Chinook salmon and steelhead trout could return to a section of Auburn Ravine, a creek at the southern end of the Nevada Irrigation District, under a plan approved Wednesday.
NID will be the lead agency and spend $250,000 on the $800,000 project in Lincoln, in Placer County. Other agencies involved are Placer County, CalFed, the Bella Vista Foundation and Granite Bay Flycasters, according to NID documents.
Their efforts will restore 200 feet of creekbank, return native vegetation to the banks including alders and cottonwoods, and create small step-pools along the creek leading to an 8-foot barrier, according to NID documents.
"This is a wonderful project. It absolutely has to be done," said Division 2 Director John Drew - before bemoaning the high cost of extensive environmental studies and the possibility that "professional poachers" could reap any migrating fish that make it above the barrier.
Directors approved the plan unanimously and praised the detailed environmental review process.
"This is sort of a hallmark project, tied eventually to other projects, but we need to prove its effectiveness," said NID board President and Division 1 Director Nancy Weber.
She volunteered to lead efforts to land grants allowing the district to showcase the fish ladder for educational purposes.
Division 3 Director Scott Miller also asked the board to review the project in a year to see whether fish have returned.
Construction on the project is expected to start with vegetation removal in August and be completed in October, Project Manager John Kirk said. Steel pilings will be installed to support the staircase of pools.
Several salmon were counted in Auburn Ravine near Lincoln last fall, according to NID documents.
In 1981, the district built the barrier for a station on Auburn Ravine that measures water being sold to the city of Lincoln, to the Placer County Water Agency and to the South Sutter Water District. The creek starts near Auburn and flows into the Sacramento River, according to NID documents.
Demand for NID water is projected to grow from nearly 10,400 acre-feet used in 2010 to nearly 18,500 acre-feet projected to be used in 2035, according to the district's 2010 Urban Water Management Plan.
That demand mirrors population growth within the district, which includes northern Placer County. Population is projected to rise from the 2010 figure of nearly 45,000 residents to more than 81,000 residents by 2035.
Weber questioned the population projections, and other directors noted the decline in building in the area.
An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons - enough to meet the residential and commercial demands of a family of four.
California law requires a management plan to be created every five years.
Despite protests by landowner Richard O'Neil, NID directors voted 4-1 to declare the necessity of crossing O'Neil's Idaho-Maryland Road property to complete a new pipeline.
The step opens up the path toward declaring eminent domain, though NID officials continue to negotiate with O'Neil on compensation.
President Weber, the lone dissenter, asked board members to wait on the vote, saying a negotiated resolution is "closer than ever."
O'Neil wants to receive compensation for damage to the property in addition to $34,300 that has been offered for the easement that would cross his 12-acre parcel.
While the property would increase in value because it would have piped, treated water, it also would suffer a loss in value because NID workers would cross his land periodically to access a valve used to blow dirt out of the pipeline, O'Neil said.
It's the last of 65 easements NID needs to procure to complete the $41 million Banner Cascade Pipeline, scheduled to be finished this fall.
Other directors repeated the district is under a tight construction schedule and must move forward toward eminent domain even as negotiations continue.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Trina Kleist, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.