The Science at the Leviathan Superfund Site

The March meeting will feature a joint presentation by Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the science that has and is being done at the Leviathan Superfund site in Alpine County.  In addition there will be a discussion on what qualities/skills the ABC would like to see in the new Carson District Ranger.

The Leviathan Mine was an open-pit sulfur mine that operated in the 1950’s without regard to best practices at the time, and it has had a serious detrimental impact to waters downstream including Leviathan and Bryant Creeks, and to a lesser extent the East Fork Carson River.  Efforts to mitigate the damage have been carried out since the early 1980’s and have had a major improvement in water quality, although the final remediation is still to be done.  Neither ARCO nor the California Regional Water Quality Control Board – Lahontan Region (Lahontan), the two responsible parties for the cleanup, created the problem.  There has been some excellent science done at the Leviathan, and this will be an opportunity to learn about it from the experts.

Leviathan Mine Superfund Site activity has included ongoing seasonal early response actions (ERAs) since the early 2000s.  Monitoring of insects and water in downstream surface waters shows that the seasonal ERAs have improved and continue to improve environmental conditions downstream.  While the downstream conditions have improved since the 1990s, a remedial investigation (RI) and feasibility study (FS) is in progress to identify additional cleanup activities including increasing the acid drainage treatment and/or storage on-site to minimize remaining water quality impacts, and to reduce site risks to acceptable levels.  Atlantic Richfield and California Regional Water Quality Control Board representatives will describe ERAs and RI/FS activities and the U.S. EPA will present the insect and water monitoring.

Presenters will include the following:

Mike Johnson is a Principal Civil Engineer with Copper Environmental Consulting providing project management and technical expertise in the areas of water treatment, mine remediation and Civil Engineering.  Since 2011, Mike has worked on the operations and maintenance of the Leviathan Mine Site providing effective project coordination, compliance assurance, engineering and technical support.  He is a Registered Professional Engineer in two states and has over 15 years’ experience on heavy civil and water treatment projects throughout the western United States.  He holds a Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering from Montana State University.

Marc Lombardi’s resume was not available at press time.

California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s presenter was not available at press time.

Dr. Ned Black studied microbiology at UC Davis and environmental engineering, biogeochemistry, and aquatic ecology in the Division of Applied Sciences at Harvard University.  Throughout his career his focus has been applied biology in an engineering context.  He also studied groundwater contamination and was a lecturer in the Civil and Environmental Engineering program at Stanford University and has worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco since 1994.  For most of that time he has been the Regional Ecologist working in the Superfund program.  In that role he covers both aquatic and terrestrial ecology in habitats ranging from tropical reefs to high altitude forests.  He seizes every opportunity to engage in aquatic bioassessment of contaminated streams and rivers and, in pursuit of that goal has picked up a fair bit of fluvial geomorphology over the years.

In addition to the presentation on the Leviathan Mine, there will be a discussion on what qualities/skills that the collaborative feels would be important for the new Carson District Ranger to have.  The suggestions will be compiled into a summary and forwarded to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.  It is hoped that those of you that care about our community’s relationship with the Forest Service will bring constructive ideas to the meeting.

The March meeting is scheduled for Tuesday March 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.



February Meeting Summary

Our meeting on February 5th, 2019 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 10 members of the public.  The weather was fine, the roads were good on the east slope, but sometimes “the harder you try the behinder you get.”

The planned presentation by Kevin Zeman of the Mule Deer Foundation had to be postponed at the last minute.  The passes were closed so he could not attend in person.  The substitute plan of him making his presentation over the internet did not work as the power was out in parts of Arnold where he is based, and his internet connection was down.  Master Stewardship Agreements is something we need to understand, and his experience with negotiating and managing them would be helpful.  It is hoped that he can be rescheduled sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Participant Updates:  Due to the lack of a presentation Participant Updates were considerably more verbose than usual.  David Griffith reported that he has resigned from the Fire Safe Council, and that the County approved the Community Wildfire Protection Plan in December and the Regional Floodplain Protection Plan in January.  He also reported that California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, is wholeheartedly invested in forest and watershed health and that this bodes well for future funding.  Annie Dean invited Mo Loden to co-facilitate the planning meeting in April;  Michael Barton will be away in April but is available in May to facilitate.  Mo Loden needs more information before committing but is interested;  Annie Dean will contact Mo Loden with specifics before the next ABC meeting.  Don Hittenmiller reported that he plans to build a solar collector on his property using small diameter trees, but that he will not apply for a Wood Innovations Grant this year to finance the project.  The building will serve as a prototype for pre-fabricated construction using harvested material from forest thinning.  Michael Barton reported that as ABC’s representative on the Forest Management Task Force – Sierra and Eastside Region, he has contributed to a recent survey designed to identify obstacles and how to overcome them to promote forest and watershed health.  Ron Hames reported that the problems in Paradise have increased his concern about the extent to which Alpine County is prepared for the aftermath of a devastating fire.  He encouraged community participation with the development of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan which will be reviewed in sections every six months.  The first section includes county wide evacuation plans.  Jonathan Zittel has been active with the process and is available for questions.  Ron Hames suggested the ABC could help the community by offering ideas on what to do with the 1,000 trees designated for removal along Hot Springs Road.  He also reported Jim Branham has retired from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and that his successor, Angela Avery, will advocate for Alpine County. Mo Loden requested a letter of support from the ABC for a grant that the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) is submitting in partnership with the Amador Resource Conservation District and the Calaveras Resource Conservation District.  The funds will be used to hire a Conservation Watershed Coordinator. The ABC will submit a letter of support;  Kimra McAfee will send David Griffith details about the grant and the position.  Mo Loden reported that the AWG is recruiting volunteers for its water monitoring project.  Andrew Allen-Fahlander will contact the CHIPS crew regarding sagebrush removal on his property;  David Griffith will send Andrew Irvin Jim’s contact information.

Assuming there is not another federal shutdown the next meeting is set for Tuesday March 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.  It will feature a science presentation on the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site by Atlantic Richfield and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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

Mule Deer Foundation Presentation

The February meeting will feature a presentation by Kevin Zeman of the Mule Deer Foundation.  The Mule Deer Foundation is a national organization that works with land managers and others to conserve and improve habitat for deer.

Our planned schedule was seriously disrupted by the federal shutdown, but hopefully we will get back on track and there won’t be any more stupidity coming out of Washington.  It is hoped that the planning workshop, or the “Less Talk, More Action” meeting can be held in April, but one agency has yet to commit.

The Mule Deer Foundation is active in California and through Stewardship Agreements with agencies such as the Forest Service, BLM, and state agencies it works to conserve and improve deer habitat.  Improvements to habitat for deer also benefit other species, and reduce the unhealthy buildup of vegetation which can lead to catastrophic wildfires.

Kevin is a forester with over ten years of experience managing partnership agreements with the Forest Service.   Recently he took on a new challenge to work with Mule Deer Foundation and will be managing all their partnership programs in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.  This work consists of projects on BLM, Forest Service, and State lands.  His specialty is utilizing Stewardship Agreements to increase pace and scale of restoration efforts on forests and grasslands.

The February meeting is scheduled for Tuesday February 5th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

Less Talk, More Action

The meeting has been postponed due to the Federal government shutdown.

The January meeting will be the first of the Alpine Biomass Collaborative’s (ABC) “less talk, more action” meetings.   Past, present, and possible future projects to improve forest and watershed health, improve the local economy, and protect our communities from catastrophic wildfire will be looked at.  At the very least it is hoped that a map can be completed showing past, present and planned projects, and begin the discussion of what specifically needs to be done.  Initial criteria were agreed on at our last meeting and are attached to the draft minutes of the Dec. 4th meeting.  Current confirmed participants include the Forest Service, BLM, Alpine County Community Development, Eastern Alpine Fire and Rescue, Alpine Fire Safe Council (AFSC), Alpine Watershed Group (AWG), CALFIRE, and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC).

With respect to protecting our communities from catastrophic wildfire, some work has already been done by the AFSC which recently updated the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).  The updated CWPP has been accepted and approved by the Board of Supervisors.  It is not necessary to read all 250+ pages of the CWPP, but the executive summary and the section on your community is well worth reading.  It will not be productive for the ABC to duplicate work already done or planned to be done by the AFSC.  The CWPP is available for download from the AFSC website.

The January meeting is scheduled for Tuesday January 8th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park.

Happy New Year!

December Meeting Summary

Our meeting on December 4th, 2018 at Turtle Rock Park was attended by 17 members of the public and agencies.  Considering the weather the attendance was excellent.


Photo by Mary Rawson

Kevin Vella of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) gave a presentation on how the NWTF works with land managers to improve habitat for wild turkeys.  Although their goal is to improve the habitat for the turkeys, in the process they improve forest health and the habitat for other species.  Since being formed in 1973, efforts by the NWTF have resulted in the population of wild turkeys increasing from about 1.3 million birds to an estimated 6 million birds today.  They have invested more than $450 million in conservation to conserve or enhance over 20 million acres.  The NWTF has a Master Stewardship Agreement at the national level with the US Forest Service, and manages projects for the Forest Service across the country including California.  The NWTF brings human and financial resources to projects that the Forest Service does not have the resources to carry out.

Less Talk, More Action.  Annie Dean led a discussion on the organization of the January planning meeting.  This meeting is likely to be the first of several to prepare a map database of fuels reduction and watershed improvement projects that have been completed in the past, are currently being implemented, and are planned for the future.  The agreed criteria for prioritizing projects and the information the ABC hopes to gather on each project are shown on the flip charts at the end of the minutes which can be found here.  Agencies and organizations that have agreed to attend or that are being asked to attend include the USFS-Carson Ranger District, BLM-Carson City District, CALFIRE, Alpine Watershed Group, Grover Hot Springs State Park, California Department of Fish and Game, Friends of Hope Valley, Eastern Alpine Fire and Rescue, Alpine Fire Safe Council, and others.  Special thanks to Coreen Francis of the BLM for offering to use the BLM GIS to map all the projects.


Annie Dean leading discussion.  Photo by Mary Rawson.

Participant Updates: Annie Dean and Michael Barton reported they will address the Board of Supervisors on December 18th during the public comment period to inform the Board about ABC’s planning meeting in January. Irene Davidson reported she is retiring in March 2019. For continuity, Irene Davidson has asked Teresa McClung, Deputy Forest Supervisor, Humboldt-Toiyabe, to attend the ABC’s meetings until the new District Ranger is hired. Mo Loden reported the AWG has advertised ABC’s planning meeting in January to encourage their members to attend. AnnaBelle Monti reported that out of 9,000 Christmas tree permits, there are only a few remaining. Ron Hames reported the Community Wildfire Protection Plan has been completed. Ron Hames encouraged everyone to review the 10 year plan. It needs to be accurate as a reference for funding and as protection for the community. Public comments need to be directed to Board members by December 10th, when the comments will be submitted to the Alpine Fire Safe Council.  Ron Hames suggested the ABC, in conjunction with the County’s future road improvement project, take a role in recommending how to deal with the biomass which will be generated by future tree thinning along Pleasant Valley Road and Hot Springs Road. Mary Rawson reported the7th Annual Markleeville Christmas Faire on December 1st, was a success. The event was relocated to Turtle Rock Park due to weather. 150 people attended and a variety of food vendors and crafters made the event memorable. Kevin Vella, National Wildlife Turkey Federation, thanked the ABC and expressed an interest in collaboration. David Griffith reported the County has agreed to submit an ~$200,000 grant proposal to CALFire for a Fire Protection Grant. The Fire Protection plan will pick up where the Community Wildfire Protection Plan leaves off to provide more specific recommendations. David Griffith reported he and Michael Barton have joined a Forest Management Task Force to address how to reduce the risk and cost of fire. This statewide group will meet over the course of a year and provide recommendations to the Governor.

The next meeting is set for Tuesday January 8th at 6:00 pm at Turtle Rock Park. As described above it will be a planning meeting.  February will feature a science presentation on the Leviathan Mine Superfund Site by Atlantic Richfield and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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