Watersheds throughout the Sierra Nevada have suffered impacts to their health, water quality and ecological function as a result of gold mining, residential development, road building, agriculture, diversions, and other activities. Our restoration programs are aimed at correcting these problems, with efforts that include the following: abandoned mine remediation, salmon habitat restoration, invasive non-native species removal, restoration of native vegetation, geomorphological restoration, and integration of traditional native practices.
Our work is focused in the Sierra Nevada, with the goal of increasing stakeholder participation in the restoration process. We have undertaken extensive restoration efforts in our home watershed of Deer Creek. We have also established the Bear River Watershed Group, which is dedicated to doing restoration work in the Bear River watershed.
Hirschman’s Pond Forest Health Project:
The goals of this project are to improve forest health by reducing dense overstocked trees and invasive plants, to help prevent catastrophic wildfire and impacts to water quality and wildlife habitat, and to protect the community.
We will reduce fuel loads through selective thinning of trees less than 6 inches in diameter, highly flammable understory vegetation, dead and downed material, and invasive species, such as Scotch broom, in order to promote healthier forest conditions. Trees including black oak, madrone, and buckeye will be protected to provide diversity and wildlife habitat for species such as Western pond turtles, Pacific chorus frogs, songbirds and waterfowl.
This winter we are working on the second phase of work at Hirschman Trail. Additionally, SSI staff and volunteers will be monitoring amphibians, birds, mammals, water quality and vegetation. Scotch Broom Challenges will occur in March and throughout the year. For more information about the project, or to volunteer, contact Della Santina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abandoned Mine Remediation
Under grants received by the City of Nevada City, Sierra Streams Institute (then Friends of Deer Creek) conducted (as subcontractor) a Brownfields Community Wide Assessment of abandoned mine sites on properties owned by the City of Nevada City. Four sites were investigated: Pioneer Park, Stiles Mill, Hirschmans Pond, and Providence Mine. Soil samples were obtained from areas of suspected mine waste and other high-use areas and tested for heavy metals contaminants. The results were evaluated using EPA human health risk assessment methods. Phase 2 Reports were prepared for each of the properties.
Based on these assessments, SSI has cleaned up two abandoned mine sites and is proceeding with cleanups of two other mine waste sites in Nevada City.
Providence Mine was cleaned up in 2014 and 2015 with funding from two EPA Brownfields Cleanup grants and a Sierra Nevada Conservancy Assessment and Cleanup Grant. 50 cubic yards of Hazardous Waste was excavated and properly disposed of off-site. The mine shaft was plugged with concrete and filled with non-hazardous mine waste. Steep mine waste slopes eroding into Deer Creek were re-graded and stabilized with a gabion basket wall. Mine waste was covered with clean fill soil and the site was re-vegetated with California Native plants. Visit the site by taking the new Providence Mine Spur Trail linking the site from the Deer Creek Tribute Trial at the west end of Nevada City’s Environs Property.
Stiles Mill was cleaned up with an EPA Brownfields Cleanup grant in 2013. Steep slopes of mine waste eroding into Deer Creek under the Pine Street Bridge were regarded and stabilized. Exposed mill tailings were covered with large rock to minimize human contact. Clean soil was placed over exposed mine waste and the site was re-vegetated with California Native plants. A new trail was constructed to the site from Clark Street which may one day lead to a foot bridge across Deer Creek.
Pioneer Park is undergoing a cleanup funded by a California Department of Water Resources Urban Streams Grant for the Little Deer Creek Restoration and Flood Mitigation Project. Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2017. Concrete channel lining in Little Deer Creek was removed and rock slope protection was placed along the right bank. Prior to the in-stream work, 63 trout were caught and temporarily relocated with no casualties. Phase 2 of the project is planned for fall 2018 and will include additional stream restoration, lower field re-grading to reduce flooding and sod replacement. An ADA accessible “Roll and Stroll Trail” will be constructed around the perimeter of the park.
Providence Quartz Mill: SSI is currently working on an EPA Brownfields cleanup of the Providence Quartz Mill located across Providence Mine Road from the Providence Mine site. Stay tuned for details as the cleanup proceeds.
Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Restoration
Deer Creek is the last tributary on the Yuba before upriver passage is blocked by Englebright Dam. Therefore, the mouth of Deer Creek at the confluence with the Yuba River provides spawning and rearing habitat for Central Valley Chinook salmon and steelhead. Salmon and steelhead were present at the mouth of Deer Creek in large numbers in the early part of the 20th century. Human activity, including dams, development, agriculture, and water diversions, have resulted in a decline in the amount of suitable spawning habitat. Sierra Streams is engaged in longterm efforts to restore critical habitat through a combination of approaches, including riparian native revegetation, targeted invasive species removal, regularly repeated gravel injections, spawning bed enhancement, and modifications to the management of the watershed. Our efforts are part of a regional effort to reverse decades of steep decline in anadromous fish populations.