Show Up to Oppose Idaho Maryland Mine

Attend Nevada County’s FINAL hearing to Rise Gold’s application to conduct mining operations at the Idaho-Maryland Mine. Thursday, February 15, and Friday, February 16, in Board chambers, 950 Maidu Ave, Nevada City.
Make comments! Attend the hearing!

Attend final hearing!

Conservation and Advocacy for Our Native Plants & Their Habitats

The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is essentially the only organization in California dedicated to the conservation of California native flora. CNPS is recognized for its scientific expertise in native plants; positions and actions advocated by CNPS that are clearly related to native plants generally are given significant weight in the decisions of local and state officials. We lose credibility if others perceive our organization as taking a position on an issue unrelated to native plants.

To preserve our credibility and effectiveness, we focus on issues connected to our mission regarding the conservation of native plants and their habitats. If that connection is not apparent to others in a given case, we must explain those connections very clearly in our positions, statements, and actions, supported by scientific information.

Advocating to Protect Native Plants and Habitats

In the face of increasing threats, advocacy for native plants, for native plant habitats, and for native plants as parts of larger ecosystems is absolutely necessary. Some threats may be direct and obvious, such as removal of plant populations for development; others are indirect, in issues such as fuel management, weed invasions, decreased water availability, degraded air, water, or soil quality, and climate change. When impacts are indirect, CNPS advocates cannot use indirect or theoretical connections to demonstrate how proposed activities will harm or destroy native plants and habitats. We must clearly establish the connection with native-plant conservation.

Doing Science-Based Advocacy

Through the state CNPS staff, programs, and network of Chapters, CNPS provides and supports the best and most up-to-date information and research on California’s native plants, native plant habitats and native plants as parts of larger ecosystems. Making clear the effects of our actions on the conservation of native plants and their habitats is essential to maximizing the value of that science-based advocacy.

Idaho Maryland Mine

Several years ago, Rise Gold Corporation (Rise Gold) applied to Nevada County to reopen the Idaho Maryland Mine (IMM). (The mine was shut down in 1956 because of reduced gold productivity.)

Why IMM Matters to CNPS

The Brunswick and Centennial sites of the proposed Idaho Maryland Mine project encompass 10 native plant communities, from montane hardwood and Sierra mixed conifer to annual grasslands, from wetlands and the headwaters of Wolf Creek to chaparral. Far from being a wasteland despoiled by over 100 years of mining, these sites demonstrate the resilience and critical ecological functions of the native plant communities, wildlife, and aquatic habitat of the Wolf Creek headwaters.

The IMM as proposed would negatively impact – and for most of the two sites, completely destroy – these native plant communities. They would be buried under mountains of mine waste 60 to 80 ft high and acres across, covering at least half the acreage of the combined sites; additional portions of the sites would be developed as buildings, equipment, or pavement.

Additionally, reopening the mine would require dewatering miles of underground tunnels. That water would be treated and constantly released into South Wolf Creek, raising it to flood levels 24-7. This increased flow would drastically impact the riparian habitat of South Wolf Creek for as long as the mine is open, a period of up to 80 years.

The proposal, the draft and final Environmental Reports (EIRs), and related documents total over 10,000 pages. These documents include environmental reports by Rise Gold’s consultants, reports from county agencies, and many hundreds of comments from the public as well as from other public entities such as the City of Grass valley. The Final EIR and the proposed mine reopening were unanimously rejected by the Nevada County Planning Commission on May 11, 2023.

After that rejection, Rise Gold, Inc., the mine owner, asserted that they had a “vested right” to mine this property. “Vested rights” are based on continuous operation of a mine without interruption before and after county zoning requirements (such as the requirement of an environmental impact statement) became effective. In December, as legally obligated, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors met on this Rise Gold petition. They voted unanimously that the mine owner did not have a vested right, because the mine had been inactive, with no mining operations whatsoever, for almost 70 years.

Updates & Status

  • The Nevada County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has scheduled a final hearing on the proposal for Idaho Maryland Mine, for February 15 and 16. They will hear from staff and then allow public comment. Read more about this hearing.
  • The EIR has been decisively rejected by the Planning Commission because of “significant and unavoidable [environmental] impacts” that would result if the mine were reopened. For the BOS to overrule the Planning Commission’s decision, it would have to both Certify the EIR as sufficient and approve a statement of Overriding Considerations sufficient to justify ignoring the significant negative impacts of the mine and the many deficiencies of the EIR. A typical justification would be “economic benefits,” so it is important to present statements countering the claimed benefits of the mine, and showing that there are no such overriding economic considerations outweighing the many deficiencies of the EIR.
  • The Planning Commission’s final report stated, “the Board of Supervisors conclude that the project as proposed is not consistent with the Themes, Goals, Objectives and Policies of the Nevada County General Plan that encourage development to be compatible with the existing rural character of the neighborhoods or communities where the development is being proposed, while maintain the rural quality of life.”
  • Rise Gold is now advancing an “EIR Alternative 2.” Under Alternative 2, the company would not clean up the Centennial site and would not implement its plan to destroy the Centennial wetlands and encroach on setbacks to the Wolf Creek riparian corridor and watershed. In response, the County should require that even if the Centennial Site is not used to deposit mine waste, it needs to be cleaned up for the health of our community. Further, that must cleanup be done in a way that preserves the native plant communities that have already naturally cleaned up a significant portion of the site and removed toxic waste by natural processes, as demonstrated by negative test results for toxins in substantial areas of the site as reported in the EIR. A new cleanup plan must be implemented that builds on the “cleanup” already accomplished by native plants and that protects the wetlands, Wolf Creek, and this important watershed.
  • The original plan provided for destroying much of the current forested and riparian areas of the Brunswick site and decimating the headwaters of Wolf Creek, primarily by depositing a vast pile of mine waste on the Brunswick site similar to that proposed for the Centennial site. If the revised plan contemplates diverting additional mine waste to Brunswick, that will greatly increase the environmental impacts at the Brunswick site; those additional impacts have not been addressed in the EIR.

What You Can DO Now

  • Join or cheer at the Mardi Gras ParadeFeb. 10, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Nevada City. Meet MineWatch at top of Broad St., Nevada City; parade begins at 2 p.m. Free shuttle from Rood Center to town from noon to 6 p.m. Costumes and signs very welcome but not required.
  • Attend Nevada County Board of Supervisors final public hearing – Feb 15 (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.)  and Feb. 16 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as needed)
  • Speak for up to 3 minutes at the final public hearing. (Make sure to get a numbered speaker ticket as soon as you can on the morning of the first day.)
  • Submit written comments to the Board of Supervisors.
  • Write a letter to the editor to The Union.
  • Join the Redbud Chapter Conservation Advocacy Committee. Contact us.
  • Donate to Redbud Chapter CNPS to support advocacy efforts to stop the mine.
  • Subscribe to the Minewatch newsletter and read email updates.
  • Help with and attend community and public agency meetings, including Board of Supervisors meetings. Regardless of the meeting agenda, each agency meeting starts with an opportunity for public comment. Minewatch has valuable tips for commenting.
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to Community Environmental Advocates to support research, community education, and legal fees related to the IMM fight.

Relevant Documents

Planning Commission Staff Report to Board of Supervisors, released Feb 2, 2024

Comments on DEIR submitted by Redbud

Master Response #4 for IMM DEIR (pp. 80-83)

Master Response #30 and #31 for IMM DEIR (pp. 196-198)

Notice of Final EIR Issued December 16, 2022

Redbud News Articles about IMM

Download these issues of the Redbud News to get more background on the native plants on the IMM site, related environmental issues, and actions Redbud has taken.

January 2023

March 2022

January 2022

September 2021

June 2021

February 2021

April 2020

Relevant Organizations & Information

Minewatch

South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL). See article, “California Can’t Afford the Idaho-Maryland Mine.”

Hell's Half Acre

Widespread damage across Hell’s Half Acre

You may know the line in Joni Mitchell’s song, “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.” If you’ve ever been to Hell’s Half Acre in Grass Valley, you may think of it as Paradise because of its amazing fields of colorful spring wildflowers. But if you’ve seen it since April 10 or seen photos of the destruction that’s occurred, you’ve seen the “parking lot” there! What happened? And what can we all do now?

Hell’s Half Acre as a Special Paradise

Hell’s Half Acre is located about two miles west of Grass Valley, at the intersection of Rough & Ready Highway and Ridge Road. The Redbud Chapter of CNPS has worked for over 40 years to protect and conserve this unique habitat just northwest of Grass Valley, a wonderland of native wildflowers. CNPS members and professional botanists Karen Callahan and Jennifer Buck-Diaz explained why in a Winter 2016 article about Hell’s Half Acre in Grasslands:

These distinctive open habitats have shallow soils underlain by an ancient solidified volcanic mudflow, or lahar. This cement-like layer, along with gentle slopes, allows rainfall to collect in depressions before slowly draining off or evaporating. Showy, mostly native, annual plants thrive here with little competition from invasive species that have a low tolerance for restricted drainage and shallow soils.

The stunning variety of native plant species found at Hell’s Half Acre surpasses that of any other of the rare lahar/lava cap sites in Nevada County, most of which are on private land and unprotected. Nevada County recognized the special ecological value of HHA in 1997 when it zoned this lahar plant community site as “open space” to be preserved, not developed. No other land in Nevada or Placer Counties has such geologic history, botanical diversity and floral wonder. At this time of year, Hell’s Half Acre is usually ablaze with wildflowers and nodding grasses.

Paradise “Paved”

Now, however, Hell’s Half Acre looks like the wasteland of Mephistopheles. Massive machinery has leveled much of it. Virtually all plants are shorn to the ground — from 75-ft foothill pines (Pinus sabiniana) to 15-ft whiteleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida) to the rare Sanborn’s onion (Allium sanbornii var. sanbornii).

The project plans for a new gas pipeline testing facility, mandated by the California Public Utility Commission(CPUC), also call for scraping off the soil with all its seeds, then graveling the area. They will then add a large building and testing equipment. There is already a cement pad covering several acres of what used to be trees and wildflowers.

The sudden loss of trees and virtually all other vegetation at the site will leave migratory bird species, Cooper’s hawks and other bird species, most of whom return to the same nesting sites here year after year, with no place to raise their young. Similarly, bats that feed on swarms of insects in the meadow will lose valuable habitat, as will dozens of butterfly species that depend on uncommon local plants.

Who Did This and Why?

In mid-2022, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) bought a portion of Hell’s Half Acre to create an inspection site for a gas pipeline that runs out to Wheatland as part of a safety program mandated by the CPUC. PG&E will perform inspections every five to seven years.

Purple solid line running north to south through the green area zoned as open space is where the PG&E construction/damage area is bounded by temporary fencing. This is the border of the parcel purchased by PG&E.

Apparently, PG&E will grade, gravel and fence approximately 10 of the 14 acres they purchased, including the majority of the lahar site with its unique plant community. Multiple versions of these plans have emerged; although CNPS, Audubon, Yuba River Charter School, Bear Yuba Land Trust and others have requested that PG&E release the construction plans and any scientific studies they have conducted, no final plans and none of the scientific reports have been released. These documents, if provided in a timely manner, in conjunction with a pause in construction, would have provided essential context for discussion of immediate and long-term mitigation efforts and restoration efforts. For example, there might have been time for substantial rescue efforts and relocation of plants that would be (and now have been) destroyed during construction. Similarly, steps could have been taken to minimize damage to the 4 acres that are now designated as areas that PG&E will eventually preserve and restore.

Now, even on those 4 acres to be preserved, all trees and shrubs have been cut down, the soil has been scraped and/or severely compacted by heavy machinery used during rain and upon deep mud and standing water; most plants have been killed by construction activity and the soil containing the seed bank has been removed. As a result, the costs of preservation and restoration will be much higher and the level of success much lower.

These same plans and studies are still being requested, because they are required in order to plan any meaningful restoration or remediation work that may be possible after PG&E completes construction – yet the information has still not been provided.

Unanswered Questions

Local residents and organizations have expressed concerns about the apparent inadequate process, lack of public notice, and failure to mitigate or engage in discussion of potential mitigation strategies. Some are asking for environmental studies or reviews, and requesting copies of any such surveys, whether conducted by PG&E or others. As we learn more, Redbud will post updates and alerts on the Conservation Advocacy section of our website.

If you have further questions or information, please share with Redbud, and we will pass them along to the PG&E public representative for this project. 

What We Can Do Now

We cannot undo what has been done. We can, however, advocate for the best possible outcome for HHA. This could include mitigation, such as salvaging plants, soil, and seedbank; restoration of any portions of the site that will not be covered by building, access road, and/or gravel. We are also advocating that PG&E or the county secure protection for the remaining portion of Hell’s Half Acre, designated as open space in 1997. This remaining portion of the Hell’s Half Acre is private property. We can also aim to make sure this doesn’t happen in other environmentally sensitive places. In the long run, help us work for these outcomes:

  • Convince PG&E to allow CNPS to harvest seeds and transplant any rare or sensitive plants that are within the area being developed. Though PG&E claims to be moving and retaining disturbed top soil with native seed-bank potential, they have not consulted with CNPS about where to move and store this soil, how to protect it, and how to use or re-distribute this soil at a later date. A significant number native-plant seeds and bulbs in that soil may still be viable, but much as already been lost.
  • Urge PG&E to purchase the remaining designated open space portion of HHA and donate it to Bear Yuba Land Trust, with sufficient funds to maintain it.
  • Engage in conversations with PG&E and the CPUC to evaluate how projects like this can proceed in the future without grave environmental damage. This may involve reviewing the role that state legislation and policy played in the saga at Hell’s Half Acre and if changes are necessary.
  • Speak (remotely) at an upcoming public meeting of the CPUC Commmission. The next meeting is June 29 at 11 a.m. (See details, including how to call in to speak.) The meeting after that is July 13. Urge the CPUC to acknowledge PG&E’s violations of required notice of their planned actions; to, therefore, require PG&E to fund appropriate, professional restoration of HHA; and to take action as a commission to require that such projects conform to federal and state environmental review to prevent such losses in the future.

Right now, you can help convince PG&E to halt work at HHA until we can establish a plan to minimize and compensate for the destruction.


 

Recent Updates

Several community members and organizations have filed or in the process of filing formal complaints with the CPUC about PG&E’s actions at HHA. We will keep you informed when opportunities arise to support these efforts. Others have written letters that have been published in The Union. CNPS Redbud and several other local environmental organizations are working together more closely than ever before. More than 1600 people signed our petition to PG&E asking that they halt work at HHA and collaborate on restoration effort. We have submitted the petition to PG&E (and to the CPUC); no response so far.

Redbud leaders and botanists have met onsite with PG&E and representatives of several other concerned organizations. PG&E has now started allowing one of our Redbud professional botanists to flag plants that should be preserved and transplanted. We hope that this process will continue, and that joint mitigation efforts will expand as appropriate.

Vegetation Management in City of Grass Valley (ballot measure)

trees (mostly oaks) spaced out with surrounding vegetation cleared
Shaded fuel break with trees and shrubs thinned, understory cleared. Photo by Chris Paulus.

Speak out for REASONABLE vegetation management in Grass Valley! At the upcoming GV City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 24, the council will be discussing a new sales tax that would fund vegetation removal and new fire personnel for the town. After several months of discussion, they have voted to recommend this sales tax measure; they will now need to determine when to put it on the ballot for approval by voters.

Come speak! Help the council understand that the implementation provisions of such a measure need to take into account that the wrong kind of vegetation removal (e.g., indiscriminate use of bulldozers, mastication, and clearing all vegetation) actually opens the way for massive amounts of highly flammable invasive and non-native annual grasses,  blackberries, and (Scotch) brooms, which greatly increase fire risk. In contrast, appropriate vegetation removal includes marking and retaining native plants that have significant ecological value, as well as hand removal where appropriate.

Meeting is 7 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, located at 125 E. Main St., Grass Valley.

You can submit comments in advance via voicemail at (530) 274-4390 or email to public@cityofgrassvalley.com.

YubaNet article on what this tax would cover, and on recent public comments. Other background info at: https://meetings.municode.com/adaHtmlDocument/index?cc=GRASSVALCA&me=c45a2710e19a42308c0653e836d0dcc7&ip=False

For relevant points, see model letter to City Council on this issue.

Advocate! Contact Public Officials

Public Officials Representing Redbud Area

When you care about a conservation advocacy issue involving native plants, their habitats, and their ecosystems, speak up! Write, send email, call — but do reach out. (This list is under development. Please email us with any corrections, changes, or suggestions.)

Models for Issues Communication with Officials

When reaching out to public officials (and other stakeholders), having a model for effective communication can help any of us get started. We’re starting a little set of such models here. If you write a letter or email that you think others might find useful, please send it to: nativeplanthelp@gmail.com.

Model letter. Note focus, bullet points, and inclusion of reliable information sources.

Federal

U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler

U.S. Representative  Kevin Kiley (U.S. District 3)

State

CA State Senator  Brian Dahle (District 1)

CA State Assembly Representative Megan Dahle (District 1)

Nevada County

Nevada County Board Of Supervisors (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 9 a.m. )

Planning Department

Planning Commission

  • Danny Milman, Dist 1  Represents Nevada City, Banner Mountain
  • Laura Duncan, Dist 2  Represents South County
  • Terence McAteer, Dist 3  Represents Grass Valley
  • Mike Mastrodonato, Dist 4  Represents Penn Valley, French Corral, North San Juan

Board of Contractors: 149 Crown Point Ct. Ste A, Grass Valley, 95945    (530) 274- 1919/  info@nccabuildingpros.com

Assoc. Of Realtors: 336 Crown Point Circle. (530) 272- 2627  https://nevadacountyhomes.com/contact-us/

Cities in Nevada County

Grass Valley

Grass Valley City Council  (Meets  2nd & 4th Tuesday, 7 p.m.)

  • Email all council members.
  • (530) 274-4350
  • Jan Arbuckle, Mayor  (530) 274- 4316
  • Hilary Hodge, Vice Mayor (530) 274- 4318
  • Council Members: Bob Branstom, Tom Ivy, Haven Caravelli
  • Tom Last, Community Development Director  (530) 274- 4711
  • Lance Lowe, Principal Planner  (530) 274- 4712

Planning Department

 Parks & Recreation  (530) 274- 4350

 

Nevada City

Nevada City City Council  (Meets 2nd & 4th Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.)

City Engineer   Bryan McAlister, City Engineer (530) 265-2496 x126  bryan.mcalister@nevadacityca.gov

Nevada City Parks & Recreation    Dawn Zydonis  (530) 265-2496 x129    dawn.zydonis@nevadacityca.gov

City Planner    Amy Wolfson   Amy.Wolfson@nevadacityca.gov

Planning Commission

  • Thomas Nigh, Chairman
  • Amy Cobden
  • Wendy Ermshar
  • Peter Van Zant
Truckee 

Town of Truckee Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 5 p.m.)

Placer County

Placer County Board Of Supervisors (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 9 a.m. )

Department Of Public Works (& Parks)

Community Development    Steve Pedretti  (530) 745- 3099

Builder Exchange & Contractor Assoc:  231 Cherry Ave. #101, Auburn, 95603    (530) 889- 3953/  placerbx.com/contact/

Assoc. of Realtors:  270 Technology Way, Rocklin. (916) 624- 8271/  pcaor.com/contacct/

 

Cities in Placer County

Auburn

Auburn City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Monday, 6 p.m.)

City Engineer

Auburn City Manager (Interim)    Joan Phillipe (530) 823-4211 x 191  jphillipe@auburn.ca.gov

City Planner (Temporary)    Larch Mcneill  (530) 823- 4211 x 140  lmcNeill@auburn.ca.gov

Planning Commission

  • Michael Lemberg
  • Steve Hiatt
  • Steve Galyardt
  • Fred Vitas
  • Glen Kramer

Sustainability Advisory Committee

  • Sandra Amara (City Council)
  • Cathay Johnson (Transportation)
  • Ann Bowler (Private Sector)
  • Michael Lemberg (Private Sector, Business/ Development)
  • Members At- Large: Rudy Beauchamp, Robert Whitson, Glen Kramer
Colfax

Colfax City Council (Meets 2nd & 4th Wednesday, 6 p.m.)

  • (530) 346-2313   https://colfax-ca.gov/government/city-administration/staff/
  • Trinity Burruss, Mayor
  • Marni Mendoza, Mayor Pro Tem
  • Members:  Sean Lomen, Kim Douglass, David Ackerman

City Manager    Wes Heathcock  Wes.Heathcock@colfax-ca.gov

Public Works Director    Martin Jones  director@colfax-ca.gov

City Engineer    Carl Moore  planning@colfax-ca.gov

Colfax Planning Director    Emmanuel Ursu  (530) 346- 2313 planning@colfax-ca.gov

Lincoln

Lincoln City Council  (Meets 2nd & 4th Tuesday, 6 p.m.)

  • lincoln.ca.gov/   https://www.lincolnca.gov/en/our-government
  • Holly Andreatta, Mayor, Dist 1  (916) 434- 3290
  • Alyssa Silhi, Dist 2 (916) 434- 3291
  • Paul Joiner, Mayor Pro Tem, Dist 3 (916) 434- 3292
  • William “Bill” Lauritsen, Dist 4 (916) 434- 3293
  • Dan Karlskint, Dist 5 (916) 434- 2490

Planning Commission

(For the following offices: Names of officials not listed on government website)

  • City Engineer (916) 434- 3233
  • City Manager  (916) 434- 2490 X 4
  • Lincoln Public Works (Parks) (916) 434- 2450
  • Planning Department (916) 434- 2470
Roseville

Roseville City Council   (Meets 1st & 3rd Wednesday, 6 p.m.)

City Manager    Dominick Casey (916) 774- 5362  CityManager@roseville.ca.us

City Planning Manager    Greg Bitter (916) 774-5276  planningdivision@roseville.ca.us

 

Water & Resources

Info to come…

Nevada Irrigation District

U.S. Forest Service

Our Mission

To conserve California native plants and their natural habitats, and increase understanding, appreciation, and horticultural use of native plants.