The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council held a public information meeting in Palo Cedro on Mar. 23, 2011 to give local residents an update on plans for eight Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) land holdings in Shasta County and to seek public input on those plans. The Shasta County planning units include lands on Battle Creek, Burney Gardens, Cow Creek, Iron Canyon Reservoir, Kilarc, Lake McCloud, Pit River, and Tunnel Reservoir.
Ric Notini, Director of Land Conservation, explained that the Stewardship Council was formed in 2003 as part of PG&E’s bankruptcy settlement and charged with formulating plans that would permanently protect lands to be divested by the company and improve public access to them. He said that the total amount of land involved was 140,000 acres. Of that, PG&E will be allowed to retain ownership of 70,000 acres that are needed for power generation, while 70,000 acres will be donated to new owners. All 140,000 acres will be protected by conservation easements designed to prevent further commercial development. Notini said that the Stewardship Council is currently in the process of accepting applications from organizations that would like to become the new owners of the property.
Regional Land Conservation Manager Chantz Joyce then gave an update on each of the eight PG&E properties in Shasta County, four of which lie within the Cow Creek/Battle Creek area and four within the Pit-McCloud River Watershed Area.
In the Cow Creek/Battle Creek Watershed Area, PG&E will retain ownership of all the lands associated with Kilarc, but will divest 2200 acres in the Cow Creek Watershed near Whitmore, 6000 acres along Battle Creek near Shingletown, and all 1600 acres of the Burney Gardens. Calfire and Shasta County have both been invited to submit applications for ownership of the lands near Whitmore, dubbed the “Cow Creek Preserve” by locals. Laura Carnley, president of the Friends of the Cow Creek Preserve, said that Chantz Joyce had contacted them to say he intended to recommend to the Stewardship Council that whoever is chosen to own the property partner with the local residents’ group. Shasta County, Calfire and the Bureau of Land Management are applying to become donees for the 6000 acres along Battle Creek.
In the Pit-McCloud Watershed area, PG&E will retain ownership of all the lands around the Iron Canyon Reservoir and Lake McCloud under a conservation easement held by Ducks Unlimited, but will divest approximately 10,000 acres along the Pit River and 2000 near the Tunnel Reservoir. Applicants for ownership of these lands include Shasta County, Calfire, the University of California and the Bureau of Land Management. The Pit River Tribe has applied to own the lands along the Pit River.
Several members of the audience were there to learn whether the conservation easement on Kilarc held by the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District would offer any protection against PG&E’s plans to destroy the canal and reservoir/fishing lake if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) grants the company’s request to decommission the hydroelectric facility. They were dismayed to learn that it will not, and PG&E representative Janet Walther confirmed that the company is still committed to its decommissioning plan and expects the FERC to complete its final EIS sometime in April.