Malakoff Diggins solar project advances; officials keep working on Bridgeport Covered Bridge | TheUnion.com

Malakoff Diggins solar project advances; officials keep working on Bridgeport Covered Bridge

Nevada County officials have hailed the addition of $352,000 to the 2016-2017 state budget for a solar panel project at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, money that if given final approval by the governor will enable the park to dispose of its current diesel engine and expand the area's reach.

A legislative budget subcommittee, however, made no recommendation about money needed for the rehabilitation of the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, an unrelated project.

State funding for the solar project at Malakoff isn't yet secure. The recommendation must clear a conference committee before reaching Gov. Jerry Brown, said Nevada County Supervisor Hank Weston.

If approved by the governor, State Parks would then bid out the installation of the solar panel project.

"If it was the county, it would probably take 60 to 90 days," Weston said of the bid process. "The state, who knows?"

According to Weston, the solar project would allow better security for the thousands of artifacts at the park, as well as expand camping and educational opportunities.

Additionally, Weston notes the project would eliminate the need for a diesel generator that costs $70,000 a year. Weston has estimated it would cost $2 million to connect the park to the PG&E grid. Solar is a fraction of that cost.

Weston has advocated for state dollars for both the Malakoff solar panel project and $2.6 million for the Bridgeport Covered Bridge.

The bridge's funding failed to make it through the budget subcommittee. Weston said he intends to continue lobbying once legislators return from their summer break.

Weston will attempt to get the funding included in the governor's 2017-2018 budget, expected in January. Failing that, he'll return to the Capitol after January to lobby legislators.

"We need to get this thing finished," Weston said.

The state's timeline calls for work to begin in September 2018. Weston wants state funds earmarked for the rehabilitation now, arguing work could start next year.

"We have a commitment from State Parks to complete the project," said Caleb Dardick, executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.