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California Wolves Adding To Their Pack
A new report by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that two-state wolf packs produced a dozen pups this year… wolves are protected in California under the state's endangered species act. In opposition to that act are many ranchers who are opposed to wolf protections, saying the animals prey on and stress out their livestock. Of note, earlier this year a rare gray wolf named OR-93 left Oregon and was being tracked with a radio collar throughout the state, including visits to Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, August 7, 2021

Conservation groups call for more aggressive forest management
Fifteen conservation organizations recently signed an open letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore urging a significant increase in the pace and scale of forest treatments on federal forests… Buckley said that lack of funding has inhibited much-needed forest treatments…The forest service estimates that 6-9 million acres of the 20 million acres it manages in California is in need of restoration. Click here for article—The Calaveras Enterprise, August 6, 2021

Forest Service Changing Approach To Wildfires
Temporarily, the US Forest Service will no longer allow fires to burn for resource benefit and will implement full suppression tactics over the immediate period…"Candidly, I think it is fair to say that over the generations, and over the decades, we have tried to do this job on the cheap…the reality is that this has caught up with us, and which is why we have an extraordinary number of catastrophic fires." Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, August 5, 2021

Sonora City Council moves toward approving proposed regulations for short-term rentals
"It's not a perfect ordinance," Councilman Jim Garaventa said, "but when your vacancy rate for rental housing is nearing zero, you have a problem." The proposed ordinance would also establish fines of up to $1,000 per day for short-term rental operators who are operating without permits or not following the city's rules. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, August 3, 2021

Subdivision developers sue Jamestown Sanitary District, consultant
The development group behind a 230-home subdivision on Golf Links Road is suing the Jamestown Sanitary District and its contracted engineering consultant, Black Water Consulting Engineers, for providing them with what it claims was a false and overstated available capacity for new residential hookups before it planned construction. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, August 3, 2021

More Of California Now Experiencing Exceptional Drought
"Further expansion of moderate to exceptional drought was introduced in parts of California and the Northwest, as agricultural, wildfire, and water-supply impacts continued to mount." All of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, except for the highest elevation areas, are under the most severe "exceptional drought." The other parts are labeled "extreme drought." Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, July 30, 2021

PG&E Will Bury 10,000 Miles of Power Lines So They Don't Spark Wildfires
PG&E stepped up its safety commitment just days after informing regulators a 70-foot pine tree that toppled on one of its power lines ignited a major fire in Butte County, the same rural area about 145 miles northeast of San Francisco where another fire sparked by its equipment in 2018 killed more than 80 people and destroyed thousands of homes. Since it started July 13 in a remote area of Butte County, the Dixie Fire has churned northeast through the Sierra Nevada…forcing the Plumas County sheriff on Wednesday to order evacuations along the west shore of popular Lake Almanor… PG&E said only that burying the lines will take several years. Click here for article—NPR/AP, July 21, 2021

Real estate boom exacerbates affordable housing shortage in Calaveras County
The shortage of affordable housing is nothing new in Calaveras County or the state, but the real estate boom during the pandemic has exacerbated the problem. From February of 2020 to June of 2021, the median sales price of single-family homes in the county increased by 37% from $355,000 to $488,000… The availability of long-term rentals has declined and rents have been on the rise... About 40% of Calaveras County's roughly 28,000 housing units are vacant, meaning that they do not serve as a primary residence... Click here for article—The Calaveras Enterprise, July 20, 2021

Drought 2021 - How Bad Is It? - Part II
New Hogan Lake, which supplies irrigation and drinking water to the Calaveras County Water District and Stockton East Water District, is at 38 percent of capacity with 121,518 acre-feet of water. At this time last year, the man-made reservoir was at 54.8 percent of capacity…"As of June 15, the State Water resources Control Board issued notices to all post-1914 water right holders in California informing them water is unavailable under those water rights." Click here for article—The Valley Springs News, July 9, 2021

Numbers explain how and why the West bakes, burns and dries out
The US West is getting hit with a triple whammy of record heat, megadrought and wildfires — and just a handful of numbers explains the how and why of this wild and deadly weather… A 2020 study said "global warming has pushed what would have been a moderate drought in southwestern North America into megadrought territory." Click here for article—ABC News/ AP, July 14, 2021

Drought 2021- How bad is it? Part I
We all know Calaveras County, the Sierra Nevada Foothills, the State of California and many of the states in the southwest are in a drought… "Within a month we went from around 70 percent of normal down to around 30 or 40 percent of normal," he added. "What was interesting was just how fast it happened after April 1." By mid-June, most of the state was declared to be in extreme drought… The sudden escalation of drought in California has parallels with so-called "flash droughts…" Click here for article—The Valley Springs News, July 7, 2021

Rural fire districts losing firefighters as state, feds ramp up hiring
Historically, local firefighters have sought jobs with state, federal and metropolitan agencies due to better pay, said Rich Dickinson, chief of Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District. The beefing up of these larger agencies in recent months has further exposed that wage disparity, making it harder to find replacements for the firefighters who have left. Click here for article—The Calaveras Enterprise, July 7, 2021

Images from space show California's forests and lakes drying out in a record mega-drought
Historic drought and heat are converging on western states to create the perfect storm for depleted reservoirs, strained power grids, and rampant wildfires later this summer. The effects are so stark, you can see them from space… Rising global temperatures are changing the western US profoundly: Warmer air causes more moisture to evaporate, drying out soil. That raises the risk of drought and leaves forests full of tinder-dry foliage, primed for wildfires. Heat waves only make the situation worse. They're occuring three times more often…than they did in the 1960s… Click here for article—Business Insider, July 2, 2021

Proposed city ordinance would set new rules for Sonora short-term rentals
New and existing operators of Airbnb-style short-term rentals in Sonora would be subject to new rules under a proposed ordinance being sent to the city's Planning Commission… It was the fourth public meeting where the council has discussed the topic since approving a temporary moratorium for processing new permits on March 16 in response to concerns that such rentals have been exacerbating a lack of available long-term housing within the city. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, July 2, 2021

Hundreds of miles of blue oak tree cover exclusive to California have vanished. Why?
A new study conducted by U.S. Geological Survey researchers found that the historic drought of 2012-2016 alone caused nearly 490 square miles of tree cover loss — or the reduction of leaves and branches — in the blue oak woodlands. That's about 37% of the entire tree cover loss in the study's 32-year period… Researchers say the "alarming" amount of loss during California's five-year drought, the hottest in over a century, reveals how vulnerable blue oaks are to extreme climate events… Click here for article—Raleigh News & Observer, June 30, 2021

Transportation Commission allocates $22 million for construction of the State Route 4 Wagon Trail Realignment project
Calaveras County, in partnership with Caltrans and the Calaveras Council of Governments (CCOG), secured funding to construct a critical portion of the State Route 4 (SR 4) Wagon Trail…Once completed, the entire Wagon Trail Realignment project will realign and reconstruct approximately 6.5 miles of SR 4 between Copperopolis and Angels Camp. Click here for article—The Calaveras Enterprise, June 24, 2021

Supervisors adopt budget, changes to cannabis ordinance, pay raises for elected officials
…the board adopted changes to the cannabis ordinance which provide a permitting process for four cannabis-related activities—limited distribution, general distribution, transport-only distribution and laboratory testing. Local distribution and testing were previously barred, compelling local growers to rely on out-of-county businesses to provide these services. Click here for article—The Calaveras Enterprise, June 24, 2021

He has celebrated deserts all his life. Now he's sounding the alarm
"We are getting about 20% less rain on average in the last two decades than we did prior to that," said Cornett, who also noted that average desert temperatures have risen by just under 2 degrees since the middle of the last century… for fragile natural environments like those in California's deserts, he said, the combination of hotter weather and less rainfall can be catastrophic. And something we all took for granted — the occasional glorious explosion of spring wildflowers — could become more rare. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, June 9, 2021

Federal officials seek input for Ackerson Meadow restoration
Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest are seeking commentary from the public on their plan to restore wetlands in the Ackerson Meadow… "The gully network is a result of over a century of landscape manipulation including domestic water diversion, farming, ranching, and timber harvest," the National Park Service said in a release. The restoration project has been hailed by conservation and preservation organizations, such as the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte. Comments on the environmental assessment can be submitted through July 8 online at nps.gov/yose/getinvolved/ackersonmeadow.htm. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, June 4, 2021

New water meters in the works for CCWD customers
Approximately 13,200 new water meters will be installed by the Calaveras County Water District within a year. These advanced meters will improve CCWD's meter reading system, as well as send usage data to CCWD through a wireless network… "We are anticipating the project will be completed by Spring 2022. We plan to begin installing meters in July 2021 and will start with the Ebbetts Pass Service Area." Click here for article—The Valley Springs News, June 4, 2021

Board appoints interim planning director
At a meeting on May 11, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors appointed Amber Collins as interim planning director. "I was asked by the county to consider taking over as interim planning director on a temporary, part-time basis until the position is filled permanently," Collins said. "The expectations of the CCOG Board are that I continue to fulfill my duties as their executive director…" Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, May 26, 2021

Fossils of mastodon, other ancient mammals millions of years old discovered near Valley Springs
East Bay Municipal Utility District Ranger Naturalist Greg Francek was patrolling familiar ground on the perimeter of the Camanche and Pardee reservoirs in July last year when he spotted what appeared to be a petrified tree buried partially in the ground… The discovery spurred an archaeological investigation that unearthed a treasure-trove of late Miocene-era fossils — two-tusked mastodon, four-tusked gomphothere, rhinoceros, camel, horse, bird, fish, tortoise and tapir — all of which roamed the area, now known as the Mokelumne River watershed near Valley Springs, 5 to 10 million years ago. "There may not be as many sites in California which are as significant as this." Click here for article—The Union Democrat, May 21, 2021

Fossils Of Prehistoric Species Discovered In Calaveras County
A trove of fossils, estimated to be anywhere from 5 to 10 million years old, was located in the Mokelumne River watershed in Calaveras County. The discovery was made in July of last year…patrolling the 28,000 acres of protected land near Valley Springs... The high concentration of fossils suggests that the area was made up of multiple river channels with an abundant and diverse grassland and forest ecosystem. Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, May 20, 2021

Large fuel break in the works between Murphys and Avery
Recent wildfires have highlighted the importance of home hardening in addition to creating fuel breaks, though the cost can be substantial, Fullerton said…"But it's also not cheap to have to go to the California Fair Plan and lose your homeowner's insurance, or ultimately lose your house in a fire." Fullerton said that fuel reduction projects like the Fullen Road fuel break are critical to limiting the severity of wildfires. Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, May 20, 2021

'Fire season is here way too early'- Campo Fire highlights drought conditions in Calaveras
The rapid spread of the Campo Fire, which resulted from an escaped debris burn north of Valley Springs last week, highlights the dry conditions that the county is currently facing. The fire began on the afternoon of April 29…and quickly burned through 150 acres of oak woodland and brush… Calaveras Consolidated Fire Protection District, one of several agencies which responded to the blaze, reported that one outbuilding burned on Valley Springs Peak. "The terrain was steep and difficult for firefighters, and the dry and warm conditions pushed the fire at a rapid pace," Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, May 6, 2021

California Population Drops For First Time
California has been recording population growth since the state was founded in 1850, and for the first time, that number has gone down… Locally, Calaveras has actually increased population going from 45,023 to 45,036 people, a small gain of 13 people. Tuolumne County's population reflects the state's overall trend, dropping from a population of 54,925 to 53,465. Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, May 5, 2021

Officials Fear State Building Regulations Could 'Incapacitate' Tuolumne County
The board of supervisors in Tuolumne County heard an update about proposed changes that could notably impact local development projects. We first reported in March that the State Board of Forestry has drafted new proposed regulations that would require landowners to improve all "substandard roads" before a development project can move forward in an area deemed "high fire hazard." Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, May 5, 2021

County settles lawsuit over cannabis ordinance
As part of the settlement, the county agreed to make several changes to the cannabis cultivation ordinance, which include adding an October 2024 sunset date for future grow permit applications and requiring additional well testing in the seventh year of cultivation… Additionally, the settlement requires the county to establish an independent working group to address residents' concerns about the impacts of cannabis cultivation… Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, April 30, 2021

Low inventory, high demand stoke real estate prices locally
"The trend I see is that people from the Bay Area and the Valley are wanting to move up here. The population is less dense and you can have more land for your money. The people up here are moving to Idaho and Oregon." The biggest hotspot for sales in the county remains in Arnold, where mountain cabins and vacation homes fly off the market within days… Similarly, across the state, high demand and low inventory continue to fuel rising real estate prices. Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, April 29, 2021

Pachinger appointed director of public works
The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors recently appointed a new department head with strong ties to the community and a long career with the county… Over the past 30 years, Pachinger has worked with almost 10 different interim directors or directors of public works, and served as interim director three times. Moving forward, Pachinger said that he is focused on public safety and project delivery. Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, April 22, 2021

Sonora City Council temporarily halts permits for new short-term rentals
A moratorium approved Monday night by the Sonora City Council will temporarily prohibit new Airbnb-style rentals while city staff analyzes their impact on the overall availability of housing in the area… The report also said that city staff was unable to find any long-term rentals available within the city as of March 31, with several listings having wait lists of one to two years. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, April 8, 2021

State water right holders advised to plan for shortages
Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) was one of the recipients of an early warning notice from the State Water Resources Control Board. "We are experiencing very dry conditions again this year," CCWD General Manager Michael Minkler said. "… as responsible stewards of the three watersheds in Calaveras County and in anticipation of potential curtailment orders from the state, we must be proactive about conservation." Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, April 1, 2021

On tap in California: Another drought four years after last
The state appears in the midst of another drought only a few years after a punishing 5-year dry spell dried up rural wells, killed endangered salmon, idled farm fields and helped fuel the most deadly and destructive wildfires in modern state history... In fact, the entire West is gripped in what scientists consider a "megadrought" that started in 1999 and has been interrupted by only occasional years with above-average precipitation. In California, the heaviest rain and snow comes in the winter months, but not this year — about 90% of the state already is experiencing drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Click here for article—Associated Press, March 31, 2021

California Weighs Changes for New Water Rights Permits in Response to a Warmer and Drier Climate
"California's climate is changing rapidly, and historic data are no longer a reliable guide to future conditions," according to the report, Recommendations for an Effective Water Rights Response to Climate Change. "The uncertainty lies only in the magnitude of warming, but not in whether warming will occur." "It's beyond dispute that the changes in precipitation and temperature patterns resulting from climate change will affect water availability," Click here for article—Water Education Foundation, March 26, 2021

Alt resigns
County Administrative Officer Albert Alt has resigned… Selected April 16, 2019, by the board as county administrative officer, Alt was on a three-year contract with a salary of approximately $172,000 annually. In addition to looking for a new CAO, the county has openings for a planning director, public works director, public health officer and Health and Human Services Agency director. All of those positions at this time are being filled by interim appointments. Click here for article—The Valley Springs News, March 19, 2021

Approval of mass zoning change harms Burson landowner
Changes to Calaveras County's zoning map were unanimously approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors…The only feedback from the public during the hearing came from a Burson landowner. What was once a commercially zoned property near the intersection of State Route 12 and Burson Road was being switched to rural residential under the new zoning map… Ponti said his property has lost nearly two-thirds of its value by being rezoned from commercial to residential. Click here for article—The Valley Springs News, March 12, 2021

Snowpack Reading Shows Fifth Consecutive Dry Month
With the weather in the Mother Lode already feeling like spring California Department of Water Resources (DWR) officials have taken their 3rd annual snow survey with the snowpack coming in at less than average…"With back-to-back dry years, water efficiency and drought preparedness are more important than ever for communities, agriculture, and the environment." DWR officials encourage Californians to look at ways to reduce water waste and increase water efficiency at home. The chart below shows current statewide reservoir levels. Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, March 4, 2021

Then and now: A 'megadrought' in California
This year is likely to be critically dry for California. Winter storms that dumped heavy snow and rain across the state are not expected to be substantial enough to counterbalance drought conditions. Lake Oroville plays a key role in California's complex water delivery system… Climate change is not just about a warmer world, it also means that the planet will see more extreme environmental conditions and weather. Click here for article—BBC News, March 4, 2021

Angels City Council approves next step for Habitat for Humanity subdivision
The roughly 17-acre project area is planned to contain 107 units of workforce housing, including 65 single-family homes and seven 6-plexes, as well as a small recreational area. Households of up to four making up to $64,000 can qualify to purchase the homes, and larger families can make up to $80,000. Applicants must also qualify for a low-interest loan and put in "sweat equity" during the construction process… "It was a long time coming, but everything's approved," he said. "We have a development agreement in place, so now the next step for us is to answer all of the conditions of the approval." Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, February 23, 2021

County Improves Accessibility of Zoning Update Map after encouragement from MVS.com
As Calaveras County planning staff move forward with the Zoning Update, regional groups have been diligent in their participation throughout the process. Recently MyValleySprings.com (MVS) seems to have made some headway with the County after multiple requests for improvements to be made to the GIS Map and related zoning update information. "MVS submitted more comments about the zoning map (directly to Planning) about the many problems with public access, use, and understanding of the proposed zoning map and zoning information…" As well as providing a useful Help file, the County changed the default map view to show the proposed zoning changes layers instead of the land use layer. Click here for article—CAP/CPC Planning Update, February 19, 2021

Supervisors to consider county-wide zoning map update
"On March 9, the board of supervisors will consider amending the zoning map to bring zoning into conformance with the General Plan and to rezone all Unclassified and Highway Service zoned parcels," a press release from the planning department reads. "Approximately 6,900 parcels will be affected by these changes." "The proposed changes can be viewed on the county's open web portal through the planning department's website at https://planning.calaverasgov.us under the 'zoning' tab,"…"Directions for finding a parcel and if it is proposed to be changed are also available at that site." Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, February 19, 2021

TUD board gridlocks on water supply, future availability
Tuolumne Utilities District will continue to process applications for new water hookups because its Board of Directors failed Thursday to reach a determination on future supply and availability…The TUD board took no action at a meeting in January on a potential agreement with developers of the future Stone Mill Center near the Pedro Wye intersection between Sonora and Columbia to extend water pipelines on the property, in part due to concerns about the project's projected impact on TUD's water supply. Click here for article—Union Democrat, February 18, 2021

Sharp decrease in Yosemite National Park tourism highlights COVID-19 economic impact
The number of recreation visitors to Yosemite National Park dropped by nearly half in 2020 to 2.26 million, a 48.7% decrease from 2019 when 4.42 million visitors were counted at the top tourism draw in the Central Sierra…The 2020 recreation visitor total for Yosemite is the lowest in more than 45 years. "When the park was closed, my business was down 90 to 95%," Anker said. "That right there tells you we don't get many locals. It's all about Yosemite." Click here for article—Union Democrat, February 18, 2021

Owner of 'The Scar' details development plans for Highway 120 eyesore
Many people who spoke against the other two projects voiced support for "The Scar" property as a more appropriate place for such developments, including John Buckley, executive director of the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center…"The key points that separate this project from the controversial projects farther to the east along the highway are that this project is closer to communities, it's an infill project, it has public water and public sewer available, and it's a site that already has been significantly altered from its natural condition," he said. Click here for article—Union Democrat, February 4, 2021

Historic Giant Sequoias Fall Victim To Mono Winds
One aspect that Yosemite is well known for is its towering Giant Sequoias, and the Mariposa Grove was notably impacted by a powerful storm system last month. The National Park Service has been assessing the damage in the park after a Mono wind event left behind damage to trees and buildings on January 19. Hit hardest was the southern portion of the park where the Mariposa Grove lies. Park officials report that at least 15 mature giant sequoias fell. Click here for article—MyMotherLode.com, February 1, 2021

Planning Director Maurer to retire after seven years with the county
Maurer's last days on the job will be spent focusing on a zoning map update, a comprehensive zoning ordinance update, housing issues and a hemp ordinance. He said he had some words of advice for the next person to hold his position. "Be open to change," he said. "Get to know the community well if you don't already. Learn how each community is unique and different, and although we all sort of face the same issues, there's a different approach for each community." Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, January 21, 2021

'WE'RE BEING RAILROADED'- Proposed cell tower sparks opposition in Vallecito
The recent submission of an application from AT&T to the Calaveras County Planning Department for an administrative-use permit to erect a 140-foot cell tower in a residential area of Vallecito has sparked strong opposition from a group of local residents. "There's a lot of open country around Vallecito, and there's a lot of places to put it," she said. "It doesn't have to be in our front yards. It doesn't have to be on Main Street, Vallecito." Click here for article—Calaveras Enterprise, January 13, 2021

Environmental study starts on 2015 project
Preliminary environmental work is under way in downtown Valley Springs for a project scheduled for spring 2025… Major improvements could be a traffic signal at State Route 12 entrance into the Valley Oaks Shopping Center and a left turn lane off eastbound SR 12 into Castle Rock Mobile Home Park. Collisions along that stretch of the highway have been identified in excess of statewide averages. Click here for article—The Valley Springs News, January 8, 2021

Supervisors uphold Terra Vi Lodge approval
A proposed resort about five miles west of the Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite National Park will be allowed to move forward …a lodge with 100 guest rooms, seven detached cabins totaling 26 additional guest rooms, five apartment buildings each containing four units each for employee housing, a public market, and emergency helipad, which would cover about 18% of a 64-acre property at Sawmill Mountain Road and Highway 120. Click here for article—The Union Democrat, January 4, 2021

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