The U.S. Forest Service released its Notice of Intent (NOI) for the North Yuba Landscape Resiliency Project on Thursday in collaboration with the North Yuba Forest Partnership (NYFP), according to a news release.
The project stretches from New Bullards Bar Reservoir east up to the Sierra Crest along Highway 49. It proposes treating more than 275,000 acres of forest in the North Yuba River watershed to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire. In addition, it aims to protect and secure water supplies and protect communities from impacts of climate change.
A NOI provides a description of the project’s purpose and need as well as the actions proposed to address those needs. Its announcement opened a 30-day public comment period.
Yuba Water Agency is one of the nine partners in the NYFP concerned with forest health and the resilience of the watershed.
“Yuba Water provided review and comments on the development of the proposed plan that we are now seeking public engagement and input about,” said JoAnna Lessard, project manager for YWA’s Forest Health and Watershed Resilience program in an email. “Additionally, we granted $500,000 to support contracting an expert planning team to help draft the environmental documents.”
Most of the North Yuba River watershed is in the Tahoe National Forest under federal ownership, meaning to have effective programs, agencies must work with the National Forest Service, Lessard said.
“The forests in the North Yuba watershed are heavily overstocked from decades of forest management focused primarily on fire suppression,” Lessard said. “This condition combined with numerous dead and dying trees from the recent droughts and subsequent insect damage have created a watershed that is at extreme risk of catastrophic fire, like those that have occurred in our neighboring watersheds.”
She said forest health and fire risk reduction treatments reduce that risk, improve forest health and protect upper watershed communities like Camptonville and Downieville.
The planning project will complete required federal environmental planning and permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“We expect the full NEPA process to be completed in 2023,” Lessard said. “Some projects that the North Yuba Forest Partnership has championed have already completed NEPA and are being implemented now. The partnership has a goal to treat the entire watershed over the next two decades.”
Public meetings will be held on Sept. 22 and Sept. 30. Both will be broadcast from the Sierra County Board of Supervisors chamber beginning at 6:30 p.m. Attendees can gather in-person at the Downieville Community Hall, pending COVID-related restrictions, or join online or by phone, according to the release.