Yuba County Water Agency invests $1.5 million in pilot project in Yuba watershed forest management

By on May 25, 2018

A pilot project of the Forest Resilience Bond with Blue Forest Conservation and the World Resources Institute to help protect 15,000 acres within the north Yuba watershed recently received the endorsement of the Yuba County Water Agency (YCWA) and a $1.5 million cost-share contribution to help fund the planned restoration of the Yuba Project. The project is intended to provide a healthier, thinner forest to significantly reduce fire risks, fund various forest management techniques and allow researchers to study the effects on the watershed.

“As we learned all too well last year with the Cascade Fire, the risk in the Yuba County foothills is far too great,” said Randy Fletcher, YCWA vice-chairman. “If this pilot project works as planned, it could mean really big things for our ability to reduce the fuel load by thinning the forest in a healthy, responsible way, thereby significantly reducing the fire risk to our residents, while bringing great benefits to the Yuba watershed.”

According to Cal Fire, the October 2017 Cascade Fire burned nearly 10,000 acres including the destruction of 264 structures. Ten additional structures were damaged. The fire also resulted in the deaths of four persons. The Cascade Fire was part of the 2017 Northern California firestorms, a series of 250 wildfires that burned throughout California – mostly in Northern California.

The YCWA Board of Directors unanimously opted to support the Yuba Project due to its benefits for Yuba County’s water quality, quantity, healthier forest, air quality, economy and environment. The U.S. Forest Service and National Forest Foundation, through funding provided by the Forest Resilience Bond, will deploy various forest management techniques, including different methods of forest thinning, meadow restoration, prescribed burns, and invasive plant treatment.

The Forest Resilience Bond deploys private capital to help make forests more resilient to changes in climate by investing in restoration projects that protect forest health and mitigate wildfire and drought risks. Researchers will monitor the impacts on water content and quality in the watershed, providing critical data to quantify exactly how forest health benefits watersheds, which could help spark future investment in forest management techniques.

“This is a private financing mechanism for forest health, which will be effective in increasing the pace and scale of treatment for this project and across the Yuba watershed,” said Blue Forest Conservation Co-Founder Zach Knight. “We hope this project can serve as a template for the entire state for funding forest restoration work.”

Although the Yuba watershed pilot project will actually take place in Sierra County, the planned activities will directly benefit Yuba County. If the pilot is successful, the planned second phase includes a much larger area, within the Yuba County boundary, near New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir.

“Yuba County Water Agency continues to lead the way in all aspects of water challenges,” said Fletcher. “We are likely to be the first community to reach the state’s requirement for urban area levees to be certified at the 200-year level, and now we could be the first watershed in California to get healthy as well. The future of our county depends on water, and I continue to strategize and plan for that bright future.”