Dear members of the Nevada Irrigation District Board:
My family has been a non-treated water customer of the NID for more than 70 years. As ranchers with livestock, we have depended upon NID water to irrigate some 50 acres of pasture land. Over the years, those irrigated pastures have been used to grow hay, feed dairy cattle, sheep, competition horses, goats and beef cattle.
The rate of increase, now a proposed 6 percent over five years, is completely out of line with the economics of raising food and fiber in this area. What is worse, and totally irresponsible, is that by raising rates you literally force people to cut back ways in which to be locally sustainable, and at the same time, your actions radically increase the wildfire danger of all of our citizens in Nevada and Placer counties.
There was a time when NID was an irrigation district. The ditch tenders were respected people who made sure the boxes were clean and operable, that people did not “steal” water and that customers received a “full head.” They understood that a summer day short of water could be devastating to a rancher. There was a time, too, when the water delivered was not full of noxious weed seeds; the increasing costs of irrigation have put more good land into star thistle fields rather than being productive.
As your name still states, you are an irrigation district and, as such, have a responsibility to the rural land and its hardworking people. We do not wash our cars weekly, have swimming pools or run garbage disposals indiscriminately. We are the reason tourism is important in our area because of rural beauty and atmosphere along with our Gold Rush communities. We do have a large number of small farms and some larger ranches who all contribute to the economics and well-being of our area.
Those who irrigate contribute tremendously to fire safety but are seldom — if ever — recognized for that effort of maintaining farm and pasture land. Increased water costs from NID with its well-thought-out watershed and water storage and delivery systems will rather force people to further deplete valuable groundwater sources through their wells and springs in order to survive.
I urge you to use some common sense and have greater environmental sensitivity in your actions; we are not, at least yet, an asphalt-covered Los Angeles. If you choose, you could be a leader in protecting our land, resources and its people.
Felicia Schaps Tracy lives on Emigrant Springs Ranch in Grass Valley.