Directors of the Nevada Irrigation District Wednesday voted to acquire specialized dredging equipment that will be used to remove sediment and Gold Rush-era mercury from the Bear River watershed.
The equipment will be acquired on a lease-to-own basis from the Pegasus Earth Sensing Corp. of Alberta, Canada, at a monthly cost of $12,650 or a total purchase price of $595,000. Pegasus will provide setup and startup services, staff training and technical support.
“This project is the first of its kind in our region,” said NID Division II Director John Drew. “We should all be proud that NID has taken the lead on a project like this.”
NID Assistant General Manager Tim Crough said NID needs to remove sediment that is washing down the Bear River and taking up valuable water storage space in Rollins and Combie reservoirs.
Traditional dredging, however, stirs up methyl mercury buried in the river bottoms, which, if disturbed, can be absorbed into the food chain. Methyl mercury is an unfortunate legacy of the Gold Rush when miners used mercury to separate gold from other earthen materials.
NID has considered and planned the environmental restoration project since 2007. The district aims to include the remediation effort as part of ongoing reservoir maintenance programs.
Benefits of the project include mercury removal, restoration of water storage capacity, improved recreational opportunities, beneficial use of district resources and good watershed stewardship. Crough said he anticipates grant funding to help finance the cleanup effort.
The equipment, scheduled for delivery in May, will be similar to equipment used in a 2009 demonstration project at Combie Reservoir. The district can terminate the lease without cause after the first or second year of operation.