A people-friendly Cascade project
The Project. Nevada Irrigation District is proposing to install a 3-to-6-foot diameter (several figures have been quoted by staff and consultants) pipeline to convey a water supply of 85 to 97 cubic feet/second (various figures again quoted) from the Cascade Canal on Banner Mountain to treatment plants at E. George and Loma Rica reservoirs. Some of the water would remain raw and be transported via the Upper Grass Valley Canal. The pipeline would replace and/or augment the existing Lower Cascade Canal.
On Feb. 13, a public meeting was convened by NID staff and consultants to discuss possible routes for the pipeline. Instead of offering equal alternatives, the presenters selected one preferred route along a private, narrow road on a steep hillside, suggesting three alternatives for cross country routes near the bottom of the mountain. Some of the folks who would host the cross-country route possibilities on their properties would have their wells, septic systems, landscaping destroyed, or would end up with a permanent 40-foot treeless and brushless swath behind their homes (enticing to hikers and off-road vehicles).
For six weeks, the 156 residents along potential routes have lived with uncertainty about the involvement of their lands while they scramble to rapidly form an effective citizens’ group to negotiate with NID. Property values in the area are being affected. Residents are anxious about the future of their homesteads.
What NID Should Have Done – and Still Could Do
Consider factors other than cost: choose as a preferred route one that causes the least disruption to residents along the way.
Select publicly owned open land and roads as preferred routes to cause minimal destruction of the landscape.
Establish the need for the water before beginning a project. People are questioning the use for water which will be conveyed by the pipeline. The most recent raw water master plan for NID was done in 1981. An update will not be available until 2002-03.
Hold workshops with residents to convey useful information (engineering strategies – pumping, sound baffles for pumps, siphons: excavating practices: opportunities for tunneling instead of excavation); preservation of vegetation; possible mitigations. The workshops need to be held as a series in the evening and offer opportunities for real dialogue with participants’ ideas being incorporated into the project. Provide adequate maps and visual displays which can be easily read by the audience. Determine a pipe size, a trench size, the amount of water to be delivered and stay with that determination. (This shows good planning.)
Plan with the NID board of directors before initiating the project.
Currently the NID board is informed periodically of the progress of the project by staff and consulting engineers. Board members need to be actively involved at decision-making levels. Those who represent folks who elected them are more likely to be concerned about project impacts.
NID’s mission statement reads, “The district pledges to provide its customers with a safe dependable water supply for urban and agricultural uses at the lowest possible cost utilizing available resources today and in the future.” When residents in the path of a major pipeline project are shown as little consideration as has happened so far with the Lower Cascade Project, it’s time to reexamine the meaning of lowest possible cost. The cost to residents in the pipeline path is potentially extensive. They are NID taxpayers and most have no raw or treated water supply. What are their benefits? Why should they have to fight to protect their property rights? Will they lose those rights through and NID declaration of eminent domain? This is not just Banner Mountain residents’ problem. This is a community problem. NID is a public agency with elected officials.
Nancy Weber of Nevada City is a member of the NID board of directors.
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