NID keeps plugging away on dam relicensing |

NID keeps plugging away on dam relicensing

The Nevada Irrigation District is poised to file a draft application that could ultimately secure a 50-year dam license for electricity generation.

Nine on-stream reservoirs, two diversion dams and four powerhouses in Nevada, Placer and Sierra counties were licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of the Yuba-Bear Hydroelectric Project in 1963. Water capacity was arranged to go to the district, while hydroelectric power goes to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to district documents.

With that license set to expire April 30, 2013, the irrigation district will apply for a new one by April 2011, and is seeking an arrangement that could give the district control over the electricity generated.

So far the district has spent about $8 million in years of studies and meetings in preparation for relicensing, said General Manager Ron Nelson.

“We’ve taken about 30 measures from cultural resources to items such as the maintenance of recreational facilities. It also includes restoration of channels and minimum flow below the projects,” said Jim Lynch, a consultant for the district.

Costs associated with the license were estimated at about $900,000 a year in facility maintenance, Lynch said.

And while the amount of money the district could get from selling electricity- as much as $20 million a year possibly – depends on a number of factors, new minimum flow rates required downstream could diminish that by about $500,000, he said.

Still, the acquisition should be a money maker for the district, Nelson said.

“It still has to be profitable,” Nelson said. “We won’t do it if it isn’t in the black.”

Board President Scott Miller criticized district staff and the consultant, however, saying the board hadn’t been adequately informed through the process.

“I wish we had been included in the dialogue all along,” Miller said.

As part of the application, the district is also exploring adding another powerhouse at Rollins Reservoir, but Vice President Nancy Weber said this was the first she had heard about it.

“I’m left stunned that we haven’t looked at raising the dam (Rollins, for water capacity) at the same time,” Miller said.

Issues of water capacity are being treated separately from electricity generation, Nelson said, adding that he would make sure the board is better kept in the loop on the process.

The project’s combined gross storage capacity is nearly 208,000 acre-feet of water and the installed electric generation capacity is more than 79 megawatts – roughly enough to power about 45,000 households annually, Lynch said

An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover an acre in 1 foot of water – nearly 326,000 gallons, or roughly the needs of a four-person household over one year.

To contact Staff Writer Greyson Howard, e-mail or call (530) 477-4237.

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