Dave Moller
Senior Staff Writer

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June 21, 2010
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Land Trust: Dam, lake would ruin protected places


An idea to build a reservoir on the Bear River is meeting a mountain of protest from residents who fear it would flood land preserves to send water to Southern California.

Nevada County Land Trust and the Placer Land Trust officials said Monday the proposed reservoir would ruin their projects to conserve land along the river.

"Placer Land Trust has invested millions of dollars into preserving land in the Bear River corridor around Garden Bar," the proposed location for the dam and reservoir, Executive Director Jeff Darlington said. "This dam project would destroy and inundate the conservation lands we are protecting."

The dam is the idea of the South Sutter Water District, which covers the area between Marysville and Lincoln and provides irrigation water to farmers in Sutter and Placer counties. District officials were unavailable for comment Monday.

Joe Byrne of the Nevada County Land Trust plans to warn the Nevada Irrigation District Board of Directors Wednesday about the proposal from the South Sutter district. Directors meet at 9 a.m. in the board room at NID headquarters, 1036 W. Main St., Grass Valley.

The proposed Garden Bar Reservoir between Highway 49 and lower McCourtney Road would take 15 years to come to fruition and is in preliminary stages of planning, South Sutter dam project consultant Steve Brown said.

"This has been looked at since the 1950s," Brown said. "We don't have any answers ...

"We're doing planning and engineering to see if would pencil out," Brown said. "We're looking at various sizes (for the proposed reservoir) to see whether there is a project there for water supply and potential hydroelectric."

The district is considering three sizes, Brown said: A 245,000 acre-foot reservoir, another at 265,000 acre feet, and a larger one at 310,000 acre feet. An acre foot of water covers one acre, one foot deep.

In comparison, NID's reservoirs - which would feed the Garden Bar Reservoir - collectively hold 280,000 acre feet when full.

The new reservoir would be for the South Sutter district and other water users, Brown said.

"California is water-short, and if you build (a dam), you might as well maximize the water in it," Brown said.

The South Sutter district and the cities of Napa and American Canyon in Napa County contributed to funding the project feasibility study, according to an Aug. 23, 2009, article in the Napa Valley Register.

Three Southern California water agencies also paid for the study, including the Castaic Lake Water Agency, Palmdale Water District and the San Bernardino Municipal Water District, according to the article and to Nevada County Land Trust Executive Director Marty Coleman-Hunt.

Two of the protected lands along the river already have been acquired and two are in negotiations.

The Placer Land Trust bought its 992-acre Garden Bar Preserve for $1.9 million in 2007, Darlington said. The Placer group also is working to acquire the 2,300-acre Bruin Ranch upstream, which also would be partially flooded.

"We have a legal obligation to protect these preserves," Darlington said.

The 495-acre Wild Rock Ranch upstream, which was donated to Nevada County, also is threatened, Coleman-Hunt added.

Nevada County Land Trust also is in negotiations for its own portion of the Garden Bar Preserve, a 654-acre plot across the river from Placer County's preserve, with an additional 15 acres upstream.

"It's not just the habitat. We will be flooded," Byrne said of the Garden Bar area. "There was an Indian village on the property, and the Emigrant Trail went through there."

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4237.


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The Union Updated Jun 22, 2010 12:00AM Published Jun 21, 2010 11:58PM Copyright 2010 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.