NID’s right to sell water questioned |

NID’s right to sell water questioned

A state water official may have thrown the Nevada Irrigation District into a quandary by questioning whether NID has the rights to sell water from its proposed $12 million Banner/Cascade Pipeline Project.

In a July 13 letter, State Water Resources Control Board official Katherine Mrowka said she is concerned about NID’s proposed sale of 16,500 new acre feet per year of water from the project.

Mrowka said the 16,500 acre feet are first used by Pacific Gas & Electric for power production at Lake Spaulding and then dumped into NID’s system. Her staff contends a water right for hydroelectric power generation cannot be used again for new consumption purposes unless another right is established.

NID Manager Ron Nelson Tuesday said it is too early to tell what, if any, impact the letter will have on the project and projected new water sales that could mean millions for district coffers in future years.

“It’s a person’s opinion,” Nelson said. “We’ve given it to our folks to see if it’s factual or not.”

Mrowka also said she wants NID to evaluate what it will do to water-rights holders downstream by taking the 16,500 acre feet out of the annual flow. She also questioned if there would be better uses for the water than selling it to area ranches for irrigation.

“It appears that the project could cause a substantial change in the hydrology of water bodies downstream of Lake Spaulding,” Mrowka said in the letter. “What steps will NID take to ensure that all reasonable water conservation measures are implemented in association with the proposed expansion in water service?”

The project – designed to get more water to meet growth demands by replacing the lower end of the old Cascade Canal with a pipeline – has been in the planning stages for three years and is currently under environmental study. Nelson said that at full buildout, the new pipeline could add 16,500 acre feet of water for sale every year.

The district now sells about 143,000 acre feet of water every year, generating up to $11 million, according to Operations Manager Terry Mayfield. An acre foot of water is enough to cover 1 acre, 1 foot deep.

The letter was revealed Tuesday at an Engineering Committee meeting by committee and board member Nancy Weber, who also said she wanted alternatives to the pipeline reinvestigated.

Weber said she had little confidence in the engineering firm of Brown and Caldwell that is doing the draft environmental report and that they should have alerted the district to any questions about water rights.

“I just want the board to get the information it needs to make good decisions,” Weber said. “I’m sure I’m seen as a pain in the butt.”

Weber was assured by district Chief Engineer Tim McCall that he would re-evaluate alternatives for the project and report back to the committee and board in August.

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