California Against the Sea is a Way to Think Forward

If there’s one takeaway from the Deer Creek Watershed study project, it is that all watersheds are interconnected parts of Earth’s circulatory system.

In her book, California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline, Rosanna Xia travels along California’s coastal towns interviewing city, county, and state land policy managers, as well as Native People, Black communities, activists, and private homeowners as she investigates how people think about coastal erosion and property defense tactics.

This subject applies to all places where people live. Do we adapt to change or fight it?

How do we develop governing policies that encourage desired behaviors?

So many people still seem to be estranged from nature – unaware, or unwilling to see, how much we’re holding onto land meant to burn or drown. ‘We love what we have, and we always want it to be the same forever, but it’s just not going to be.’

As I read about high-priced sea walls, diminishing sand, and underserved communities, I couldn’t help but think about home insurers pulling out of California, ongoing Nevada County fire-hardening work, and our Nisenan Tribe.

“I exist because my ancestors resisted multiple and sustained sate and church sponsored efforts to eradicate us physically, culturally, and spiritually,” she said. “They resisted, and they continued – continued to love, laugh, speak their language, sing their songs, build and sustain their communities through all the violence.”

The book takes a while to get through; it is information-dense. It might seem like the subject would be depressing, but it’s not. Xia leaves readers feeling hopeful.

The sooner we arrive at a consensus about ecosystem-specific environmental adaptation, and set plans in motion for forward movement, the less loss of life, housing, commerce, and investment there will be.

Rosanna Xia is an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where she specializes in stories about the coast and ocean. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 for explanatory reporting, and her work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series.

Deer Creek Film & the January Circle

We’re approaching mid-January, the time of year when the Following Deer Creek (FDC) Project first came into being (2017).  Like the Earth circling around the Sun and the planetary water cycle, we’ve completed a journey.

I set out to tell the story of the Deer Creek watershed from its tectonic and cultural origins to the people and animals who live in it today. Working backward, I posted blog articles as I researched in preparation to compile the film.

Aerial Views & History
of the Deer Creek Watershed:
Journey from Headwaters to Confluence 
a thirty-minute fly-over film

In early January of 2021, the film was complete. Like the FDC blog posts, it’s a birds-eye view of the watershed that hints at depths.

I smile when I think back to the initial idea seed. Of course, there is no one story, there are more than can ever be told.

FDC and the Aerial Views film is a decent outline, but it also illustrates how much more remains for investigation and study.

I hope this journey inspires yours!

 

 

 

 

World Water Day – 22 March – Science & Beauty

In honor of World World Water Day, FDC is going global. The water flowing through Deer Creek isn’t just ‘in your backyard,’ it’s part of a shape-shifting planetary system.

Today, we’re celebrating science and the ability to gather mass data. We’re also admiring the stunning beauty of water, an element all life needs to grow.

Resources:

11:21 – Central California Aquafir

Jet Propulsion Laboratory – GRACE Mission: 15 Years of Water on Earth

United Nations – World Water Day 22 March

Deer Creek Water Origins

 

Before we ever see water in Deer Creek, most of it has rained, snowed, and been stored in NID’s Mountain Division and PG&E Lakes. It’s moved from lake to lake, going through multiple powerhouses, generating electricity. It enters Scotts Flat Lake where swimmers, motor boaters, and fisherman enjoy it. Flowing into Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir, human or wind-powered boaters recreate on it.

Another portion of water entering Deer Creek comes from the watershed. A watershed is an area of land that channels water to a low point, such as a stream, river, lake, or ocean.

History of Water Management in Nevada County: 1850 Water Business is Born

Placer miners needed water for rockers; hydraulic miners needed it to move mountains.

The first miner’s ditch, to which PG&E traces its tap root, was built in 1850 by The Rock Creek Water Company.  Historians locate this ditch is near Coyote Hill. Constructed by Charles Marsh, William Crawford, John & Thomas Dunn, and C. Carol at a cost of $10K, the ditch was nine miles long.

After only two weeks of operation, The Rock Creek Water Company investment paid off.

Successful, and profitable, water transportation soon spread to neighboring counties— Placer, Eldorado, Amador, Calaveras, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne County.

Before water management, Deer Creek was seasonal.

An 1854 drought caused local economic hardship. Mines stopped working, miners couldn’t pay debts, and real estate values crashed.

Wooden water flume. Photo Credit: Les Nicholson

After assessing the lakes in the Yuba Watershed, water companies understood that gravity and elevation would work in their favor. They built systems to move water to the mines using flumes, tunnels, high-pressure pipes, siphons, and trestle bridges.

The water transportation system was an engineering marvel of its time.

Early engineers and savvy businessmen realized the potential of a year-round water supply for ranching, mills, and establishing towns.

When the Sawyer Decision washed-up hydraulic mining in the mid 1880s, the South Yuba Water Company, and its subsidiary, the Central California Electric Company, was poised to capitalize on a new industry—hydroelectrisity.

 

Photo Credit: LocoSteve

Following Deer Creek’s Water Path

Deer Creek water begins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, north of I-80, fifty-five miles northwest of Lake Tahoe.

French Lake–elevation 6,676 ft.
Faucherie Lake–elevation 6,135 ft.
Sawmill Lake–elevation 5,869 ft.
Bowman Lake–elevation 5,600 ft.
Fuller Lake–elevation 5,344 ft.
Canyon Creek Drainage
Bowman Spaulding Canal
Spaulding Hydro Power Plant
Spaulding Lake–elevation 5,014 ft.
Hwy 20 & Bear Valley–South Yuba Canal
Big Tunnel
Deer Creek Forebay–elevation 4,477 ft.
Deer Creek Hydro Power Plant
North and South Fork Deer Creek Confluence
Deer Creek
Scotts Flat Lake–elevation 3,069 ft.
Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir–elevation 2,094 ft.

 

“There’s very little natural water in Deer Creek,” says Les Nicholson, retired Nevada Irrigation District Hydroelectric Manager.

Burlington Ridge, the apex of the North and South Fork of Deer Creek isn’t high enough to maintain a snowpack (4,160 ft elevation).

“Most Deer Creek water is imported,” Nicholson says. “Imported water means it comes from another drainage.”

In Deer Creek’s case, that drainage is the Yuba Watershed.

Nicholson generously shared his time to explain the complicated route water takes before we see it in our ditches, creeks, and rivers.

*After leaving Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir, the video tour back-tracks to Burlington Ridge, the physical headwaters of the North and South Forks of Deer Creek.

 

Run-off and gravity always show the direction water is flowing.

Resources:

Bear Yuba Land Trust – Trails Portal

Burlington Ridge | North Fork Deer Creek

GetAwayHorsePlay.com – Skillman Horse Camping video

Gold Country Trails Council – Horse Camps & Trail Maps

Skillman Horse Campground reservations 

USDA Forest Service – Skillman Campground & OHV information 

 Burlington Ridge | South Fork Deer Creek

Burlington Motorcycle Trail System

OHV Trails around Donner Summit 

Hiking Trails & Camping

All Trails – Cascade Canal

Outside In – Snow Mountain Ditch 

Nevada Irrigation District

Since 1921 the Nevada Irrigation District has supplied domestic, irrigation, and domestic water for Nevada and Placer Counties. It is an independent California special district governed by an elected board.

South Yuba Canal NID video

Nevada Irrigation District Campgrounds & Lakes

PG&E

Book: PG&E of California,1851-1952, by Charles Coleman

History of PG&E

Wikipedia – Pacific Gas and Electric Company

 

American River Watershed & Lake Tahoe

Most rivers in California have been changed by mining, water control, and the introduction of new species. Professor Erika Zavaleta of UC Santa Cruz explains the history and biology of California’s watersheds. She also presents current watershed management issues.

RSS
Follow by Email
LinkedIn
Share
Pinterest
fb-share-icon
Instagram