Dianna Suarez: Rich Johansen’s sweet deal | TheUnion.com

Dianna Suarez: Rich Johansen’s sweet deal

Farmer and Nevada Irrigation District Division 5 Candidate, Rich Johansen, has a secret. He gets 6 miners inches of water from the Nevada Irrigation District for $72 a year. (Regular rates for this amount of water cost between $2,500 and $3,700 a year.)

Yes, $72.00 for a season, and it is completely legal because of the Tarr Ditch easement water rights he obtained when he purchased his farm property. That is the sweet deal that came along with Rich Johansen’s land. The other nice thing for Rich is that he is not subject to the ever increasing water rates (5.72% next year) that fund NID’s water delivery system from which he so richly benefits. How can he represent any potential constituents with water rate increases when he doesn’t pay them?

This story starts way back during the California Gold Rush of 1849 with the Blue Point Mining Company. Upon Wolf Creek was a dam maintained by the “predecessors” of Blue Point Mining Co. The dam was completed in 1862, built at great cost and maintained for 56 years. Heading at this dam was a ditch known as the Campbell Ditch. It was 28 miles long. Beginning in 1862, two thousand inches of water was carried by this ditch in the winter-time each year, being used for hydraulic mining at Sucker Flat, near Smartsville. Winter water diversions continued in this ditch to Smartsville for 21 years until the mining outside the watershed of Bear River and Wolfe Creek was stopped by injunction.

In 1901, the flume crossing French Ravine above Wolfe Creek broke. In 1909 Predecessors of Blue Point Mining Company reopened Campbell Ditch, rebuilt the flume over French Ravine, and began to distribute water outside the watershed. In 1918, a property owner named Horst sued the mining company challenging their right to water in the ditch. Wolf Creek received water from sources outside its watershed known as “foreign water.” The foreign water was sewage from Grass Valley and water discharged from mines and mills; the City mines, and mills receiving their supplies from a canal which leads from Yuba River. All of the discharges of foreign water enter Wolf Creek above the Campbell Dam and comingle with the other waters of that stream.

Wolf Creek was, in turn, the source of the water which was diverted by Blue Point Mining Company (predecessors of Nevada Irrigation District) into the ditch (known as Tarr Ditch, formerly Campbell Ditch) which ran through the plaintiff’s property. The court found that Horst has a paramount right to the natural flow to its lands but that the Blue Point Mining Co. has a right superior to Horst to all of the “foreign water” at all times for use at any place within or without the watershed of Wolf Creek or Bear River.

The 1918 lawsuit resulted in a legal contract between Jacob Weissbein as trustee for the New Blue Point Mining Company, (predecessors of Nevada Irrigation District), and the landowners along the ditch designated in the 1918 agreement. The basic purpose of the “1918 contract” was that in return for an easement through the property, the predecessors of Nevada Irrigation District would sell and deliver certain “foreign water” to the landowners at the rate of $6 per acre “forever” so long as there was sufficient “foreign water” and the District had the legal right to such water. The contract provided that its provisions “shall inure to the benefit of the parties of the first part herein [landowners] their heirs and assigns, and shall be deemed and taken as a covenant running with the land.”

The contract itself does not define “per acre.” However, examination of the record indicates that “per acre” is the amount of one-half statutory miner’s inch per acre for an irrigation season commencing April 15 and running through Oct. 15 of each year. That equates to $12 per miners inch each irrigation season. So 6 miners inches would be a $72 annual cost for a whole season of irrigation water.

This sweet deal also protects Rich from the cost of maintenance and replacement of old and failing NID infrastructure. Candidate Rich Johansen has publicly stated “Join me and let’s fight for increasing our water supply and water storage!” Rich has stated his support for the stalled Centennial Dam proposal since 2014 to many people in our community including me. He wants to sell water and insure his prosperity. NID has never completed a feasibility study, but some projections estimate the $500 million price tag along with financing would cost a billion dollars, and each NID ratepayer, except Rich, around $40,000. What a sweet deal for Rich Johansen.

Dianna Suarez lives in Colfax.

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