SYRCL’s “State of the Yuba” program offers hope — but also challenges

IMG_5386“I can’t stand the far left or the far right. However, if I had no choice but to cast my lot with one or the other, I would definitely go with the environmentalists.” 

Borrowing that philosophy from a longtime Nevada City public leader, we happily attended the 3rd annual “State of the Yuba” program presented by SYRCL at Peace Lutheran Church in Grass Valley on Thursday night. I am a big fan of SYRCL’s work and its leadership under Executive Director Caleb Dardick (whose dad was a County Supervisor), the board (including Barbara Getz, Shana Maziarz and John Regan, among others) and staff (Melinda Booth, Gary Reedy and others). It’s a smart, dedicated and hard-working group.

I am a big fan of the Yuba too. We have camped, fished and swam in the river over the years, going back to family vacations in the ’60s. This winter we regularly drove Old Highway 40 across Donner Summit to ski at Tahoe, because I enjoy seeing the Yuba along the way. I think of its headwaters on the Summit as a big sponge.

The fall issue of our magazine was dedicated to the South Yuba River in a series of articles, including the history of the Yuba, SYRCL and “stewards of the Yuba,” such as poet Gary Snyder. We also found some old photos to run, including SYRCL’s founders from the ’70s and a photo of Snyder at Kitkitdizze on the Ridge from the ’90s. The response has been so positive that we plan to reprint them later this year ahead of next year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Thursday night’s program was a full house, with craft beer from Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Co. and street tacos from Fatbelly Taqueria. It was a collegial group. Todd Juvinall was nowhere to be seen, and I missed reading an article in The Union this morning about the program.

But I was glad to see County Supervisor Dan Miller in attendance. “What are you doing here?” I asked him. Then I answered my own question. “Oh that’s right, now that you’re a supervisor, you’re supposed to get along with everybody.” Dan took it in stride and seemed to enjoy the presentation (though I wished he had clapped more). Other “electeds” were also present, including Evans Phelp, and we visited. In the District 1 Supervisor’s race, I wish Duane Strawser had attended; I figure Heidi Hall has strong support from this group.

The program began with awards for the SYRCL Volunteer of the Year, Kathy Davidson; Youth Environmentalist of the Year, Delphine Griffith; and Partner of the Year, The Sierra Fund. Izzy Martin was gracious in receiving the honor, and we talked later. This was one of the topics: the “E3 gold initiative.” I will be reporting more details on this later in the year. It’s an interesting idea, recycling gold.

Then Caleb spoke about the “State of the Yuba.” He quoted from Snyder’s essay “Coming into the Watershed.” (“A watershed can be thought of as one big bathtub, an area within which all the water drains to a common point. Thus, all the creatures that live in the bathtub are connected in important ways and form a community together.”)

Centennial Dam, Measure W and integrity

Caleb spoke about The Foothills Water Network, a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations including SYRCL, which earlier this week submitted a joint letter to the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) raising concerns that the proposed Centennial Dam will have significant environmental impacts on the Bear and Yuba River watersheds and surrounding communities.

The risk includes diverting large amounts of water from the Yuba to the Bear River, he noted.

Caleb also spoke about a recent major victory for SYRCL, the San Juan Ridge Taxpayers Association and other environmental groups: Nevada County’s decision to cancel an application to reopen the historic San Juan Mine on the Ridge. His comments were met with a hearty round of applause.

SRYCL’s executive director also spoke about the marijuana ballot initiative Measure W. While the group isn’t taking a stand for or against Measure W, Caleb raised concerns that it would just “drive the grows underground” — a cogent point that has been raised by many. (Miller and Hank Weston offered their rationale for Measure W here).

SYRL has launched an educational program called “Growing Green for the Yuba,” workshops aimed at protecting the Yuba watershed through environmentally friendly practices.

Caleb noted the group’s advocacy stance on some issues — from promoting ecologically sound marijuana cultivation to rejecting the “trapping and hauling” of salmon on the lower Yuba rather than a more self-sustaining solution — had led some groups to threaten to withhold grant money from SRYCL because of those philosophical differences.

But he stressed the need for the group to maintain its independent voice and display integrity, and the crowd agreed. I was glad to hear that.

After Caleb’s speech, SYRCL’s river Science Director Rachel Hutchinson discussed the Yuba watershed’s health. Her presentation included a “journey down the river” using Google maps, which I found highly informative and detailed.

In a question and answer panel, I asked about the status of the Bridgeport Bridge restoration. Caleb said he, Hank Weston and others were visiting Sacramento almost monthly to secure the additional funding to complete the project.

The “State of the Yuba” was a worthwhile program, offering insight into one of our region’s most important assets. We also enjoyed a night out, visiting with the other attendees, and the street tacos from Fatbelly Taqueria and craft beer from Three Forks.

Author: 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.

2 thoughts on “SYRCL’s “State of the Yuba” program offers hope — but also challenges”

  1. Great article Jeff, as usual. Thank you. I read your blog on a regular basis and I have often wished it were expanded into a full-fledged alternative-to-The-Union news source.

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