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NID may cut back water

In one of the wettest years on record, the Nevada Irrigation District is looking at conservation and cutbacks during the July-August peak water-use period for about one-half of its customers.

If that happens, farmers could lose part of the irrigation water they need at the height of the growing season, and home consumers would have less during the hottest time of the year. The flow cutbacks would be done to avert the bursting of two canals in the NID system that are currently flowing at or beyond federal safety standards.

But NID General Manager Ron Nelson said Monday customers may have enough water anyway this year.



“I think this year we’ll breeze through,” Nelson said. “We’re just being prudent.”

NID Operations Manager Don Wight will present a number of options in a report for the district board at its regular meeting Wednesday.




During a survey in last year’s peak period, Wight’s workers found the Lower Cascade canal running at an average of 3 inches from the top of the canal berm. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation standards call for 6 inches or less, Wight said in his report.

That canal and the DS Canal eventually feed about 25,000 NID drinking-water users in Grass Valley and Nevada City. Up to 2,000 raw or irrigation water connections could be affected if use constraints are taken.

The safety fear comes from the possibility that an over-saturated canal berm with excess pressure on it could burst, “and you’d have a real ecologic disaster, with a loss in service to everyone for two to three days,” Wight told The Union.

The pending Lower Cascade Canal Banner/Pipeline Project would alleviate the problem, Wight said in his board report. But that project is now two years behind schedule after the original environmental study for it was rejected by NID.

Wight said the other problem is the DS Canal, which has seven flumes with capacity constraints that date back to 1926. Any increase in flows to them “would be beyond safe engineered operating levels,” Wight said in his report, and replacements are spread out over the next four years.

“There is a possible impact looming,” said board member and Chicago Park organic farmer John Drew. “It’s very appropriate that staff brought this up. I share the concern.”

Drew said a blowout or slip in one of the canals at low flow levels would be bad, but if that occurred with the current high flows, “the catastrophe is even greater.” Drew also said water shortages during the peak period for the many organic farmers in his Chicago Park area is also a concern.

In a committee meeting that dealt with the situation in April, director Nancy Weber said raw water irrigation customers should have been given more time to plan for a shortage. Weber repeated that complaint Monday.

At that same committee meeting, director George Leipzig said it would be difficult to explain to irrigation customers why they could not get full deliveries after a heavy rain and snowpack season.

Now, “staff is reassuring me they think we can squeeze through” without curtailments, Leipzig said. “Our reservoirs are full and overflowing.”

Wight said curtailment could come in the form of a moratorium on new customers, cutting back deliveries for some or all who use water from the two canals, and a public campaign to conserve drinking water.

Wight said the problem could also extend to the Combie Ophir Canal system in southwestern Nevada County, but he did not have impact numbers on that system yet.

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Nevada Irrigation District meeting.

WHEN: 9 a.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: NID headquarters, 1036 West Main Street, Grass Valley.


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