Several groups question need for Centennial Dam | TheUnion.com

Several groups question need for Centennial Dam

Speakers at a Monday forum about the Centennial Dam focused on potential project impacts, questioning the amount of water needed and the fearing for the wildlife that could be affected by the proposed reservoir on the Bear River.

Isaac Silverman, Sierra Watch staff attorney and South Yuba River Citizens League board member, had a different concern: his memories and the memories of those he fears will never get the chance to enjoy the portion of the Bear River that would be flooded by the Centennial Dam.

"I grew up on the Bear River," Silverman said. "It was my home."

Silverman was one of six speakers at the Centennial Dam Activist Summit. He told a crowded Nevada Theatre about playing by the river as a child, returning to it to train for soccer as a high school student.

His family again approached the Bear River after his brother's death.

"When my brother passed, the Bear River is where we chose to spread his ashes," Silverman said.

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Native American cultural sites are a large concern for Shelly Covert, secretary of the Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council. She said the project, which would put a reservoir between the existing Rollins and Combie reservoirs, would flood cultural sites used by the Nisenan for generations.

"Having that loss would be like losing a family member," Covert said.

Other speakers focused on environmental changes and project cost.

Kristen Hein Strohm, a wildlife biologist and project manager with the Sierra Streams Institute, said that over 200 species of birds and over 100 other species are in the Bear River watershed. She said the watershed is impacted more than any other in the state by methylmercury, lead and cadmium.

"Is this the best place, knowing that we have higher contaminants?" Strohm asked.

Pivoting to cost, Otis Wollan, president of the American River Watershed Institute, claimed the project would reach a cost of $1.25 billion — significantly more than what the Nevada Irrigation District, which wants the dam built, has estimated.

NID Director Nick Wilcox has questioned Wollan's numbers.

SRYCL invited no NID representative to Monday's meeting. Asked why no one from NID was asked to attend, SYRCL Executive Director Caleb Dardick questioned why the district failed to hold their own informational meetings.

"There's some explaining that they need to do," Dardick said.

Dardick encouraged attendees to contact the U.S. Corps of Engineers with their comments before April 10. The corps currently is accepting comments for its Environmental Impact Statement. A final statement, and decision by the corps about whether a permit is issued for the project, is over a year away.

"Why aren't you looking at alternatives first?" Dardick questioned. "Why the need?

"As a community, we live here, NID is our water agency," he added.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.