Sierra Fund Bay Area Council Grant

A historic photo of hydraulic mining.

Beginning in the 1850s, extensive mining devastated California’s headwaters. The Yuba River watershed produced the greatest amount of gold out of any region in the United States. Today, there are still 200 hydraulic mines in the Yuba River Watershed covering more than 8,000 acres. These abandoned mines present land, watershed management and water supply challenges. Hydraulic mining washed away millions of cubic yards of material, leaving denuded landscapes that continue to be prone to erosion and are contaminated with mercury.

In the midst of overgrown and unhealthy forests are abandoned mines and mine features, as well as degraded meadows that are associated with public safety and water quality concerns that rival those of catastrophic wildfire. 

Yuba Water Agency and The Sierra Fund partnered on a grant application in 2019 to the Bay Area Council Climate Resilience Challenge to address these concerns in the Yuba River watershed. The successfully-funded $193,250 planning grant is being used to expand and deepen the Forest Resilience Bond model to include meadow restoration and mine remediation and develop comprehensive landscape-scale projects in the Yuba River Watershed with a model applicable throughout the Sierra. Integrating mine remediation and meadow restoration efforts with forest health ensures that watershed projects attain the greatest climate resiliency potential. Yuba Water and its project partners have identified two goals and three tasks for this work that kicked off in 2020.


  1. Expand and deepen the Forest Resilience Bond model to include meadows and mines.
  2. Develop additional forest health projects that include mines and meadows.


  1. Coordinate forest resilience planning efforts with mine remediation and meadow restoration planning.
  2. Build a benefit calculations model for mine remediation and meadow restoration
  3. Develop multi-benefit project portfolios supported by alternative funding streams for meadow restoration and mine remediation.