George Olive: Get informed about our water and NID | TheUnion.com

George Olive: Get informed about our water and NID

George Olive
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The Union publisher Don Rogers' column, "A leaky argument for dam" (May 17) was a helpful editorial about NID's proposed Centennial Dam.

In contrast, John Drew's May 11 "Own the water rights or others will" was confusing at best. Drew's unexplained anxiety about "others" does not contribute to decisions about the water supply and demand NID's directors have been elected to manage. Instead, Drew tells readers to be fearful and distrustful of "others." Rogers wonders about this, too: "The specter of global warming has spooked them into declarations that smack of panic …"

As confusing as Drew's op-ed was, it's clear he feels threatened by all sorts of "others." He doesn't trust "… others from outside our community …" or " …the small group of folks who are not supportive of our direction …" This is really problematic for an elected member of a special district board who are, hopefully, studying the pros and cons of a billion dollar local project.

OK, maybe Drew knows something about the state's hidden water rights agenda that isn't public knowledge. Just where the threat lies is a mystery. NID's own data, even during recent drought years, indicate ample supply. And general manager Scherzinger stays on top of water-related politics and trends. So just why Drew is so sure "others" will "own" the Yuba Watershed's water is unclear, even to those of us attending every NID committee and Directors meeting. I agree with Rogers, who says the dam: " … strikes me as the extreme remedy for a problem they don't have."

But wait. Drew's piece introduces a new wrinkle. He writes about NID's surprise April 25 board action to update its all-important Raw Water Master Plan (the Plan), which will determine NID projects for the next 50 years. This unexpected — $500,000 — new priority would seem to require that other major projects be put on hold. Drew states that NID " … will listen to … needs of the community … evaluate alternatives …" These alternatives should, it seems, include conservation, better management of residential irrigation, infra-structure fixes, meadow restoration, reservoir dredging, etc. NID is saying publicly that this Plan update will be a "public" process. That "stakeholder" groups will get to present points of view on alternatives to a dam.

That's not what Drew says. He wants control. He wants a "beautiful reservoir" and a 275' concrete plug. Drew writes, "One of my concerns is the small number of folks who are not supportive of our current direction …" These "folks" question the need for a dam. They include community members knowledgeable about water rights, hydrology and the complexities of water supply and demand. NID could choose to include such folks, resources from UC Davis, SYRCL and the Foothills Water Network, in its Plan update process. Such "stakeholders" include those who understand if there really is a threat to take Nevada County's water.

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Hopefully, Drew does not speak for the majority. I hope NID will trust those "others" from Colfax whose property will be inundated; those "other" Nisenan people whose cultural sites will be lost; those unsupportive "folks" whose expertise informs their belief that dams are an expensive, inflexible approach to water supply. Otherwise, Rogers is right: "…feels a lot like 'ready, fire, aim' or maybe not quite that organized." Perhaps, an actual public-facing Plan update process over the next 24 months will flesh out what has, in Rogers words, been "…the decision-makers …selling the most costly alternative before they've studied it …"

As Drew suggests, "Get involved." Attend an NID meeting (https://nidwater.com/about-nid/meetings-minutes/). Yes, you will see firsthand the important work that NID does and the competence of the lead staff. You'll also witness Drew's dreaded "folks who are not supportive" of how NID pursues private property acquisitions in the reservoir inundation zone without either an environmental or a fiscal study. You will also hear members of local Native American groups whose people consider the stretch of the Bear NID would destroy as sacred. And maybe you'll see the thoughtlessness of Drew's use of "the Law of the Iroquois", a terrible way to argue for the flooding of peaceful, accessible, free-flowing water valued by many.

Thankfully, three new NID Directors could be elected in November. If ever knowledgeable Directors were needed at NID, this is the time. A sizeable, knowledgeable community group has organized against the dam. They are pushing for this RWMP process to be an objective, science-based study of all alternatives; not another example of NID's "opaqueness," a wasted opportunity used to justify flooding six miles of the Bear River.

George Olive lives in Nevada City.