Protecting the Creek and Watershed

Wolf Creek and the organisms that depend on it for habitat are harmed by soil eroding from the surrounding land when it rains, by toxic substances like pesticides leaching through the soil, by oil and trash making its way into the creek through stormdrains, and by large volumes of rainfall runoff flowing into the creek instead of into the soil during storms. These problems are all made worse by homeowners failing to take the proper steps in landscaping and maintaining their properties, by development that occurs too close to the creek, and by activities such as mining and road-building that promote erosion. Wolf Creek seeks to minimize these impacts to the creek by educating homeowners, promoting watershed awareness, working with the city to develop more watershed- and creek-friendly development rules and policies, and opposing certain projects with the potential to have significant impacts on the creek.

Creek-friendly Landscaping

The health of Wolf Creek is heavily influenced by how land is used in the creek's watershed. Any practices that change the permeability of the soil or drainage patterns, expose soil to erosion, or release toxic substances can have significant negative consequences for the creek. How we landscape and maintain our yards are therefore key factors in determining the creek's condition. Paving over large areas of land, leaving soil exposed to the erosive effects of water and wind, concentrating surface runoff, and using biocides and chemical fertilizers can degrade the health of the creek, whereas various alternative practices can prevent these negative impacts while providing a variety of other benefits.

The immediate goals of creek-friendly landscaping practices are to (1) reduce surface runoff to a minimum, (2) increase percolation of rainfall into the soil, (3) reduce erosion of soil, and (4) eliminate introduction of potential pollutants into the creek and water table.

These immediate goals are accomplished through a number of practices, including (1) using permeable pavements, (2) dispersing surface runoff, (3) mulching exposed soil, (4) using native plants, (5) substituting ecological methods of pest control for chemical methods, and (6) substituting organic fertilizers for chemical fertilizers.

When it is in place, creek-friendly landscaping can provide many benefits in addition to protecting the health of the creek. These include: (1) reducing water use, (2) providing wildlife habitat, (3) improving soil quality, and (4) reducing the risk of wildfires and damage to structures during fires. When food-producing plants—particularly fruit trees, berries, and other perennial crops—are used in creek-friendly landscaping, an additional benefit is the production of local food.

For more information about creek-friendly landscaping, buy or download a copy of the Sierra Nevada Alliance's Sierra Yard and Garden Guide: A Homeowner's Guide to Landscaping in the Sierra.

Watershed Awareness

Through our booths at local fairs and farmers' markets, and our public meetings on watershed health and functionality, we are able to reach many community members with information about the Wolf Creek watershed. We produce brochures, maps, display materials, and handouts that describe our projects and goals, and we maintain an informative website. We have established relationships with local and regional watershed groups, California State Parks, City of Grass Valley, Nevada Irrigation District, Nevada County Resource Conservation District, representatives of local indigenous tribes, Nevada County Fire Safe Council, and with teachers at local schools whose students are learning about local area ecology and developing watershed awareness.

Low-impact Development

WCCA volunteers attend City and County Planning Commission meetings in order to participate in discussions of construction projects affecting Wolf Creek. By advocating for enforcement of regulatory solutions, we assist City and County officials in planning for low impact development including erosion and sediment control, Creek setbacks and easements, riparian buffer zones, wetlands protection, storm water catchment, permeable surfaces, as well as wildlife habitat and trails. WCCA was the driving force that led to adoption of Grass Valley's first riparian set-back regulations. We have begun work on an Erosion and Sediment Control Field Guide for contractors working in Nevada County.

Idaho-Maryland Mine Project

In February of 2006, Emgold Mining Corporation submitted an application to re-open the Idaho-Maryland Mine and build a tile-making factory to deal with the tailings produced by mine operations. A process of environmental impact assessment and permitting ensued, in which Wolf Creek Community Alliance participated as a stakeholder representing the interests of Wolf Creek, which would be impacted by the de-watering process and potentially by the operation of the mine. Eventually, financial backing for the reopening of the mine dried up, and Emgold put the permitting process on hold. The City of Grass Valley deemed Emgold's application withdrawn on September 10, 2012, and on February 1, 2013, a lease and option-to-purchase agreement for surface properties and mineral rights critical to the project expired. Although it appears that Emgold may terminate the project, it still owns surface properties and mineral rights in the project area. Because the project could be re-activated at any time, WCCA keeps tabs on its status.