November Meeting Summary

20181106_181106_Reduced

photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on November 6th, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 30 members of the public and agencies.  This was the best attendance since our kickoff meeting.

Steve Wilensky and Irvin Jim presented the history of the Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS) and the Washoe Crew.  It is an inspiring story of perseverance in the face of cynicism and negativity yielding to recognized success.  CHIPS, which started some 14 years ago as a group of dedicated volunteers trying to rescue their community is now a significant enterprise employing over 40 people in forest and watershed restoration, fuels reduction, cultural site restoration and more.  With the exception of the ski resorts, CHIPS is now the largest private employer in Alpine County with some 20 members of the Hung-a-lel-ti community on the payroll.  This would not have happened without the full support of the Wahoe Tribe and its members.

CHIPS concentrates its hiring in disadvantaged communities where many residents may have been unemployed for an extended period of time.  While this presents its challenges, it is also extremely rewarding to see people take advantage of the opportunity to improve their lives and those of their families.  The work experience these individuals get will also help them should they decide to change jobs in the future.  Although it has grown tremendously, CHIPS is still a volunteer operation.  Directors and management at CHIPS are all volunteers.  Only the field crews are paid.

Less Talk, More Action.  It was agree that the ABC needs to move from learning about the science of forest and watershed health to doing something about it.  Our first project planning session will be at the January 8th meeting.  The BLM has kindly offered to build a GIS of past, present and planned projects in the County.  To date the Forest Service, BLM, CALFIRE, State Parks, Mule Deer Foundation, and the Alpine Watershed Group have indicated they plan to participate and hopefully one or two others will join in as well.

A decision from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) on our grant application is apparently still pending Congress’s approval of the Dept. of Commerce’s budget for FY 2019.  The EDA has requested some additional information which has been sent to them.

Participant updates included the following.  Kimra McAfee, AWG, announced that David Griffith and Peggy Ristorcelli will present a short geological history of Alpine County, November 13th, 5:30-7:00, at the Woodfords Indian Education Center.  Irene Davidson reported the Christmas tree permit sales have begun and the permits will be effective beginning December 1st.  Matt Driscoll reported SNC’s Strategic Land Conservation Grant Program Guideline webinar is Friday, November 9th. It will be recorded.  Once the public comment period is complete there will be finalized grant deadlines to report.  Mo Loden introduced the new AmeriCorps volunteers, Taylor Norton and Shauna Langan.  Ron Hames reported that the County voted to send in a petition to recall the Lands Access Pass.  Lewis Ames offered his support in strengthening the ability of the ABC to implement projects.  Coreen Francis reported that the BLM and the HT have been collaborating with the Northern Nevada Corrections Power Plant to explore options for reopening the site.  David Griffith reported that the Alpine Fire Safe Council (AFSC) and the County are working to decide whether to apply for this round of CalFire Fire Prevention grants; the ABC will continue its efforts to bring the AFSC and the County into the ABC.  The AFSC was awarded $112,000 this year and will focus on small projects in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI); funds cannot be used for defensible space.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday December 4th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  It will feature a presentation by Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation.  The National Wild Turkey Federation does a lot of forest and habitat restoration on Forest Service lands nationally.  January will be a planning meeting as discussed above.  February will feature a science presentation by Atlantic Richfield and the Environmental Protection Agency 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.

Advertisements

The CHIPS/Washoe Crew Story at the November Meeting.

At the November meeting Steve Wilensky, Chair of Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions (CHIPS), and Irvin Jim, Chair of the Woodfords Community Council, will be making a presentation on the CHIPS/Washoe crew.  The advances they have made in just two short years, the work they are doing, and where they see themselves in the future.

Chips2Cropped

CHIPS/Washoe Crew taking a break at Lake Tahoe

CHIPS was founded in 2004 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to put people in economically depressed communities back to work.  CHIPS currently has more than 45 employees, including some 20 members of the Washoe Tribe from the Hung-a-lel-ti Community in Alpine County.  They perform a variety of work, including forest and meadow restoration, watershed stewardship, cultural site work, fire-safe fuel reduction, and fuel break construction in the wildland-urban interface.  They currently work under agreements and contracts with the Amador Fire Safe Council; the Stanislaus, El Dorado, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests; the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management; and numerous private landowners.   CHIPS has purchased a former lumber mill site in Wilseyville and have a contract with PG&E to sell electricity generated from excess biomass removed from the forest.

The Hung-a-lel-ti community, also known as the Woodfords Community, is the southern band of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.  In 2016 the Washoe Tribe partnered with CHIPS to train tribal members in forest and meadow restoration, cultural site restoration, fuels reduction, prescribed burning, and other work directed to reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.  This year the crew won a “best in Tahoe” award from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit for their restoration work at Spooner Summit.

Before the Washoe Tribe contracted with CHIPS the unemployment rate in the Hung-a-lel-ti community was in the order of 67% and it was generally believed that people did not want to work.  The crew has shown that that was far from true, and given the opportunity there were many men and women that were eager to work and improve their situation.  It is a great success story and credit goes to a number of people and organizations, and most importantly to the members of the crew themselves.  The Alpine Biomass Collaborative’s role was simply to connect CHIPS and the Woodfords Community Council, and then they took it from there.

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

October Meeting Summary

20181002_184202

photo by Mary Rawson

Our meeting on October 2nd, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.

Steve Frisch of the Sierra Nevada Business Council gave 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.  Since April, 2018 the facility has been producing electricity for sale to the Southern California Public Power Authorities, an aggregator that purchases electricity for utilities in the Los Angeles area.  The facility is receiving 8.8 cents/kilowatt-hour.  The facility’s mission statement is “to provide infrastructure resources which will foster the commercial success of advanced wood products technologies and research-related business that will provide solutions to preserve the headwaters of the Sierra Nevada region”.  While electricity for sale off-site is the principal product at the moment, the plan is to use the electricity and heat produced by the plant to power other on-site businesses related to biomass utilization.  Because the bulk of the biomass used to power the facility comes from the excess removed from the forest, a prime benefit of the facility is to improve forest and watershed health by reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Steve also discussed the role of the Sierra Small Business Development Center in developing the facility and how it could possibly be helpful here as well.

A decision from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) on our grant application is apparently pending Congress’s approval of the Dept. of Commerce’s budget for FY 2019.  A letter supporting Alpine County’s appeal of the California Fish and Wildlife’s Lands Pass program as it affects Hope Valley was approved and has been sent.

Michael Barton and Annie Dean have essentially finished the presentation about the ABC for the Board of Supervisors.  It is scheduled to be presented to the Board at its Oct. 16th meeting at 9:45 am.  It will be helpful if those of you who have participated in the ABC could attend.

Participant updates included the following.  Kendal Young, Cornerstone CFLR Coordinator, USFS, reported that he will continue to help the ACCG and reiterated his willingness to assist the ABC.  Steve Wilensky, CHIPS, reported on behalf of Irvin Jim, Chairman, Hung-A-Lel-Ti Community, that the CHIPS crew was awarded the Best of Tahoe Award. There are 20 workers currently on the crew and 25 are anticipated next year. The crew will be accepting applications beyond the Hung-a-lel-ti community.  This will be the first year-round employment which is a landmark for CHIPS.  Paul Fuselier, BLM, reported the Indian Creek Campground will close October 8th.  This year recreation.gov was used for 75% of the sites generating an increase of 40% in funding; next year recreation.gov will be used for 100% of the sites.  A new bathroom and shower facility will be built pending funding.  The issue of non RV dumping is being considered.  Ron Hames reported he attended an SNC meeting in Alturas regarding funding opportunities from SB 901 and Prop 3.  Ron Hames reported he is researching a parcel of land which the Washoe Community might be interested in purchasing.  David Griffith reported the Alpine Fire Safe Council was awarded $112,000 for chipping and fuels reduction; projects are being identified.  On November 3rd at 5:00 pm there will be an appreciation dinner for volunteer fire fighters held at the Hung-a-lel-ti gym. The event is being organized by the Chamber of Commerce which is accepting donations of raffle prizes and funds.  Checks should be payable to the Woodford’s Fire Department.  There was interest within the ABC about David Griffith’s idea of applying to CalFire for a grant to generate a plan to protect the community from wildfire. The grant would pay for a forester to draw up fuel breaks without regards to boundaries.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday November 6th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  It 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.

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.

September Meeting Summary

20180904_190016_Reduced

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.