News Archive

News Archive (6192)


Amador County – The Sierra Nevada Conservancy announced last week that approximately $5 million in conservation grants are now available to organizations working with ranchers and farmers in the Sierra Nevada region on “working landscapes.”

The grants are funded by Proposition 84, for projects that must provide a public benefit. Sierra Nevada Conservancy Executive Officer Jim Branham said “ranching and farming has a rich and important place in the heritage of the Sierra, so preserving that heritage is critical to our future. Cattle graze the Sierra in the spring and summer, and farmers work their fields many months of the year.”

Branham said “if ranchers and farmers need assistance with projects or plans that help conserve or restore land and water resources, we invite them to work with eligible organizations to apply.”

Eligible applicants include public agencies, qualifying nonprofit organizations whose charitable purposes are consistent with the purposes of the SNC, and eligible tribal organizations.

The “Proposition 84 Preservation of Ranches and Agricultural Lands Grant Program” is more narrowly focused on ranches and agricultural lands, Branham said. Examples of possible projects to be considered for funding must meet certain criteria. They should reduce erosion, restore riparian integrity, restore meadows or provide for natural stream flow and stream structure. The projects should manage grazing along riparian corridors or meadows, including fencing or new water storage, for the purpose of reducing erosion, improving habitat function, and/or improving water quality.

Another example is water conservation projects to reduce agriculturally induced surface water and groundwater contamination. Another is to protect ranches and agricultural lands and associated watershed resources (such as streams, meadows and wetlands) through the use of conservation easements.

Another is grazing management or agricultural management practices that improve overall habitat conditions for habitat or stream connectivity for fish and wildlife species across working landscapes; or “pre-project administrative work such as permits, and environmental protection documents. He said “applications that are solely for the purpose of acquiring equipment or title to real property are not eligible for funding.”

Conservancy staff will be available to work with applicants during the first phase of the process, which ends July 16.

Branham said because this is a new focus for our grant program, “we are eager to reach out to the ranchers and farmers in the Sierra to help them partner with eligible applicants and move through this process.”

He said it was “a great opportunity to work with our staff to create the best application possible.”

For complete information contact the Sierra Nevada Conservancy or go to

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Amador County – The Amador Fire Protection District board moved toward paying full-time staff for part of their training, and discussed what classes and training would qualify for reimbursement.

The AFPD board, made up of Amador County Supervisors, met Tuesday, June 19 and directed staff to look at reimbursing full-time employees for classes, and to compile a list of classes that would qualify.

Supervisor John Plasse said it raises questions of whether every class in a bachelor’s degree in fire science is relevant to fire.

AFPD Battalion Chief Dave Bellerive said the classes must apply to fire to qualify for reimbursement for volunteers, in current policy. He said non-fire related basic class requirements for degrees, like English classes would not apply. He said it would be very difficult to establish a list.

Supervisor Vice Chairman Richard Forster said AFPD should get to the point of paying for training, not just 50%, as the volunteers are now reimbursed. Supervisors moved last week toward also getting full-time fire staff to get reimbursed for training and classes that qualify.

Supervisor Brian Oneto said: “I think I’d be a little reluctant to pay 100%.” Forster said based on what the chief discussed, all fire science is relevant. Bellerive said all personnel should be able to look at where fire has been and where it started, to help preserve the scene for investigations. He said fire fighters and engineers would not be investigating fires, but it would help them to preserve the fire scene and spot potential issues that could help the investigation.

Oneto said it depends on how deep they want to go. Forster said: “That’s why we need to come up with a list.”

Plasse agreed, saying: “Training should be paid for” and classes should be part of the personnel’s own upwardly mobile endeavors. He said they are reimbursing volunteers for these classes and he thought they should extend that to employees, but classes should be spelled out.

Oneto said a class should be allowed for reimbursement only as long as it directly pertains to firefighting. Bellerive said classes included auto extrication and driver operator classes, among others directly related to the jobs.

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Amador County – The Amador Water Agency board of directors last week announced it will delay implementing a scheduled 9% rate increase for Wastewater Improvement District Number 1 customers until after the 2012-2013 budget is completed.

The board voted June 14 to hold the rate increase, and Board President Gary Thomas said last week the approval of the budget could have the effect of making a lower rate increase possible for Wastewater District 1, which includes most of the wastewater systems operated by the Agency.

AWA General Manager Gene Mancebo said “all or a portion of the rate increase could be implemented following financial review of the district” and AWA is “keeping our ratepayers concerns in mind. Let’s get through the budget process and a thorough review of the district finances first.” He said: “Recent cost-cutting and staff layoffs may mean we only need to implement a portion of that 9 percent increase.”

AWA budget workshops continued Monday and “a financial review of all three AWA wastewater districts is anticipated to occur later in the fiscal year,” Mancebo said.

Also in the June 14 meeting, AWA Directors heard a report from engineering consultant Peterson Brustad Incorporated on alternatives for managing “backwash” at the Buckhorn Water Treatment plant.

In the current system, backwash water is used to clean the treatment plant filters. Backwash is then piped to a pond at Mace Meadow Golf Course and used for summer irrigation. Mancebo said “the Mace Meadow pond is not large enough to accommodate all of the plant’s backwash water and 100-year rainfall events, putting the Agency at risk for fines by state regulators.”

The consultants recommended AWA install a system that would filter solids out of used backwash water and dry the solids for removal to a landfill. The filtered water could then be recycled back through the water treatment plant. Peterson Brustad also made recommendations for adjustments in water treatment and treated water storage to help the Agency meet the new state standards.

Mancebo said “the Agency is facing an October 2013 deadline to get disposal of the backwash water in compliance with new state requirements.”

Recommended improvements were estimated to costs $430,000, Mancebo said, which is “considerably less than estimates to enlarge the Mace Meadow pond. With the new system, the Agency will have the choice to continue sending water to Mace Meadow Golf Course for irrigation, or not, in the future.”

Application has been made to the State Department of Public Health for grants or low interest loans to pay for the necessary improvements. Directors unanimously approved including the project in the upcountry water system’s 2012-2013 budget and will proceed only when funding becomes available.

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Amador County – Sutter Creek City Council last week awarded a bid to construct its alignment of Prospect Drive with Bowers Drive, and is awaiting approval of a loan of $250,000 from the Regional Traffic Mitigation Fee program.

City Manager Sean Rabe said Sutter Creek has already requested the additional funding from the Regional Traffic Mitigation Fee Committee, which voted to approve the additional funding. Rabe said “the next step is for that approval to be ratified by each of the cities and the County,” as part of the program, which is administered by the Amador County Transportation Commission.

Rabe said prior to Sutter Creek City Council’s approval Monday, June 19, ACTC Executive Director Charles Field sent an email expressing concern that there wasn’t adequate funding for the project. The issue was cleared up June 20, he said, “assuming that the cities and the County ratify the RTMF committee’s action.”

Sutter Creek City Council last week awarded the $1.6 million bid to George Reed Construction.

Jackson City Council on Monday and Plymouth City Council on Thursday were to consider the request for the additional loan for the Prospect Drive-Ridge Road-Bowers Drive intersection, borrowing up to $250,000 from the Regional Traffic Mitigation Fee program, from funds previously obligated to the Sutter Street Extension Project in Jackson and the Western Ione Roadway Improvement System project.

Field in an annual report for the Regional Traffic Mitigation Fee Program fiscal year 2010-2011, said the Ione and Jackson projects were still owed funds borrowed for the Prospect Drive alignment in the previous year. He said repaying the two projects “will continue to receive ‘first call’ for new revenues until the loans are repaid.”

In the report, Field said that in March, Sutter Creek advised ACTC of the potential that construction bids for the Prospect intersection could exceed engineer cost estimates. The bid opened June 12 exceeded estimates by $240,000, and per request, the fee committee approved additional funds from the Jackson and Ione projects, “on a condition that both accounts will be repaid in full before Regional Traffic Mitigation Fee funds are spent for any other purpose and the Sutter Street Extension and the (Western Ione Roadway Improvement System) projects will continue to be priorities for future funding in the program.”

Jackson and Plymouth councils this week also were to consider a recommendation by Regional Traffic Mitigation Fee Committee to raise fees by $838 for a “single family dwelling” to $3,878; and lower “high-volume retail” by $2,736, to a fee of $3,344 per 1,000 square feet of building space.

The Committee also recommended adopting a “standardized appeal process” to “provide clear direction to both agency staff and potential appellants who believe their project’s trip-generation characteristics are not accurately represented by the fee schedule.”

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Amador County – Amador Water Agency board of directors last week discussed capital improvement projects, and agreed that hydrants should be among the higher priotiey projects on an agency “to do” list.

Director Robert Manassero asked if they could defer bridge work. AWA General Manager Gene Mancebo said they have to run a year ahead of the bridge construction schedule, at least one of which is slated for 2013. There are three on the list.

Field Operations manager Chris McKeage said AWA is required to remove or move utilities on bridge projects in Amador City, Sutter Creek and Bunker Hill. Camanche needs water storage tank liners, along with service line replacements. He said “we will really be pushing hard on Camanche.”

Regarding fire hydrants in Camanche and Upcountry, McKeage said some need to be repaired and some need to be replaced, so they get different levels of priority. Manassero asked if they should move hydrants higher up on the priority list. Director Paul Molinelli Senior asked if they should move both repair and replacement of hydrants up the list. Mancebo said they should make all hydrants a “priority 1.”

Director Art Toy asked about the $150,000 grant that The Amador County Board of Supervisors pledged to Camanche for repairs at its system. Mancebo said Supervisors have said they will honor that grant offer as long as a rate increase for water is approved in Camanche.

In public comment, one woman asked about insurance being canceled due to hydrants. Robert Burdick said a standpipe outside his home in the Upcountry is on a 3-inch line, and it was fixed by simply putting a hydrant on it. He said AWA should hire a grant writer to help fix the system.

Paul Johnson of Pine Grove Community Facilities District said experts have told him, “you might prevent a forest fire with hydrants but you are not going to fight it with hydrants.”

Mancebo said they have grant applications filed to do replacement of distribution projects. They are also trying to see if they can get the responsibility of all the small districts placed under county oversight. He said the first step with the county is working with the County Health Department.

The 50 projects on the list included 15 that had applications for grant funding or identified grants as a funding source.

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Amador County – Amador Water Agency board of directors hosted a budget workshop last week, and plan another this week as the fiscal year nears an end.

Staff led directors through the draft budget during the workshop last Tuesday, June 19, starting with a list of 40 capital improvement projects with priority rankings. General Manager Gene Mancebo said the Engineering Committee made the list, and the budget has a lot fewer projects than it could have.

Top priorities are determined by liability issues, risk management, and “must do” projects. About 26 are numbered in the Number 1 category, and may be required by regulations or for health and safety. Seven of those are tops, labeled as 1-A, including three bridge projects that require design and/or construction for utility relocation. All three are required, as is a Buckhorn water treatment plant compliance project.

Field Operations Manager Chris McKeage said the hours of distribution and engineering are split by one person, and “we’re about half a person short to get all the engineering done” on the projects.

Work in Ione to get interim water treatment plant capacity is also crucial because “we don’t want building permits withheld because of a lack of capacity.” Participation fees will fund it. Safety and regulatory projects are rated really high on the project list.

Mancebo said rate increases under consideration are not in the draft budget, nor are the formation of a Community Facilities District for the Amador Water System, and related rate changes. He said the budget has a 3% increase in revenue, but a 9% rate increase at the Wastewater Improvement District Number 1 was suspended by the AWA board until they get through working on the budget. President Gary Thomas said they hope to look at reducing the increase with the budget work.

Karen Gish, office manager, said the budget assumes wages and benefits are up 10%, based on memorandums of understanding and contracts in place with employees. Director Paul Molinelli Senior said the cost to provide that was anticipated. Mancebo recommended they refer that to the personnel committee or the budget and finance committee for negotiations.

Director Art Toy asked if the half a full-time-equivalent engineer deficit was in the budget. Controller Marvin Davis said the budget is running lean, and operating revenues are $176,000 short. The draft budget had total operating revenues of $11.8 million dollars, and total operating expenses of just over $12 million.

The AWA board will hold a special meeting for another budget workshop starting at 2 p.m. Monday, June 25 at the agency office, at 12800 Ridge Road in Sutter Creek.

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Monday, 25 June 2012 01:58

Ione finds aerator may help clean its Pond 5

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Amador County – Ione City Council last week approved activating a new aerator unit at its wastewater storage Pond 5 that may end up helping the city find a less costly solution to its sewer problems.

The Council approved a new contract with wastewater consultant Winzler & Kelly and heard a report of the status of a “Report of Waste Discharge,” which is due by the end of July.

Interim City Manager Jeff Butzlaff said the City is looking at compliance requirements of the Cease and Desist Order from the state, which orders that Ione remove manganese and iron corruption from its storage pond seepage into Sutter Creek, or apply for a permit to make the discharge.

The council gave authorization to go forward with a solar circulator, an aerator in Pond 5 to circulate and modify the iron and manganese levels of concentration in the water, by mixing it. The city started a lease-purchase arrangement for the aerator, Butzlaff said, and if it get outcomes that we’re hoping to attain,” it could minimize work on stratification levels and better oxygenate water in pond, and the pond can overcome the iron and manganese degradation.

Winzler & Kelly, through sampling, found Pond 5 was worst, and received state approval to try degradation changes with the aerator. Butzlaff said Ponds 6 and 7 did not have a problem, and this was clearly defined by depth testing.

The approach was not what the seepage discharge compliance plan indicated, he said. The report said the high iron and manganese issues may have been caused by heavy sludge at bottom of pond, but sampling and testing showed it was not the cause. It was caused by colder water, more direct contact with ground water, because Pond 5 is 4 feet deeper than the other ponds.

He was hopeful there may end up being no need for long-term financing and indebtedness – which could be the end result from a larger project requirement.

Ione will continue discussion with Amador Regional Sanitation Authority (ARSA) and Mule Creek on discussion with those parties with a more long term solution. Butzlaff said it becomes a basis for us going forward, with the least cost, and most conducive approach to a solution. It could also allow the city to not have to go through a Proposition 218 notification and rate increase.

A long term fix, including land irrigation can better work out with partners, he said. Last year, meeting Cease & Desist deadline backed Ione into a corner, but as talks improve, possible partnerships enhance Ione’s ability to go forward with a regional, larger project. Costs were estimated at $2 million to $17 million, and partnering would mean Ione would not have to pay the entire cost.

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Amador County – Ione Interim City Manager Jeff Butzlaff said last week he is cautiously optimistic about the city’s chance of getting “basic aid” funding restored to Ione, Amador County and her cities, after attending Legislative hearings, and seeing a Senate committee planning to address the issue Monday (June 25).

Amador and Mono Counties lost property taxes and Vehicle License Fees (VLF) due to “basic aid” finance policy issues. Ione lost just under $400,000 the last two years because Amador Unified went basic aid, Butzlaff said. Ione lost $190,000 the first year and $163,000 this year, part of License Fees that would have been transferred as property tax, as done throughout state, but it can no longer occur because of basic aid status of the School District.

Alyson Huber’s Assembly Bill 1191, if passed, would correct this problem and the city will get another $160,000 a year. In addition, an amendment being considered would hopefully fund 2010-11 and 2011-12 revenues that we did not receive, Butzlaff said. AB1191 would take effect and set up a new process of accessing this money starting July 1.

He said there is some money in the governor’s budget for one of those years and also discussion of amending AB1191 to provide for restoration of 2010-11 and 2011-12 funds.

Butzlaff said the amendment looks favorable and right now we are very encouraged. He said: “We’re the poster child of this issue, because Ione is the most dependent on the VLF, because of the prison.” In 2004, Ione had a boon market in housing prices. It got to more than $800,000 five years ago, but that has dropped because housing prices have dropped.

Butzlaff said “it looks very promising that this will be resolved,” and the city “will recover one and possibly two of the years lost.” He said $350,000 “would be available to us that we would have otherwise received,” but it will not become a done deal until the legislative process works its way through. “We have reason to be at least cautiously optimistic.”

AB1191 passed the Senate Local Government Committee and other subcommittees unanimously. He said the question arose of whether this was an appropriation, but “the money would have come to us,” but was lost due to a breakdown in the basic aid process.

Butzlaff said: “We’re not asking for new funding. It’s simply funding that is already supposed to be happening.” The school district property tax went to us, but was not backfilled by the state to the schools.

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Amador County – Adam Dalton gave his weekly report on the Amador County Parks and Fields Restoration Project, saying work Volcano is reaching an end. ¶ Dalton said he and his crew from the Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians likely will be finished with their efforts this week and will be taking a few weeks off from the restoration project to attend to some much needed work back home on the Rancheria.

Dalton said: “I’d like to thank the good people of Volcano for being such wonderful hosts. You’ve made the work crew and I feel welcome throughout the entire time spent transforming this wonderful town.”

He appreciated the residents’ kindness in offering assistance and with the many food donations they supplied to volunteers on the crew. Dalton said: “I couldn’t help but get a little choked up today as walked through town in realization of just how much I’m going to miss working in Volcano.”

He said he would also like to “thank Amador County for the respect and support that you’ve given to me and my family.”

He said to continue checking the local newspaper and look for updates on TSPN for announcements regarding the next project destination with the Amador County Park Restoration team.

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Friday, 22 June 2012 01:19

Ione offers its City Manager position to an applicant

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Amador County – Ione City Council made an offer to one of its finalists for the City Manager position recently, and is awaiting a response.

The council had a closed session meeting Wednesday to discuss the issue, and Interim City Manager Jeff Butzlaff said Thursday that the council had made an offer, and awaits response. The council had narrowed the finalists and conducted interviews to replace Butzlaff, who said he “becomes extinct” at the end of the month.

He said the council may schedule a special meeting Monday to field the response and go on from there. The issue is still confidential personnel dealings. Butzlaff said hopefully there is an overlap between his tenure and the new manager so they can work together.

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