Nevada Irrigation District proposes security fixes to Scotts Flat Reservoir spillway
Fencing installed more than a year ago along the edge of the Scotts Flat Reservoir spillway was supposed to keep people from jumping or diving off the lake side of the facility and protect the public on the downstream, or spill, side.
That fencing and a variety of warning signs have all proved ineffective, Nevada Irrigation District staff said. Adding insult to injury, a game camera that was installed to catch trespassers in the act was stolen, General Manager Rem Scherzinger told the district’s Maintenance and Resources Management Committee, adding, “It’s not funny.”
The spillway fencing was on the committee’s agenda Tuesday so that it could recommend one of five fence design alternatives to improve security.
Hydroelectric Manager Keanne Sommers showed committee members some of the images captured on the game camera that showed people hanging out on the spillway and “shimmying” out along the outside of the bridge 20 to 30 feet, to circumvent the fencing and get out far enough to jump into the lake. Other photos showed vandalism to signs and gates, as well as trespassers near the powerhouse at the bottom of the dam.
“Someone brought a couch down,” Sommers said. “They had a fire in the middle of the spillway.”
Sommers told the committee members that in May of last year, staff released a Request for Proposals to eight local fencing contractors or landscape architects. One response declining to bid was received and no other responses were received, he said.
In October, fencing alternatives were brought to the committee, but a decision was postponed until after new committee members could be installed following the November election.
The fencing alternatives proposed ranged from a minimal modification to the existing fence, with a $15,220 price tag, all the way up to an 8-foot anti-climb fence that would cost an estimated $131,578.
All of the proposals will remove approximately 10 feet of the existing guardrail from both sides of the spillway in order to eliminate the handhold that people are using to get around the fencing. The district also plans to reduce the ability of people to use an I-beam below the spillway as a foothold by installing wing wall panels at the gates that extend to the existing concrete ledge.
Public safety concerns can be accommodated in a less costly and intrusive way, Nevada City resident Syd Brown told the committee.
Brown added she was concerned that more aggressive security measures would just be seen as a challenge for scofflaws, asking, “How far do you go?”
The issue for the water district is the significant liability should someone get injured and file a lawsuit, Scherzinger said.
“We had blindly allowed these activities to occur,” he said. “Once we became aware, took steps.”
To avoid liability, Scherzinger said, “We have to put forward something that a reasonable observer would say we have done everything we can to preclude that behavior. We’re not there … We’re trying to protect the public and they actively try to preclude that.”
The previous committee members had recommended the highest fence. But new members Chris Bierwagen and Laura Peters took a fiscally conservative tack, opting for the most minimal option to forward to the board for discussion. That would make minor modifications to the existing fence, removing the razor wire from the existing fence and gate and adding tension wire at the top of the fence. A new 6-foot swing gate with barbed wire would also be added on the north end of the spillway.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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