Citizens concerned about proposed San Juan Ridge Mine to hand-deliver postcards to BOS

Editor’s note: People ought to think hard about the upcoming Supervisor races when it comes to issues like this. We’re at a “tipping point” in our County again, at least for the next four years. Which direction are we going to go? The outcome of the District 3 and 4 races will largely decide that.

The San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association (SJRTA) and the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) invites concerned community members for an early morning rally on Tuesday, February 25th on the proposed reopening of an historic gold mine in the heart of the San Juan Ridge.

Following the rally, SJRTA and SYRCL will hand-deliver more than 1,300 signed postcards to Nevada County’s Board of Supervisors during the Public Comment portion of the meeting at 9:00 AM. The purpose of the rally and presentation is to demonstrate the community’s concerns that the proposed San Juan Ridge Mine would negatively impact local water supplies and the health of the Yuba River.

Previous Nevada County BOS meeting for San Juan Ridge Mine scoping was a packed house. “As our representatives, it is vital that the Board of Supervisors recognizes that there is widespread concern about this mine. We encourage community members to attend the rally and participate in the formal presentation of these postcards which represent the voices of more than 1,300 others,” said Gary Parsons, SJRTA President.

The postcards, collected during SYRCL’s recent Wild & Scenic Film Festival, state “water is more precious than gold” and feature an image of the mythological King Midas, who wished for the ability to turn anything he touched into gold but later regretted his decision after turning food, water and even his own daughter into the precious metal.

When the mine last operated in the 1990s, it struck a water-bearing fault, causing the failure of 12 domestic wells and the wells for the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center and Grizzly Hill School. Nearby Spring Creek, a tributary of the Yuba, was scoured to bedrock and millions of gallons of untreated mine water were discharged into the South Yuba River.

“We learned from the last mine failure that this is a watershed wide issue,” said SYRCL Board President Barbara Getz, a local business person and longtime San Juan Ridge resident. “We need to learn from the past and not have a disastrous repeat of what happened in the 1990s.”

When the mine application was submitted in 2012, SJRTA, SYRCL and other partners knew they had to act and gather baseline data for the potentially affected creeks.

“SYRCL’s citizen science program is focused on evaluating conditions in Spring and Shady Creeks, the primary streams draining the mine area. We are testing water quality, continuously monitoring stream flow and surveying the populations of yellow-legged frog. We are learning how these streams have regenerated from historic mining impacts, and how they are sensitive to alterations of the natural hydrology,” said SYRCL’s Science Program Director, Gary Reedy, who has helped coordinate this monitoring effort.

With California in the midst of a historic drought, many are questioning whether the mine is the best use of the county’s scarce water. At its peak, it’s estimated the mine would pump up to 3.5 million gallons of water out of the ground every day –nearly one-third of the total daily groundwater use of all of Nevada County.

Last year was the driest year on record in most of California, reservoirs remain dangerously low, and on January 30th the snowpack was just 12 percent of average. Data for the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report is being collected under drought conditions, raising concerns that inadequate science could determine the fate of our community and watershed.

—SYRCL

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About jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.
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