Sierra Streams Institute is a regional watershed science organization based in Nevada City, California, dedicated to increasing watershed stewardship capacity throughout the Sierra Nevada region and beyond. We work with local, state, and federal agencies as well as universities and community groups to find solutions to the problems that afflict Deer Creek, Bear River and other watersheds throughout the region that share the challenges resulting from a century and a half of gold mining, development, and agriculture. SSI’s emphasis on rigorous science and consistent data collection provides the basis for restoration decisions that are made on behalf of watersheds, and makes us an especially valuable partner of local, state and federal government agencies who lack the funding and capacity to gather their own data.
From experience we have learned that in addition to conducting research, it is imperative to impart an understanding of the issues we are studying to the public and include them in working closely with local government entities to solve local problems. This is essential in order to enable the public to contribute an educated guiding voice to the governing process. As an organization we have chosen to accomplish this task through education and involvement rather than political means.
Our mission is to
link water, science and people for the benefit of human and environmental health.
In 1995, a group of citizens living in the Deer Creek watershed became volunteer monitors for the city of Nevada City during the demolition and reconstruction of the Pine Street Bridge. Seeing the need for continuing water quality monitoring and restoration beyond the life of the construction project, these citizen-monitors organized themselves as Friends of Deer Creek and received funding to begin water quality monitoring, create a management plan for Deer Creek, and restore Little Deer Creek in Pioneer Park. In 1999-2000 the group filed for and received its non-profit corporation status.
Over the next ten years, with our trained citizen scientists, Friends of Deer Creek expanded its capacity to include salmon habitat restoration, trail development, heavy metal study and remediation, riparian revegetation, science education, and a comprehensive monitoring and assessment program throughout the Deer Creek Watershed. After ten years of rigorous data collection and numerous completed projects, Friends of Deer Creek decided to reorganize as Sierra Streams Institute in order to expand regional capacity. In 2010, we began our metamorphosis into Sierra Streams Institute and launched our current programs – Education, Restoration, Research and Laboratory Services into neighboring watersheds.
Bringing our expertise from Deer Creek into other watersheds, Sierra Streams Institute established the Bear River Watershed Stakeholder Group in 2015. Since its establishment, we have developed a Disturbance Inventory and Restoration Plan. We are continuing to focus on increasing the number of community partners, engaging Stakeholders to further develop the restoration plan and implement the projects.
Today as SSI continues to identify and solve environmental problems, we have moved to a new facility in Nevada City that will more than double our office, lab and classroom space. In addition, the facility is located on a 236-acre campus that includes meadows, forests, a pond, stream, and trails. The new facility offers new opportunities for restoration, education, research and citizen science projects on-site, as well as allowing us to expand and improve our current laboratories. Additionally, we are building a new Center for Environmental and Citizen Science, where citizen scientists, students, educators and community members can gather to receive training, share ideas and collect scientific data.