The PROPOSED Loney Meadow restoration project would restore floodplain function, reduce ongoing soil erosion from the incised channels and improve aspen stand regeneration. The project proposed by the Tahoe National Forest involves the restoration of the Loney Meadows complex which includes palustrine emergent wetlands within Loney Meadow, Texas Creek and tributaries within Loney Meadow and aspen stands adjacent to both Loney and Upper Loney Meadow. The project would occur no earlier than August 15, 2017 and be completed by October 2017. The conifer removal from the aspen stands would occur between July and October within the next 5 years. Project activities would entail the excavation of 2,550 cubic yards of designated borrow areas to fill the incised channel to allow the meadow to drain via sheet flow and across Texas Creek and existing tributaries. The project work has the potential to disturb 0.51 acres of intermittent stream bed, 0.28 acres of perennial stream bed to be filled and 19 acres of aspen stands that may be disturbed as a result of meadow restoration activities. In an effort to restore the hydrologic regimes, the Tahoe National Forest is proposing to apply fill locations along Texas Creek, its tributaries and along a drainage ditch diverting water flow from Texas Creek. In addition, a diversion dike will be removed and grade control structures will be installed in a deeply incised channel at the stream output of the meadow. The incising channels and ditched areas are currently de-watering the meadow and threatening its long term function and stability. The restoration efforts will also address impacts of the current trail on the hydrologic regime of Loney Meadow and remove encroaching conifers into aspen stands adjacent to both Loney and Upper Loney Meadow.
The Yuba River Ranger District is proposing to' 1) stabilize channel incision, 2) remove a levee, 3) relocate and stabilize a trail, replace a trail bridge and decommission a legacy road, and 4) reduce conifer encroachment in aspen stands and along the meadow/upland boundary in Loney Meadow. The project will be designed and implemented in a manner consistent with the management direction in the Tahoe National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (1990) as amended by the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (2004). The full project description is contained in the project file located at the Nevada County Planning Department, 950 Maidu Avenue, Nevada City, CA 95959.
The benefits of the project would include an increase in the stream bed elevation and halting of the continued channel incision and reconnection of streams and their floodplains. The duration of water residing in the meadow through the growing season would increase and the wetland area would increase by 10-15% across the meadow. Habitat would be improved for the flora and fauna that inhabit the meadow and the meadow would be more resilient to fluctuating water supply due to climate changes. Texas Creek would receive increase flows and over 2 miles of stream would be reconnected to flows. The trail relocation and bridge replacement would result in less impedance of water flows across the meadow and the removal of conifers in the aspen stands would improve the aspen habitat health.
CEQA Section 15304, Class 4 Exemption is appropriate for the project because the project involves alterations to the condition of land, water and vegetation in order to restore meadow function, Any adverse impacts to natural resources would be avoided by applying the avoidance, protection and management plan measures identified for the project as described in the Management Plan's appendices and as described above. The project would remove mature healthy trees, however the conifer trees to be removed would not be considered scenic. In order for the proposed tree removal to qualify as a categorical exemption pursuant to the Class 4 Categorical Exemption, it must be determined if the trees are "healthy, mature, scenic" trees. As worded in the exemption, the tree must possess all three attributes. The conifer trees proposed for removal are likely mature and healthy, but are not considered "scenic trees."