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Posted on: April 17, 2023

Earth Day 2023: reaffirming our commitment to the Yuba River watershed

Yuba Water General Manager Willie Whittlesey

By Willie Whittlesey, Yuba Water’s general manager

“Invest in our planet” is this year’s Earth Day theme for the second year in a row. And for a good reason. Strategic investments are essential to turn plans into action.

At Yuba Water Agency, investing in the Yuba River watershed – our forests, rivers, fisheries and communities – is at the heart of so much of what we do. Equally important is building and maintaining partnerships to make the most of these investments.

The North Yuba Forest Partnership is a shining example of the power of investments and bringing the right people together to get things done. What started with an initial $1.5 million commitment from Yuba Water in 2018 to help restore nearly 15,000 acres in the Tahoe National Forest has evolved into a tremendously valuable partnership that is undertaking one of the largest landscape-scale restoration projects in the state.

What’s more, the North Yuba Forest Partnership has successfully leveraged more than $150 million in additional funding from the state and federal government to initiate shovel-ready projects to reduce catastrophic wildfire risk across more than 300,000 acres in our watershed. This includes roadside vegetation treatments, meadow restoration, ecological thinning of forest density, prescribed fire and more.

In addition, Yuba Water is a longstanding partner on several projects that reduce flood risk for people while benefitting fish and wildlife. Projects like the Feather River Setback Levee and, most recently, the Hallwood Side Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project, have restored and enhanced more than 1,500 acres of riparian habitat for fish like salmon and steelhead, and other wildlife.

Yuba Water also has a long history of sustainable water management, balancing surface and groundwater supplies to make sure there’s available water for fish, the environment and our irrigators and ranchers that grow our food. And we continue to invest in science, research and monitoring throughout our watershed to ensure our natural resource management decisions are always informed by the best available science.

As a registered professional forester who grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the stewardship of the Yuba River watershed is not just my job as general manager of Yuba Water, it’s something deeply personal to me.

Happy Earth Day.

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