Crescent Mills, CA
Small towns across the Mountain and Pacific West have suffered many challenges. The decline of the timber and mining industries have led to job and population losses. Drought, disease and pest have killed more than 100 million trees since 2010, and fire has decimated entire communities.
This story is true in the small communities of Indian Valley at the intersection of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountain Ranges in Plumas County, California. The Sierra Institute for Community and the Environment saw an opportunity to address both unemployment and the hazardous dead trees through the redevelopment of a previous sawmill site.
The Louisiana Pacific sawmill sat near the population center of Crescent Mills with excellent highway, rail, and electric substation access and favorable zoning. However, the site was contaminated by oil and chemicals (including arsenic) historically used in lumber production, holding back redevelopment. The Sierra Institute selected the site in 2014 for redevelopment and used several grants to fund the site assessment, investigation, and planning.
In 2018, The Sierra Institute began engaging CCLR in its EPA MARC grants for the 28-acre site. CCLR reviewed and advised for the original $600,000 EPA MARC (Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan and Cleanup) grant was used to clean up the worst areas of contamination on the site, including where used oil and incinerator ash were discarded. CCLR continued to keep in touch with the Sierra Institute, assisting with a total of four MARC cleanup grant applications for the Sierra Institute, all of which were awarded for a total of $2.1 million in funding.
In the summer of 2021, the Dixie Fire burned nearly one million acres and destroyed 1,329 structures across five counties. While the Dixie Fire was still burning, the Sierra Institute and others began to discuss how to assist reconstruction.The need for lumber to rebuild the lost structures was complicated by the COVID-19 supply chain crisis, doubling the price of lumber and drastically reducing available supply.
The Sierra Institute quickly pivoted, making arrangements to develop a sawmill on the site. Leveraging its partnerships, the Institute was able to utilize an existing grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to purchase second-hand mill equipment and secure emergency permitting for the operation. J&C Enterprise, a 4th generation timber harvesting company with local knowledge was brought in to manage the mill.
The mill cut its first board in December 2021, just two months after the Dixie Fire was extinguished. Now fully online, it can process roughly five truckloads of lumber a day to create 5-million board feet of lumber per year. The process is transforming burned and hazard trees into valuable building materials, benefiting local communities through job creation and locally-sourced products.
Total Area: 28 acres
Previous uses: Sawmill
Current uses: Wood utilization campus developing bioenergy and timber products
Benefits: Job creation, renewable energy, locally-sourced lumber
Financing: EPA brownfield grants, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and Resource Legacy Fund grants
Services provided: Grant assistance
The Sierra Institute is a non profit working to support healthy forests, build vibrant communities, and develop youth stewards in rural California.
EPA provided several grants to assist in the assessment and cleanup of Emeryville brownfields.
DTSC provided techinial assistance on the site assessments and investigation