NID: Low rating on application for Centennial Dam funding ‘well-deserved’ | TheUnion.com

NID: Low rating on application for Centennial Dam funding ‘well-deserved’

By Matthew Pera Staff Writer

The Nevada Irrigation District won't appeal a low rating given to its application in pursuit of state funds for the proposed Centennial Dam, the district's board of directors decided Wednesday.

Board members agreed with the California Water Commission staff's initial assessment of the project, which predicted the reservoir wasn't qualified for any state money based on the requirements of the grant NID applied for.

The Water Storage Investment Program, which is overseen by the Water Commission, funds portions of water storage projects based on the public benefits they provide. Those projects are required to benefit the delta or its ecosystems in order to qualify for program money.

NID's Investment Program application touted the reservoir's benefits to the local ecosystem and public recreation, and requested nearly $12 million from the investment program — a small fraction of the $342 million it estimates the dam will cost.

But the Water Commission's initial review of NID's application, published early this month, said Centennial wasn't likely to qualify for any program funding.

All 11 agencies that have projects in the running for Investment Program money were predicted to receive less money than they requested, according to those initial reviews. Three, including NID, were predicted to receive nothing.
Applicants now have the chance to appeal the ratings and clarify the public benefits of their projects before the Water Commission makes final decisions, but NID's board said Wednesday the district shouldn't waste its time. NID's application will remain in the running for program funding, but district staff won't spend any time appealing the initial review.

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'Embarassed'
"I have to say, reading this application, I was appalled," said NID Director Nancy Weber. "The person who wrote this was not a grant writer and it was inadequate. I was embarrassed by it."

The district hired HDR, a consultant, to write its Investment Program application, according to NID Communications Specialist Susan Lauer. Information about the cost of that contract wasn't immediately available, Lauer said Wednesday afternoon.

Traci Sheehan, coordinator for the Foothills Water Network, presented board members Wednesday with the request that NID not appeal the initial rating.

In a letter to the district she sent this month, Sheehan suggested "the (NID) board and district demonstrate their commitment to fiscal responsibility by not expending further resources in pursuit of (Investment Program) funding."
Board members agreed.

"Quite frankly, our low score was well-deserved," said Director Nick Wilcox. "I really have no problems with the low score we have received with the state Water Commission, because this is a local project. This is not a delta-centered project."

 

Not backing out
Some community members suggested NID rescind its application entirely.

"If you withdraw it now, you'll save yourself some face," said Diana Suarez, a Colfax resident and vocal opponent of the Centennial project. "Not appealing it, your application is still out there with a big fat zero in front of everybody."

But directors opted to keep the application in the running, directing staff instead to halt any efforts to appeal the initial score.

Sheehan said that decision is concerning, in part because she fears the district may consider selling some of the water that could be stored by Centennial to other parts of the state.

"They want to stay in line (for Investment Program funding). … But there are strings attached," she said in an interview. "Those negotiations could happen down the road."

When asked whether applying for Investment Program funding would require the district give water to other parts of California, NID's general manager, Remleh Scherzinger, said in August it wouldn't.
"The application gives up no water at this time," he said.

But Wilcox echoed Sheehan's concern Wednesday.
"The act of accepting state money brings with it conditions that are likely to be unacceptable to the district, and therefore I think there is serious risk to the district in participating in this sort of a program," he said. "If we were to participate in this program, I think it would severely restrict the district's ability to respond in a positive way to periods of extended, critically dry years, and that's really the point of the project, to provide drought resistance to our community."

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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