Yuba group’s goal: healthy rivers
Diplomacy seems to rule when the Yuba Watershed Council – and the broad cross section of its members’ interests – meets monthly to discuss the water that flows and collects in the surrounding 1,300 square miles.
The 40-some members include environmentalists, foresters, business people and government officials.
“We’re odd bedfellows from time to time, but our focus is to work on common ground,” Tahoe National Forest District Ranger Vivian Kee said.
Terry Mayfield of the Nevada Irrigation District called the council “probably the most diverse group I’ve worked with professionally. … We have a broad spectrum of folks.”
“We agree to leave our personal biases at the door,” council coordinator Lynn Campbell said.
If meeting issues become too controversial, they aren’t likely to be pursued, said Mayfield, NID’s water operations manager.
Qualifying as hot button issues, he said, include logging, fish restoration and the introduction of salmon and steelhead trout to the Yuba system.
But the group’s function was cast in a political light recently when it sought a seat on the Sewage Disposal Technical Advisory Group, to which the county board appoints members.
The board appointed a contractor and a realtor to the group, and Board Chairwoman Sue Horne later expressed concern that the YWC’s presence could make waves.
“Their interest is in the health of the watershed, and I don’t know that that really fits with what (SDTAG) is involved in, and I see that being controversial,” Board Chairwoman Sue Horne said Thursday.
The technical advisory group, she said, primarily deals with septic systems, which are highly regulated and pose no apparent threat to the watershed.
Horne remains open to a YWC member someday joining the board, and she admits knowing little about the group – a reason she appointed fellow supervisor Robin Sutherland to the council. A county staffer who resigned had been attending meetings.
“We’re really eager to be working with (Sutherland) on a lot of the issues that the community cares about,” said Janet Cohen, the YWC chairwoman and South Yuba River Citizens League executive director.
Efforts to reach Sutherland for comment were unsuccessful.
Campbell, YWC’s coordinator since October, is grateful the county board is seeking better understanding.
The council formed in 1997 and is funded by a grant that pays for Campbell’s salary and a second-floor office above the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce.
The group’s concerns focus on the health of the Yuba River’s three forks, Bear River and their tributaries.
Activities include monitoring for mercury, nitrates, phosphates and other pollutants, and restoring water banks. The projects are overseen by scientists on the council. The state Water Resources Control Board provides oversight and works with other watershed councils across the state.
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