NID corks Lincoln water plan for now
A cork has been jammed into the Nevada Irrigation District’s plan to supply water to the booming town of Lincoln because no one is sure what the city’s future demand for life’s most precious commodity will be.
The NID board’s recent move to table the plan until some harder figures are established points to the fears of Director Nancy Weber and other county residents, who have wondered what Lincoln’s future demands will do to NID’s finite water supply.
In December 2005, NID learned from a consultant that its supply would meet demand in 2027. Mike Schimpff of national water and energy firm Kleinschmidt based his statement on growth figures from Nevada and Placer counties, the two main counties within NID borders.
Since 2004 the district has been planning to build a new water treatment plant near Lincoln to service that part of town and its future sphere of influence – which are within NID’s borders. NID has been working with a figure of providing water to a possible 12,290 new homes in and around Lincoln at full buildout.
“It’s not accurate,” Weber said this week of the projected buildout. “The number hasn’t been really determined.”
Lincoln City Manager Jerry Johnson said Thursday, “It seems unlikely there will be significant change” in the number. But he said it could change when the city’s new general plan comes before the public in September and afterward, when its sphere of influence for city services is established.
The NID board put the Lincoln plan on hold when it realized the city’s pending general plan and sphere of influence documents will have to be completed to project hard number water demands. Sphere of influence is a California planning term used to describe how far out a municipality thinks its city limits will be in the future.
“Their general plan will determine population density and their sphere of influence,” Weber said. “The area we are going to serve is unknown until they get that done. It’s been pulled off the table.”
According to NID Assistant General Manager Tim Crough, “We don’t know if it will be more or less,” than the 12,290 homes originally estimated by then-Chief Engineer Tim McCall. McCall has retired from NID, but continues to be a consultant to the Lincoln project.
“It could be lower,” Crough said Thursday. “All it would take would be a change in the city’s political dynamics.”
Crough said NID needs firm water demand numbers from Lincoln, “on boundaries, density and uses which will dictate how big the plant will be.” Those numbers will be essential for the yet-to-be-hired environmental consultant for the proposed water treatment plant, Crough said.
Lincoln Public Works Director John Pedri said the original 12,290-home buildout was a ballpark figure needed for initial planning purposes. “It could be 10,000, it could be 15,000, it could change.” Pedri said. “We’re also looking at recycled water which could make (the number of homes) less.”
The figure would decrease because NID only would need to supply a certain amount of homes and the additional estates would use the recycled water.
Pedri said Lincoln had ballpark numbers when it planned its new wastewater treatment plant, that became more clear when the project got closer to bid. He also did not think NID’s hesitation would be a deal buster.
“We do the best we can to quantify what demand will be to get planning going,” Pedri said. “I’m optimistic we’ll move forward.”
Crough said the plan will now go back to a joint committee between NID and Lincoln for changes to protect NID from further design costs. So far, those costs are estimated at $3.4 million, but fully unknown, according to NID documents. NID has agreed to pay 50 percent of the treatment plant design costs, but the changes would make Lincoln pay for any work to be redone, should the projected buildout numbers change.
The current working agreement between NID and Lincoln calls for the city to pay 100 percent of the treatment plant cost and for NID to own the facility when completed. Current estimates for the plant are at $200 million or more.
Hookups, taxes fuel controversy
The furor over shipping water to Lincoln has been fanned by Nevada Irrigation District Director Nancy Weber and many Nevada County residents who have waited to get NID water for years, but have been physically or monetarily removed from the process.
Those people have a hard time understanding why a water-rich district whose resources originate mainly from Nevada County can ship water right by them to a booming area in another county. They are further outraged when they pay property tax to NID every year for the ability to hook up to its water, yet can’t do so.
NID officials counter that part of Lincoln, its possible expansion area and a good portion of Placer County lay within the Nevada Irrigation District, which is not beholden to county governments. They have said repeatedly that those at the end of the district have just as much right to the water as those at the source on a first-come, first-served basis.
They have also instituted new programs to get water to small rural subdivisions, but those programs do not progress quickly. NID also says that those wanting water who are far away from main lines must pay to get it extended to them, which is different than having Lincoln developers paying up-front water costs and passing it on to homebuyers later on.
They have also said that a lot of raw, NID agriculture water has been consumed in the Lincoln area for years, and municipal expansion will simply utilize that and a bit more for the city’s future.
Weber and detractors countered this week, saying current projections for Lincoln’s growth are not fully known yet, meaning the future demand for NID’s water commitment to Lincoln is unknown.
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.
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