Historic canal saved for hikers | TheUnion.com

Historic canal saved for hikers

Eileen JoyceLinda Sheridan (left) and Linda Peterson, both of Alta Sierra, walk along NID's Lower Cascade Canal Monday.
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Christmas came early Monday for fans of the Lower Cascade Canal.

The Banner Mountain irrigation ditch, a popular spot for hiking and other recreation, almost certainly won’t be drained dry.

That momentous recommendation was made in the relative obscurity of a Nevada Irrigation District board of directors’ engineering committee meeting.

Two NID directors and NID’s chief engineer recommended the project’s environmental documentation be rewritten to leave the canal intact with about one-fifth of its current flow. That way, the canal still can serve the 80 or so existing irrigation water customers along its route.

“Thank you,” said Susan Sanders, president of Save Our Historic Canals. “If I were a gymnast, I’d be doing handsprings. If were a singer, I’d be singing ‘Hallelujah’.”

Save Our Historic Canals will hold a party to celebrate NID’s decision, maybe at the Miner’s Foundry in Nevada City, Sanders said.

“All that money we were going to use for a lawsuit, we’re going to use for a party,” she said.

Sanders was one of about a dozen audience members who showed up for the committee’s brief meeting – a far cry from the crowds that have packed NID’s boardroom for hours during past meetings about the controversial issue.

The canal’s fate has been in doubt for the past couple of years, ever since NID suggested doing away with the ditch and routing all of its flow through a proposed 4 1/2 foot-diameter, five-mile-long pipeline.

NID still wants to forge ahead with the controversial pipeline, which NID officials say is needed to meet increased demand for water.

But with this move, controversy over the ditch’s fate disappears.

“This will also help us focus more on the pipeline, which is the real reason for the project,” said Tim McCall, NID chief engineer.

There are still some loose ends to tie up, the largest one being the acceptance in January by the full five-member NID board of the committee’s recommendation.

But it is expected that the board will concur, said NID Director George Leipzig of Lake Wildwood, who serves on the engineering committee with NID Director Scott Miller of south Nevada County.

Miller worked behind the scenes to help bring about the committee’s vote. He also praised McCall, who caught a lot of flak during public meetings.

“He had a long summer trying to listen, and I think got a bit of a raw deal from the public. Now he shows he was listening,” Miller said.

At the meeting’s end, Sanders hugged McCall. And other canal supporters lined up to shake his hand, including Jim Hurley, who opened up the weather page of the newspaper he was carrying and joked that he had to check “if hell had frozen over.”

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