Geological and Natural History
The White Sulphur Springs Ranch (WSSR) lies at the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River watershed, within the Sulphur Creek subwatershed. The Feather River watershed is located in California's northern Sierra Nevada and encompasses a broad variety of terrain, climate, historic use, and flora and fauna. The Feather River watershed has long been recognized for its recreational, water and aesthetic values. An abundance of montane rivers, lakes and reservoirs dot the landscape, creating both summer and winter recreational opportunities. Water originating from these drainages represents a significant component of the State Water Project and provides high quality water for hydro generation, agriculture, industry and cities in the south. The Feather River watershed has been impacted by 140 years of intense human use. Past mining, grazing and timber harvest practices, wildfire, railroad and road construction have contributed to the degradation of over 60 percent of the watershed, resulting in accelerated erosion, degraded water quality, decreased vegetation and soil productivity, and degraded terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Annually, 1.1 million tons of sediment is delivered to Rock Creek Dam at the downstream end of the East Branch North Fork Feather River (EBNFFR) of which 80 percent is attributable to man’s activities.
Long-term vegetation disturbance and consequent gully erosion has led to a dramatic change in hydrology, leading to reduced summer flow, higher summer water temperature, lower water tables, reduced meadow storage capacity, and a trend from perennial to intermittent flow. Many downcut streams no longer sustain late-season flow, causing adverse consequences to riparian and upland vegetation, aquatic communities, and downstream water users. The Feather River Coordinated Resource Management (FRCRM 2004) Sulphur Creek Watershed Analysis identified Highway 89 as the second greatest impact to water resources in this watershed. The FRCRM has implemented several restoration projects within the Sulphur Creek watershed, to reverse these negative trends and improve overall watershed condition. These projects are within a few miles of WSSR including on Haskell, Boulder and Raap-Guidici creeks. Restoration of Sulphur Creek near Highway 89 is planned for 2009-2010. These projects are part of a complex of projects identified in the Sulphur Creek Watershed Analysis (FRCRM 2004) due to the active channel incision which is delivering high levels of destabilizing bedload material to Sulphur Creek (funds from The Resource Advisory Committee (RAC), PL106-393, Secure Schools, Title II). These projects have restored floodplain function through the use of innovative restoration techniques. The WSSR is part of this water complex in the Sulphur Creek watershed and contains numerous springs, wetlands and drainage features that contribute watershed products to Sulphur Creek. The subject property is 37 acres with 14 warm and artesian cold springs, numerous wetlands, small tributary channels, ponds, riparian habitat, upland forested watershed, meadow habitat and two Maidu cultural sites. Acquisition and operation of this property as a major roadside recreational facility will restore it to its former use and will provide additional public access to multiple use trails on US Forest Service lands – the only access in Mohawk Valley proper. Acquisition of this property would preclude adverse effects of future development on this parcel and maintain its open space, value as a scenic overlook of Mohawk Valley, historic uses and historic character. The WSSR project also meets other goals as identified by partner agencies including other State entities such as the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
The MVSC would restore the historic main buildings, swimming pool and trails so that the public could utilize the property for events and environmental education. There are very few destinations in Mohawk Valley that allow the public access to its natural resources and to enjoy the scenic overlook of this pristine meadow in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Acquisition of the WSSR would protect at least 14 cold and hot springs and their associated wetlands and riparian habitat, ponds, upland forests and two Maidu cultural sites. The WSSR is located in the headwaters of the Feather River watershed and in the Sierra Nevada region, and contributes to water quality and quantity downstream as well as to the floral and faunal diversity of our region. In addition, the WSSR is an important public asset for our County and has been used extensively by our community in the past for a variety of cultural events. There are very few public access points along Highway 89 in Mohawk Valley and that provide a scenic vantage point to view and experience that Mohawk Valley and surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains.
Acquisition of the WSSR will protect water quality. Water quality would be preserved through an acquisition because the property would be protected from potential development which could include subdivision into 10 acre parcels with attendant roads and developments. Roads and development already contribute significant amounts of sediment to streams in the Sulphur Creek watershed. Acquisition of the WSRR would preclude development including roads and other major hydrologic disruptions associated with developments.
The MVSC plans to restore the historic main buildings, spring-fed swimming pool and develop trailheads and scenic overlooks. There are very few destinations in Mohawk Valley that allow the public access to its natural resources and that provide a view of this beautiful meadow and Sierra Nevada Mountains. The WSSR is a prominent feature of the Mohawk Valley and naturally attracts tourists and locals due its beautiful setting and warm springs pool. The WSSR is adjacent to US Forest Service lands. In partnership with the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and the US Forest Service, WSSR will serve as a jumping off point for multiple use non motorized recreation on US Forest Service lands.
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