Yaudanchi Ecological Reserve is approximately 162 acres and located on the eastern edge of Porterville, CA and immediately adjacent to Porterville Developmental Center. Is is surrounded mostly by agriculture. It is owned by Porterville Developmental Center (California Dept. of Developmental Services) and has been (minimally) managed by California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife for 40 years. YER is also indicated in the Porterville General Plan as an open space of importance to the city and identified as a public use space. Add to that its importance to hundreds of wildlife and plant species and the fact that it is a component of the remaining Tule River floodplain, the strong argument can be made to keep it as such and even to enhance its function as an outdoor classroom for science, archeology, and history.
Recently and quite suddenly, plans for pipeline to shunt water through the property and potentially reduce or halt important water for the Reserve for wildlife and wetlands function has surfaced, resulting in the formation of Friends of Yaudanchi, a volunteer group including WildPlaces who have come together to do extensive digging as to the history, current ownership and management status of YER, as well as some of the dynamics of the proposal by the Campbell-Moreland Ditch Company, Vidalia Irrigation District, and Porterville Development Center to remove it from ecological reserve status, prohibit public access, and cancel the long standing management agreement with Fish and Wildlife.
WildPlaces has requested that an additional public hearing be significantly and substantially re-advertised and that the public comment period be extended. This date should be at least 45 days from the date of the public hearing on Tuesday, December 12. The new advertisement should make clear how to obtain the Project documents, who is the Lead Agency, who should be contacted for more information, and how to submit comments. Contact to organizations previously and currently involved at YER should be made and included in descriptions and history.
Additionally, we indicated that the Project Description is very incomplete and inaccurate and must be revised to correct those deficiencies, so as to provide a basis for informed public comment. The pipeline Project would create a significant loss of water for the YER-designated land and the plants and creatures that depend on it, a significant negative environmental impact. Additionally, the water "loss" that the Project proposes to remedy is water that is going into the ground and providing important groundwater recharge as well and is, therefore, not lost.
Many questions are unanswered; therefore, the no significant impact declaration currently proposed by VId is inappropriate.
YER provides a very rare opportunity for the public to walk over a landscape that still appears much as it may have when it was home to the Yaudanchi Yokut, in whose honor the ER was named. As well, the site offers a rare and unique opportunity to students as an outdoor classroom for science, history, and habitat restoration. Its geographic proximity to schools in Porterville offers opportunities that are rare in most cities in California. It would be foolish to exclude the public and youth from benefitting from this hands-on, place-based classroom.
The State Fish and Game Commission (Fish and Wildlife) established the Yaudanchi Ecological Reserve under Section 630, Title 14, of the California Administrative Code. "The primary purposes for establishment of this reserve are to preserve wildlife habitat, thereby ensuring living space for those species of wildlife associated with riparian and foothill annual-grassland habitat, and to provide for public use of these resources." YEP has served this purpose for almost 40 years. We indeed to keep it as such and perhaps expand the reserves potential as a place for youth and adults to visit.
Yaudanchi Ecological Preserve by Barbara Brydolf
Published in INSIGHTS: Newsletter of the Alta Sierra Chapter of California Native Plane Society
The Yaudanchi Ecological Preserve (YER) is a small piece of land (about 155 acres) inside the Porterville city boundaries. It is owned by the State of California and attached to the Porterville Developmental Center, bordering on the south side Highway 190. Formerly part of the Tule River channel, it was cut off from that supply of water when the Success Dam was built, but until now it continued to receive water ﬂow from the Campbell-Moreland Ditch, which is an open channel. It was declared an Ecological Preserve in 1976, open to the public and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game (now called the California Department of Fish and Wildlife).
The YER has a signiﬁcant amount of riparian (river) vegetation, containing willow (Salix sp.), cottonwood (Populus sp.), valley oak (Quercus lobata), and sycamore (Platanus racemosa). Kit fox, several raptors, and other species have been reported from the site, and it has hosted a Blue Heron rookery.! ! Recently, the Vandalia Irrigation District (VID) proposed to convert the open ditch crossing the property to a closed pipe. In November, VID issued a CEQA document (California Environmental Quality Act) stating that this action would have a minimal negative impact on the site.
I obtained a copy of the document (Notice of Intent to Adopt and Consideration of Mitigated Negative Declaration). The document states that the removal of water would have a negligible effect on the habitat at the site, but gave no evidence to support such a statement. The document also contains a letter from CDFW (CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) stating that the removal of water from enclosing the ditch in pipe would have a signiﬁcant negative effect on the property. However, after this letter was received by VID, the Porterville Developmental Center (who controls the property), requested that the land be removed from protection as an ecological preserve. As the preserve designation was an agreement between CDFW and PDC, and could be cancelled at the request of either party, the request was granted.
YER is no longer considered an ecological preserve, the signs were removed, and the property is no longer open to the public. On December 12, I attended a public hearing at the ofﬁces of VID to give feedback on the Notice of Intent document. Several interested parties were present and gave oral and written comments. I also made a statement and submitted a letter on behalf of CNPS Alta Peak, giving the opinion that the CEQA document did not adequately address the issues. Also, a group of concerned citizens are investigating the cancellation of the ecological preserve. Currently, the follow-up public hearing meeting for the adoption of a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Campbell Moreland Ditch has been postponed to a later date to be determined. VID is reviewing comments received.