil erosion, vegetation recovery, and evaluated cumulative watershed impacts.  His Ph.D. research addressed the importance of groundwater for sustaining peatlands in montane watersheds.  Dr. Kitlasten currently holds a post-doctoral position at the USGS Nevada Water Science Center in Carson City, Nevada, where his research evaluates the potential impacts of climate variability on water availability and use in the Carson Valley as part of the Water for the Seasons project.

The Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) has received recognition from the Internal Revenue Service of its status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.  This means donations to the ABC are charitable contributions under the tax code.

The September meeting is scheduled for Tuesday September 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

August Meeting Summary

Our meeting on August 7th, 2017 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 14 members of the public and agencies.

Alexandra (Ali) Urza, a plant ecologist and PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, gave a presentation on the expansion and increasing dominance of highly flammable invasive cheatgrass in the Great Basin.  At certain elevations and environments cheatgrass outcompetes native species after wildfires, including prescribed burns.  While there are a number of treatments that can control it at a small scale there are currently no economically viable treatments at the landscape scale, and this is what is needed.  Research is ongoing to find the best way to deal with it.

An update was given on the $80,000 grant application that the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) has with the Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The EDA met with some of the Directors as part of the their due diligence on ABC.  CHIPS’s President Steve Wilensky was also present as CHIPS is the fiscal agent and partner in the application.  After the meeting with the ABC Directors the EDA representative met with the County’s Community Development Director and discussed other opportunities that the EDA could help the County with.

The discussion was continued on how best to improve the community’s and County Board of Supervisors’ understanding about what the Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) is and what its goals are.  Comments made at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on August 7th, 2018, by a member of the public at the Aug. 7th Board of Supervisors’ meeting were discussed as an example of what the ABC needs to overcome [sentence changed to match the revised ABC minutes 15-sep-2018].  A presentation on the ABC’s activities and accomplishments will be prepared for the Board of Supervisors, probably for one of their September meetings.  The Sierra Institute has offered to help, as this is a problem that other collaboratives have encountered before.

Participant updates included the following.  January Riddle reported that construction on her new house was proceeding well.  Coreen Francis announced that the permanent District Manager for the Carson City District is Colleen Dulin.  The BLM in California has begun a programmatic Environmental Assessment for tree removal, vegetation management within 200 ft. of all roads, powerlines, trails, private property etc. that crosses or border the lands they manage.  A decision is expected this fall or winter.  The BLM is significantly reducing the size of its environmental review documents and time frames for the environmental review process.  Mo Loden reported that the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) is hosting its annual Markleeville Creek Day on Sept. 8th, after which “tree cookies” will be provided to participants by Ron Hames.   Julia Keane mentioned that deadline for registration is Aug. 31st.  Marina Vance reported that the next meeting of the AWG is Sept. 11th at 5:30 pm.  Ron Hames reported that an individual objected that the fees he paid for his off-road vehicle did not grant him access under California Fish and Wildlife’s Land Pass program, and that Alpine County is petitioning that the program be cancelled in Hope Valley.  He also announced that the Donnell Fire in southern Alpine Fire that is producing most of our current smoke is being allowed to burn and may not be out until winter.  David Griffith reported that the ABC was not successful with its grant application for an Alpine County small grant.  The Central Sierra Economic Development District of which Alpine County is a part received a $178,000 Rural Development Grant from the US Dept. of Agriculture to study the feasibility of excess biomass removal and local economic development.  The ABC has filed its application for 501(c)(3) status.  The Calaveras Fire Safe Council has been awarded $3.1 million in grants form CALFIRE for several fuels reduction projects.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday September 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  Dr. Wesley Kilasten of the US Geologic Survey will be presenting his research on meadow restoration and the effect of climate change.  In October Steve Frisch and Chris Mertens of the Sierra Business Council will be making a presentation on the Loyalton biomass-to-bioenergy facility in Sierra County.  November’s speaker is pending.  In December Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be making a presentation.  The National Wild Turkey Federation does a lot of forest and habitat restoration on Forest Service lands nationally.

To contact us you can either leave a comment on this blog, or for a private comment, visit our contact us page.

Alexandra (Ali) Urza to present at August meeting.

At the August meeting Alexandra (Ali) Urza, a plant ecologist and PhD candidate at the University of Nevada, Reno, will be addressing the expansion and increasing dominance of highly flammable invasive cheatgrass in the Great Basin.

Expansion and increasing dominance of the highly flammable invasive annual grass, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), is transforming native ecosystems in the Great Basin, resulting in increased fire risk and altering ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and soil water flux and storage.  Where pinyon-juniper woodlands and sagebrush shrublands overlap, prescribed fire and other tree-reduction measures are often used to maintain native shrub- and grass-dominated habitats and conserve sagebrush obligate animal species.  Post-fire management objectives typically prioritize the recovery of perennial herbaceous species that can increase resistance to invasion by fire-adapted exotics such as cheatgrass.  However, fires can also facilitate cheatgrass invasion, and a major management challenge is predicting which parts of the landscape are most susceptible to invasion (and how to manage landscapes that are susceptible).  She will share the lessons they have learned from a long-term study of understory vegetation responses to prescribed burning in pinyon-juniper woodlands.

Alexandra (Ali) Urza is a plant ecologist who studies the role of disturbance and climate in shaping ecosystems of the western US.  She has a B.A. in Policy Studies from Reed College, an M.S. in Ecology from Colorado State University, and is currently in the last stages of a completing a PhD at the University of Nevada-Reno.  Ali previously worked for the BLM as a Natural Resource Specialist and a wildland firefighter.  Her science addresses basic questions of the drivers of plant species distributions while supporting the sustainable management of natural resources.

The Alpine Biomass Collaborative (ABC) was not successful in its application for one of Alpine County’s Small Grant Program grants.  A working group is being formed to work to improve relations with the County.

The August meeting is scheduled for Tuesday August 7th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.