Plan sparks concerns about area water rights |

Plan sparks concerns about area water rights

Deane Swickard says he can’t understand, how, after 48 public meetings were held to discuss the South Yuba River Comprehensive Management Plan, there are some county residents who still feel they weren’t given a chance to have their say.

After all, 1,500 people – some of whom traveled miles through the snow at night and through rugged conditions – attended those meetings, said Swickard, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management.

But Nevada County Supervisor Robin Sutherland, at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, took issue with Swickard’s approach to gathering input.

“I am somewhat taken aback by the way you are representing yourself. When you represent the public on this process, the intent is not to satisfy the schedule of the BLM, but to satisfy the public,” said Sutherland, whose district comprises much of the ranch and farm lands in the county.

She then explained how it has been difficult for the ranching community to make the meetings – many of which have been held on Tuesday evenings at the L.O.V.E. Building in Grass Valley’s Condon Park.

“One of the difficulties of the process (is that) it heavily favors people who are paid to be there,” agreed Robert Ingram, a forester for Sierra Pacific Industries.

Regardless, there are still some residents who are worried that the plan will cause their water rights to be taken away – especially those who own properties along the tributaries of the South Yuba River.

Swickard said the plan is not about taking away property rights, but about creating a “community-based” strategy to manage the 18,000 acres of BLM land in the county. Much of the land is multi-use and include ranching, farming, and recreation.

The idea is to “take small parcels of public land, work with the citizens and plan the use of the area with the community. We work with them until we deal with all the land-use issues. It is a tedious but powerful process,” Swickard said.

Some residents still remain skeptical, however.

Rancher Fred Langdon said his property on Shady Creek has been in his family since 1854, and he doesn’t want anything to affect his cattle grazing.

“(In the past 60 years,) we’ve lost a lot of freedom,” he said Tuesday.

“Shady Creek is our main source (of water). We just want BLM to know that we are going to put up a fight if it comes to losing any water rights,” said Pat Browning, a board member of the North San Juan Water District.

Supervisor John Spencer was also concerned about the plan, saying “I think we need to protect (the longtime property owners’) rights. We need to protect the rights that they have enjoyed.”

But Swickard said he was mystified by those who believe their water rights are threatened, especially after all the meetings have been held.

“BLM has made no water rights filings; we have taken no action to take property rights. There is no action against any grazing permits. That is a mystery to me,” he said.

At the request of Sutherland, Swickard agreed to hold a meeting on a Saturday for those who are unable to attend the next public meeting that is scheduled for Feb. 15.

Know and Go

What: Public Meeting for the South Yuba River Comprehensive Management Plan

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15

Where: L.O.V.E. Building, 660 Minnie St., Condon Park in Grass Valley

For more information: Visit or e-mail

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