Nevada County Board of Supervisors Delays Decision on Blue Lead Mine

The Nevada County Board of Supervisors was surprisingly receptive to those appealing the recent decision of the Planning Commission to grant Blue Lead Mine a “mitigated negative declaration” in lieu of a full EIR (environmental impact report).

After a full afternoon  (1:30 to 7:30) of testimony and deliberations before a completely packed chamber, the Board voted 3-2 to delay the decision on the appeal until after further study of the water issue (the Blue Lead project plans to use 20,000 gallons of water per day in its mining activities, with impacts on local wells completely uncertain).

My impression is that most of the pro-mine comments came from owner Robert White and his family, Blue Lead employees/consultants and recreational miners.

Most of the comments critical of the proposed mining project came from people living in the vicinity of the mine, whose arguments in favor of the appeal and in favor of an EIR, were compelling, The process  could still (after some months of further study?) end up in an EIR, depending on the results of the water study.

More details can be found here on Yubanet (the first to report on this BOS meeting):

Red Flags for Blue Lead Mine – Decision Postponed


City Needs Comprehensive Development Plan Centered Around the “Real Gold in Grass Valley”

By Bruce Herring

Much ado lately in local press and other spheres concerning the future of Grass Valley. Citizens, elected officials, print journalists, bloggers, and other characters have bandied about a variety of notions. At issue: What is, what has, and what will really revitalize Grass Valley? It has been suggested the new Dorsey interchange is the true “silver bullet.” It has been suggested a new “Lifestyle Mall” at the interchange is the key to our future, complete with a big or at least a medium box. “It’s what the people want.”

Not long ago the buzz was the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine. Before that it was Loma Rica, other annexations, the shopping malls, and heck even the freeway itself. Brilliant idea that freeway, and convenient. Of course great swaths of private and commercial property were condemned, Nevada City lost the old gazebo, and Wolf Creek sentenced to run underground through tunnels and culverts for much of its downtown reach. A bit further back are the mines themselves, the mills, Lake Olympia, the Narrow Gauge Railroad, and …

Except for a portion of the original Loma Rica plan, these ideas and “improvements” – while visionary to varying degrees – are all based on quite conventional nineteenth or twentieth century thought. All have brought, or will bring some gain. All have tradeoffs. Everything does.

Several recent comments aim to push the conversation toward a 21st century framework. One suggests we are leaving history out of the equation. Others call for a comprehensive outlook instead of the usual piece-meal strategy. Steve Frisch of the Sierra Business Council goes one step further to suggest folks today “Want to live, work, shop and be entertained in the place they live; they want to walk and ride bikes; they want access to trails and open space; they want affordable starter housing for working people because young people can’t afford the single family residential American dream anymore; people crave authenticity and a sense of place.”

Two things. One, the City of Grass Valley has secured a grant to pursue a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan. I am told by high level city staffers that a multi-year series of public meetings will commence sometime later this year to do just that. Fabulous.

Two. Yes, a comprehensive outlook with a broad perspective is indeed a welcome idea. But the discourse must also include the age-old concept of the Commons. To be sure Grass Valley and Western Nevada County need to continue moving forward economically. But as Mr. Frisch suggests, we should do so authentically and with a renewed sense of “place.”

The common thread through Grass Valley is Wolf Creek. Like most “commons” it has been virtually invisible, neglected, used, and abused since the get-go in the 1850s. Commons in general are taken for granted and not valued in the complex accounting of GDP and “economic growth.” And yet in their wisdom the Grass Valley City Council unanimously approved a Conceptual Plan for a Wolf Creek Parkway in 2006. A Wolf Creek Trail is mentioned in city documents as early as 1999 and is included in the Downtown Strategic Plan.

Little or nothing has happened in the last eight years to move the concept forward. The time to do so is now. The Wolf Creek Parkway can and should stand as the centerpiece of any Comprehensive Economic Development Plan. Yes for the creek’s sake, but more importantly for OURS. We need a healthy visible accessible creek to revitalize ourselves. A place to walk, a place to bike, a place to just sit by moving water will provide a profound sense of place and connection to the natural world. It will help each of us feel good about our town. Citizens and visitors alike will benefit from the shared values derived from Wolf Creek, the “Real Gold in Grass Valley.”

Urban river and creek restoration has boosted property values and economic vitality in San Luis Obispo, Napa, Santa Rosa, and Tempe, AZ. Plans are underway for a major rehabilitation of the Los Angeles River. Freeway interchanges, bridges, and places to shop locally are indeed essential to our vitality, as would be high speed internet access. But the Wolf Creek Parkway will make a statement and put Grass Valley “on the map.” The Parkway epitomizes a bold move into 21st Century thinking.

Let the conversation continue. For additional information please visit the website of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.

Bruce_Herring_thumbBruce Herring is a former whitewater rafting guide for O.A.R.S., running in the 70s and 80s on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Merced, American, Rogue, San Juan, Tatshenshini, and Grand Canyon. He spent ten years teaching and as Principal of Bitney Springs High School in Grass Valley, stepping aside in 2013. He currently serves as the Managing Director for A&B Associates, and volunteers for the Wolf Creek Community Alliance. See his blog at “Steward’s Log.”

Fundraiser Tomorrow at the Fairgrounds for Pete Lance and Family

This is our long-time arborist, Pete Lance, and his family. A few days before he was scheduled to do some work for us earlier this month, he fell from a height of 50 feet while working at a home in Folsom and broke his back. He’ll have a long recovery, and he’s (I think) the sole support of his family. If you live in the Grass Valley area, please consider coming to a spaghetti-feed fundraiser at the Northern Mines building at the Nevada County Fairgrounds from 4 PM to 9 PM Saturday (tomorrow). He and his family really need help.

The way the community has come together for Pete is truly inspiring: Jim Norman of Trees Unlimited will do the job here as Pete spec’d it and give all the profit to the Lance family. Andy Bjorson, who will do the logging portion of our job, will also donate his profit to the family.

Click the image below for current information on Pete’s progress and for more information on how you can donate:


This Little Light of Mine … I’m Gonna Let It Shine

I was in the Booksellers bookstore in Grass Valley recently and one of the clerks pointed at my pants and asked “What’s that?” I looked down and saw that the little flashlight attached to my keychain inside my pocket had accidentally switched on and was shining a light right through my pants. Without hesitation, I answered, “This little light of mine … I’m gonna let it shine!”

Which of course made me think of this wonderful opening scene — one of my all-time favorites — from the Tina Turner biopic, “What’s Love Got to Do With it?”

Wolf Creek Community Alliance Presents: State of the Creek


WCCA Oct 24 Press Release

Informal Poll of Downtown Businesses Raises Serious Questions About Grass Valley’s Retail Focus Group Report

By Don Pelton

Our friend, Deni Draper-Silberstein, went to the one public meeting set up to discuss the Retail Focus Group Report commissioned by the Grass Valley City Council and conducted by Chabin Concepts, Inc.

The City approved this $7500 study in order to determine local shopping patterns and preferences and apparently to gauge the reaction of local business owners to the idea of attracting more big box stores to our community.

Here’s how Deni explained her reaction to that meeting (from her Facebook posting on Tuesday 7/23/13):

There were 3 meetings regarding the City’s solicitation of big box stores: one meeting for the public, one for local businesses, and I forget who the third meeting was for. When I went to the “public” meeting regarding this issue, the consultants whom the City have hired, said that, except for the local restaurants, the downtown business owners who attended the “business owners’” meeting, were overwhelmingly in favor of bringing in big box stores. That the downtown businesses were “overwhelmingly” in favor of bringing in mega-competition didn’t make sense to me, so after the meeting, I went to 12 downtown businesses and asked either the manager or the owner how they felt about this idea. Eleven of the 12 said that they didn’t KNOW that the consultants had had a meeting of the local businesses, and 12 out of 12 said that they are definitely OPPOSED to the idea. I noticed last week that one of the most vocally outraged of the 12 businesses has a “going out of business” sign up at her store.

She added:

Everyone was definitely opposed to the idea of bringing in big boxes … a handful were vehemently opposed. The emotions ranged from vehemently opposed, to angry, to upset, to concerned, to defeated.

Although Deni’s poll was informal and (in her words) “crude,” she nevertheless gave it some forethought and organized her approach before she began, carefully recording her results.

She explained her methodology as follows:

I only spoke with owners/managers because I couldn’t know whether or not employees would accurately represent the business for whom they were working – if the owner or manager was not available, I left without surveying the business.

The questions were, 1) Did you know about the online survey, 2) Did you fill out the survey, 3) Did you know about the focus group, 4) Did you attend the focus group, 5) Are you in favor of Grass Valley bringing in a big box store that sells the same goods as your business.

I made these questions up as I left the focus group – held at Holiday Inn, GV – and walked toward downtown, so they’re not necessarily the best questions one could have asked. Also, I knew from my training in psychology that I, at least, needed to ask the same questions to everyone I surveyed in order to establish some measure of consistency, so I could organize the responses reliably in order to assess the results of this rather crude survey, then establish at least the potential for a valid conclusion – which I won’t draw, but, rather, will let the evidence speak for itself.

The following are Deni’s detailed results, plus her observations about the process:

GV Merchant Survey conducted by Deni on 5/23/13

Merchant Knew of Survey Filled Out Knew of Focus Group Attended Box+
Merchant 1 Y Y N N N
Merchant 2 N N N N N
Merchant 3 N N N N N
Merchant 4 N N N N N
Merchant 5 N N N N N
Merchant 6 N N N N N
Merchant 7 N N N N N
Merchant 8 N N N N N
Merchant 9 N N N N N
Merchant 10 N N N N N
Merchant 11 N N N N N
Merchant 12 N N N N N

Knew of Survey = the owner/manager of the local business knew about the on-line survey that had to be filled out in order to be invited to the Focus Group meetings

Filled out = the owner/manager filled out the survey

Knew of Focus Group =  the owner/manager was informed that a Focus Group meeting for the local business owners was being held on a specific date

Attended = the business was represented at the Business Owners’ Focus Group meeting

Box + = when asked by me, the owner/manager of the business was in favor of soliciting big box stores to set up business in Grass Valley.

If my memory serves me well, there were Four Layers of hoops to jump through before one could attend a meeting (I know there were at least three hoops because I was appalled at how clever they were at making access to the facts difficult, and at keeping potential opponents separated from each other (divide and conquer) i.e. IF one complied with the 4 layers, THEN they could attend ONLY the meeting to which they were invited – the public could ONLY attend the “public” meeting, the business owners could ONLY attend the business owners’ meeting, etc.)

1st layer: One had to know about the survey

2nd layer: One had to take the time to fill out the survey

3rd layer: One had to be invited to attend the meeting (the invitation only occured IF one had filled out the survey, although the owner of Merchant 1 said that s/he had filled out the survey, then kept waiting to be informed of the date of the Business Owners’ Focus Group, but never heard back from the consultants)

4th layer: One had to respond to the invitation by making a reservation to attend the Focus Group Meeting

Deni also sent me some interesting observations on the general subject of big box stores and their effect on local economies, which I’ll print here in Sierra Voices in a subsequent posting.

In the meantime her survey results and the comments by some local business owners about the City/consultant’s inadequate communication raises serious questions about the integrity and inclusiveness of the Focus Group Report itself.

Why Aikido’Ka Won’t Be at this Year’s Fair or Why Elephant Rides and Respect Don’t Mix

By Frank Bloksberg

African_Bush_Elephant_1-229x300“An Open Letter to the Community,

“My name is Frank Bloksberg. I have lived in Nevada City for about 18 years. I am a lawyer and run a martial arts school, in Grass Valley, called Aikido’Ka. At Aikido’Ka, we train in aikido – known as the “Art of Peace.” Aikido’Ka is different than other martial arts schools, because we are dedicated to peacefully resolving disputes and performing community service. For instance, we have raised over $13,000 and 6,000 pounds of food for the Food Bank.

“Aikido’Ka has been open for 6 years. We’ve had a booth at every County Fair since we’ve been open. The County Fair is a huge outreach opportunity for us. We meet a lot of our future students there. Deciding not having a booth is a really big deal for us.”

To read Frank Bloksberg’s letter in full, click here.

Nevada County Fair Elephant Controversy Reaches National Audience of Millions

Care2, a “social action network” with over 22 million members and a claimed “reach” of some 150 million people, is featuring an article about the Nevada County Fair Elephant controversy in its July 15th newsletter:



Shelley Frost, program manager of CAPE  [Center for Animal Protection and Education] said, “Elephants are majestic, intelligent animals who don’t belong at a fair, providing rides for children. It’s not the humane thing to do.”

Frost also explained that Have Trunk Will Travel is getting preferential treatment for coming to the fair. Exhibit fees, electrical fees and RV fees have been waived for them, and the fairground is providing 24-hour security. “All this when the rest of the fair has sacrificed budget cuts,” said Frost.

Read the full Care2 article here.

Liz Kellar reported in today’s Union that “an email sent by Nevada County Fair CEO Sandy Woods asking elephant ride supporters to show up at today’s board meeting regarding a highly controversial contract with Have Trunk Will Travel has opponents in an uproar.”

According to the article, Woods also suggested that “if you are able to attend, please wear light blue or denim to show your support.”

In the meantime, opponents of the elephant rides are having a spirited debate on Facebook about whether they too should wear denim in order to reinforce that they are all part of the same community. Others suggest that ride proponents would just spin that as an indication of even wider support for the rides.

The Fair Board will meet again today at 4 PM at Ponderosa Hall in the Fairgrounds to further consider the issue.

UPDATE: A Facebook reader posted this comment:

“Care2 petition over 107,000 signatur)es! Care2 is sending a representative to personally hand the signatures to the board at the meeting Tuesday.”


(From Facebook page, Protest Elephant Exploitation at Nevada County Fair).


Yubanet Indispensable and Unique in Nevada County

Yubanet’s report on the most recent Board of Supervisor’s meeting shows once again why they are a unique and indispensable source of news in Nevada County. No other news source  – neither the local hardcopy newspaper nor any of the local blogs — come close to the accuracy and depth and context of coverage of Yubanet, which no doubt explains their large readership.

Nothing New” in CABPRO-Sponsored Presentation to BOS


Surprisingly enough, a contingent of Modesto residents had made the trip to attend this presentation, complete with a video camera operator and a photographer.

When Chair Weston opened the meeting up for public comment, the videographer left his post and lectured the BOS about county government actually being the highest authority in the land. He was followed by David Avila, another Modesto resident, who exhorted the BOS to nullify federal authority and take over the management of the national forest if needs be.

Their comments were met with applause from the audience and calls for the sheriff to do his duty as a “constitutional sheriff” and assert jurisdiction over federal lands.

Local resident Steve Willer disagreed with these proposals and invited the BOS to take a closer look at private properties that are actually within their jurisdiction. He suggested the BOS help property owners to reduce the fire danger on their properties instead of trying to circumvent laws and invite lawsuits.

CABPRO Executive Director Chuck Shea urged the BOS to pass an emergency ordinance similar to Apache County’s and start the process to assert authority over public lands.

Read the full article here.

If You Believe Agenda 21 is a UN Conspiracy, You May Be at Risk for Drinking Raw Milk

If you believe Agenda 21 is a UN conspiracy, then you may also be at risk for drinking raw milk, since both subjects seem to be issues of “personal freedom” in some peoples’ minds.

Judging by the fact that vaccine compliance in Nevada County is the lowest among all the counties in California (another example of the “personal freedom” to be dangerously foolish) I have no doubt that the misguideed belief in the safety of raw milk is also thriving here.

Before you drink raw milk, though, you should read this article from Food Safety News:



Last April, she [a 2 year-old girl from Oregon] was 1 of 15 children who became ill from drinking raw milk (containing E. coli) that was obtained from a farm that provides herd shares near Portland. This young girl and three other children developed HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) and acute kidney failure. She suffered a stroke and died, but was resuscitated. Almost a year later and she is not able to stand or walk on her own, she can’t speak, and she is fed through a feeding tube. Part of her colon has been removed, she has pancreatic problems and now her kidneys have shut down. As of last week, she is back on dialysis and has been placed on the list for a kidney transplant.


Many raw milk supporters and some legislators do not consider raw milk to be a food safety issue, but instead one of personal freedom. These supporters and a few legislators have stated that they “do not care about the facts or the science involved with raw milk. It is their right to drink whatever they want and it’s not the government’s job to protect a person from themselves.” However, this is where informed consent comes into play. Informed consent can only take place if a person is given all the facts including both risks and benefits. Since the organizations that promote raw milk market its unproven benefits and do not mention its risks, informed consent cannot possibly take place. Public Health is fighting to protect people from this scientifically unsupported data and not “protect people from themselves.” Public Health is also fighting to protect children from this misleading marketing campaign. Children are typically the ones who become seriously ill from drinking raw milk given to them by a parent who believed the unsubstantiated claims about its benefits. In these cases, the child did not have the freedom to choose and the parents did not have the information to make an informed decision.

Read full article from Food Safety News here: “The Raw Milk Battle in Iowa Continues


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