NID begins planning for new reservoir on Bear River
Submitted to The Union
NID Board of Directors took a historic step this week into the water future of Nevada and Placer counties, according to a news release.
On Aug. 13, the board unanimously authorized staff to file an application for the annual appropriation of 221,400 acre-feet of water from the Bear River. The district’s application was filed later that day with the State Water Resources Control Board along with the payment of $488,459 in filing fees.
This is the first of many steps that are foreseen in coming years as part of the planning, financing and construction of a new 110,000 acre-foot reservoir on the Bear River between our existing Rollins and Combie reservoirs.
This is locally known as the Parker Reservoir site and would extend upriver from just above Combie Reservoir for 6 miles to a point west of Colfax. Hydroelectric energy production and public recreational opportunities are expected to be part of the project.
The Parker Reservoir site has been part of NID’s water portfolio since the early 1920s when district founders were planning the NID water system. In 1926, the district’s chief engineer, Fred H. Tibbetts, in what is now referred to as the Tibbetts Report, documented the positive attributes of a Parker reservoir. Tibbetts found the Parker site to be superior to Rollins, Dog Bar and Combie, which were also part of a Bear River reconnaissance project.
NID holds senior pre-1914 water rights to the Bear River and has over time acquired additional post-1914 water rights.
In its formative years, NID acquired several hundred acres of land along the river. NID owns more than 1,200 acres within the Parker Reservoir project area, which also extends to some adjacent lands.
Parker Reservoir would directly benefit the southern portions of NID, including the district’s Placer County service areas.
Upstream areas in Nevada County will also benefit as the district would be able to route more water from the mountains down the Yuba River/Deer Creek watershed and less down the Bear River side.
Today’s drought certainly raises awareness of the importance of water storage but our planning goes much further.
It is clear that climate change is bringing uncertainty to our state’s water supplies. The NID water system is over-reliant on the “water bank” that lies in the annual mountain snowpack. We must develop lower elevation storage that can capture runoff from rain storms as well as snow storms.
This water resource development will be a cornerstone achievement in NID’s 93-year history. The district was formed in 1921 and was expanded significantly 50 years ago with the 1963-66 development of the Yuba-Bear Power Project. Parker Reservoir would increase water storage available to district residents from 280,000 to 390,000 acre-feet, helping to ensure a stable water supply for district customers for generations to come.
It is estimated that planning and building Parker Reservoir would cost approximately $160 million. NID would use revenues from hydroelectric energy production (these funds were used to pay the initial filing fees), potential funding through state water bonds and other sources, and probably a local bond issue. A half-century ago, NID voters overwhelmingly approved a local bond issue to fund the Yuba-Bear Project. Those bonds have been repaid and district residents today enjoy a much stronger and reliable water system, along with significant annual revenues from power production.
It is our hope that we will receive the same strong community support as we move forward in this important effort. The preservation and use our valuable “area of origin” water resources here at home is in the very best interests of NID customers and taxpayers.
Rem Scherzinger is the general manager of Nevada Irrigation District.
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