Local groups net a cool million in state water bond funding | TheUnion.com

Local groups net a cool million in state water bond funding

Would a manmade wetlands below Nevada City’s sewage plant improve water quality in Deer Creek?

Such a study is one of the projects funded by more than $1 million in grant money headed to Nevada County from Proposition 12, the $2 billion water bond approved in 2000 by California’s voters.

Local environmental groups and government officials recently got word of the grant funding from the state Water Resources Control Board.

The biggest local grant went to Friends of Deer Creek, which received $365,000 to fund a volunteer creek-monitoring program and study installing a wetlands to soak up effluent (treated discharge) from the city’s sewage plant, said John van der Veen, a founder of the creek-monitoring group.

A man-made wetland, using native plants, could clean up nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphates, that the water treatment plant discharges into creek water, van der Veen said.

“If you put it through a wetlands … the plants … use the nutrients for their growth,” he said.

South Yuba River Citizens League received $215,000 to continue for another two years its river-monitoring program, in which volunteers collect water samples and compile data about the river’s health under the guidance of SYRCL’s paid staff.

“We’re really happy,” said Janet Cohen, executive director of SYRCL. “We’re going to be writing the how-to book for citizen monitoring. It allows the community to become stewards of their own watershed.”

The state is giving $175,000 to Nevada County’s Environmental Health Department to further study Enterococcus, the fecal bacteria which prompted no-swim advisories in the summer of 2001 after tests showed sky-high Enterococcus levels.

“We’re going to hire an environmental health specialist to work with various community groups to work on more testing,” said Jess Montoya, the county’s Community Development Agency director.

A grant request written by the Nevada County Land Trust and Tahoe National Forest netted $300,000.

They originally applied for $1 million on behalf of a consortium of groups, including the Yuba Watershed Institute and Sequoia Challenge, for 18 different projects. Projects ranged from stopping erosion from the defunct Excelsior irrigation ditch near the South Yuba River to funding children’s science classes near the Bridgeport covered bridge.

Cheryl Belcher, the land trust’s executive director, couldn’t immediately say which projects were funded.

“I got a letter last week saying ‘congratulations,’ but they didn’t tell us which ones were funded,” she said.

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