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SYRCL funded for Malakoff solar study

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

While the push to save state-administered parks in Nevada County is not as urgent as in recent years, a cadre of community leaders is still working to ensure the long-term viability of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park.

The South Yuba River Citizens League secured an $4,000 grant that will be matched by the California Department of State Parks, according to a news release issued by SYRCL Wednesday.

“These funds will be used to conduct an environmental study of installing a comprehensive solar power system at the park, which could save $60,000 to $80,000 per year in diesel fuel and propane costs for generators and benefit the environment, as well,” said Caleb Dardick, SYRCL executive director.



After the state’s parks department announced its intention to shutter 70 parks, including Malakoff and the South Yuba River State Park in May 2011, officials emphasized the importance of each park becoming solvent and sustainable.

Malakoff generates revenue by charging for overnight use of its cabins and campgrounds, but energy costs approaching $70,000 to run diesel generators that provide power to the park’s buildings create an imbalanced ledger.




Nevada County Supervisor Hank Weston and Dardick led the effort to explore the installation of solar panels in the park as a means of mitigating energy costs for the long term.

The first step in bringing the solar project to fruition at the remote site outside Nevada City is to perform an energy analysis, said Marilyn Linkem, superintendent of the Sierra District of the parks.

The $8,000 will be used to pay a State Parks environmental scientist to study the cost, sustainability and maintenance associated with methods of providing power.

The expert will contemplate four options — solar installation, diesel generators (the current method), propane generators and connecting the park to the electricity grid through PG&E.

“My guess is that we will have combination of options,” Linkem said. “We just need to find the most cost-effective way to provide power to Malakoff Diggins.”

Meanwhile, SYRCL continues to advocate for Malakoff Diggins in Sacramento, encouraging mining interests, historical societies and local school districts to join the lobbying effort.

The park provides an unequalled window into the era of California’s Gold Rush, when prospectors used industrial-scale water cannons called monitors to decimate the sides of hills in the quest for gold.

The method known as hydraulic mining was discontinued after what many consider to be the first piece of environmental legislation in the United States of America — the Sawyer Decision.

While the North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company was effectively prevented from continuing operations in 1884 after U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer handed down his famed decision, hydraulic mining’s legacy of environmental degradation is on display at Malakoff. The park consists of 3,200 acres of forest with multi-use trails crisscrossing the undulating territory.

Many of the trails lead to the preserved Gold Rush town of North Bloomfield, evocative of the small mining towns that flourished in the Sierra foothills during the latter half of the 19th century.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or 530-477-4239.


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