Controversial water project advancing |

Controversial water project advancing

Like a glacier inching forward, the controversial Lower Cascade Canal project groaned ahead Wednesday.

After an angry roomful of people complained about the project for almost three hours, Nevada Irrigation District passed what a consultant portrayed as a minor, early milestone:

NID is issuing a “notice of preparation” that officially kicks off the project’s environmental impact report, or EIR.

“You are talking about 1,288 steps, and we’re at step eight,” said Rob Shibatani, the Sacramento-area consultant hired by NID to prepare the EIR.

The notice calls for what NID has wanted all along: installing a new, roughly 4-foot-diameter, 51/2-mile pipeline to replace the Banner Mountain irrigation ditch, which NID would then abandon or possibly hand over to a community group or park district.

NID officials say the ditch doesn’t carry enough water to meet current or future demands and that piping the irrigation water – which feeds into municipal treatment plants serving some 20,000 people – would keep it cleaner than the open ditch.

But NID’s direction didn’t sit well with Banner Mountain residents along the proposed pipeline route, who said they don’t receive NID treated water or irrigation water; therefore, they wouldn’t get anything out of the project anyway. Fears expressed by members of Save Banner Mountain included the loss of trees during the pipeline’s installation and the impact on residents’ wells during excavation.

Also upset were members of Save Our Historic Canals, a group that for the past few years has pleaded with NID officials to keep some water in the Lower Cascade, a popular spot for hiking and other recreation.

NID Director Nancy Weber represents the Banner Mountain area and sides with both groups.

Weber complained that “I’ve probably been to 100 meetings” about the project over the past couple years. Yet, there’s only been one change to the pipeline proposal, she said: one section has been routed alongside Nevada County Airport property, instead of going through private property.

Some people addressing the board said all the previous public meetings had been a waste of time.

But Shibatani said, “There is a lot of information that we have gleaned from the public.”

And R. Paul Williams, NID board president, repeatedly stressed that no final decisions have been made.

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