Placer County's biomass program was the recipient of a $47,500 grant last week from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC), the largest of four grants awarded to the county. The grants, totaling $147,500, were approved last week by the Conservancy Board at their regular meeting.
The biomass grant will help coordinate the removal of tons of biomass from three national forests in the Conservancy's region. Biomass is the organic material -- such as downed trees and limbs, pine needles, bark and branches -- that usually ends up on the forest floors and poses a serious fire threat. This effort will use the biomass to produce electricity and prevents air pollution when the material is burned in controlled burns or when it goes up in a wildfire. This project is a partnership between United States Forest Service, Placer County Air Pollution Control District, Sierra Pacific Industries and Placer County.
"To create a successful biomass program in Placer County, we need not only partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions, but funding as well," said Supervisor Bruce Kranz, whose 5th district contains most of the county's forestlands. "This grant is an excellent opportunity to implement a project to remove significant amounts of woody biomass from national forests, which will not only reduce the threat of wildfire, but provide a green fuel for energy generation."
The funding for the grants comes from Proposition 84, the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coast Protection Bond Act passed by California voters in 2006. The SNC was established legislatively in 2004 to protect, conserve, and restore the region's physical, cultural, archaeological, historical, and living resources.
In addition to the biomass grant, the other three grants awarded to Placer County by the Conservancy include:
· Low Impact Development guidebook, $45,000, Planning Department;
· Esoteric Property due diligence studies, $38,000, Facility Services; and
· Eastern Placer County creek signage, $15,000, Planning Department.
Placer County Supervisor Robert Weygandt, who serves on the Conservancy Board and was instrumental in its establishment, was pleased the SNC had given out its first round of grants.
"For me, having followed the Sierra Nevada Conservancy program as it wove its way from concept through the legislature is exhilarating," said Weygandt. "Placer County did very well, as did the entire region, in receiving grants through this program."
The grant to produce a low impact development guidebook will be directed at the reduction of runoff and contamination in Sierra Nevada waterways. The benefits to this approach include:
· Preventing the degradation water quality;
· Manage stormwater more efficiently;
· Protect groundwater and drinking water supplies; and
· Help communities grow more attractively.
As part of the Placer Legacy program, county staff will be using a SNC grant to evaluate the potential benefits and costs associated with proposed preserving of the Esoteric Fraternity Property, an 89-acre parcel on the west rim of the American River Canyon in Applegate that connects to river trails. The property at one time had a residence and a print shop that was used by fraternity members for monotype printing and bookbinding. Possible partnerships with other agencies will be explored as part of this process.
Another grant to help fund creek signage will install 80 signs at 40 creek crossings along 17 different waterways from Auburn to Squaw Valley and Martis Valley. The signs will identify the waterway, and also note: "No Littering No Dumping" and "Trout Habitat" or Salmon Habitat" as appropriate. By knowing the names of the waterways they cross, Placer County citizens and visitors could gain a sense of ownership of the waterways. The signs may also help educate the public about its role in protecting water quality in fisheries habitat.
The SNC is a state agency that was legislatively created in 2004. It encompasses more than 25 million acres in parts of 22 counties across the Sierra Nevada range.