NEVADA CITY, 24 June 2013 – Legislators from the California State Capitol joined The Sierra Fund and The Sierra Nevada Conservancy for an educational tour of the problems facing the Sierra, including legacy mine remediation and healthy forest management. State Assembly members Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) and Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) hosted the tour, which introduced legislators and legislative staff to the needs of the region firsthand.
The tour gave a demonstration of the Combie Reservoir Sediment and Mercury Removal Project, sponsored by the Nevada Irrigation District and funded by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, for which The Sierra Fund is advocating increased investment. The project aims to remove contaminants such as mercury, left over from gold mining activities in the area, from accumulated sediment in the Combie Reservoir and prevent those contaminants from harming humans and ecosystems that depend on the watershed. Tour participants observed firsthand as mercury was removed from the sediment in visible quantities, and several expressed great concern about the existence of such high levels of mercury in California’s watershed, the Sierra.
Legislators and staff also observed forest management practices in the American River Canyon near Auburn aimed at restoring healthy forests in the area and reducing high levels of fire-prone biomass throughout the Sierra. Additionally, the tour visited the Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley to see progress made on the Magenta Drain filtration project undertaken to reduce drainage of heavy metals and turbid water from abandoned hard rock mining shafts into nearby water sources and observe the historic mining site.
The tour concluded with dinner at the historic Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley where participants were joined by local elected officials including several members from the Grass Valley City Council, members of the Nevada County and Sierra County Board of Supervisors, and other leaders from the region.
Elizabeth Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund, said, “This tour was an excellent opportunity to bring legislators from outside the area to see how critical issues in the Sierra affect all Californians. It is important that policymakers in the Capitol recognize the vital role the Sierra plays as the watershed of the state, and there is no better way to emphasize that point than to show it to people firsthand. We are grateful to all the legislators and staff for taking the time to visit the Sierra and learn about the issues we continue to work on.”