Jack Sanchez: Get involved and help shape NID policies
December 15, 2017
Nevada Irrigation District is blocking anadromous fish in Auburn Ravine and delaying the economic boon salmon spawning in Auburn will bring the city. NID is a public agency accountable to the public and must operate by rules governing a public agency; whether or not NID so operates is debatable. Its website says it is an Independent Public Agency which is a meaningless refinement.
Anyway, a public agency is not a private business. It has a publicly elected board of directors and is open to public input and review.
NID just received $177,000 from Calfornia Department of Fish and Wildlife toward the removal of Hemphill Dam on Auburn Ravine. NID leadership is now using that money for further needless studies before the dam will be removed as its board directed. The studies are needless because Hemphill Dam has been studied by county, state and federal agencies since it was rebuilt in 1989 by NID without a permit. It should never have been rebuilt and is still unpermitted and hence illegal; as a result, should be removed without studies. It has illegally blocked upstream migration of anadromous fish since it was originally constructed in 1935.
Not only is NID misusing these funds for unneeded studies, but this delaying is negatively impacting not only the people's fish, but also the economy of the city of Auburn, delaying the time the city will have salmon spawning in its two parks, attracting visitors from Highway 80 which passes through the heart of Auburn.
A public agency is not a private business. It has a publicly elected board of directors and is open to public input and review.
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What kind of economic impact will salmon spawning in Auburn have on the city? In speaking with personnel operating Taylor Creek Stream Profile on Highway 89 east of South Lake Tahoe, they have a bright tale to tell of the attraction their Kokanee spawning has for the public. Taylor Creek is miles from Highway 50 and yet during spawning, 10,000 visitors a week pour in to see the Kokanee.
There is an advantageous difference between Auburn and Taylor Creek. The Kokanee in Taylor Creek were accidentally released into Lake Tahoe. They are not native to the lake and have lived in the lake for only a few years. Yet, they are a major attractant for visitors and provide robust income to the businesses along Highway 89.
Now, contrast Taylor Creek to Auburn. Auburn is on Interstate 80 with hundreds of thousands of travelers passing Auburn seasonally. When these travelers receive word Auburn has salmon and steelhead spawning in the center of the city a minute off the highway, its businesses could easily add a 100,000 or more visitors a week entering and spending in Auburn.
NID itself is an obstacle to this financial boon to Auburn, because instead of removing Hemphill Dam and providing fish passage over its next upstream obstacle Gold Hill Dam so fish can reach Wise Powerhouse, one mile from Auburn, it is delaying needlessly, fiddling with addition studies on Hemphill.
No one, including the fish, is well-served by NID's deliberate delaying fish passage over its two remaining blockages to upstream anadromous fish passage. It is against the law to block upstream anadromous fish migration, which National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is charged with overseeing. NOAA is in charge of inland anadromy oversight.
Currently, NID's general manager is fighting an uphill battle to build Centennial Dam on Bear River against a flood of opposition.
The dam is at least well named since NID has been trying to build it for almost a century.
There are some specifics about these grant monies to NID that should be focused on … namely the monies should be used to remove Hemphill — a job that should take one day's work.
If you want to have a say in what NID is doing with Hemphill Dam and salmon and steelhead in Auburn Ravine, then call General Manager Rem Sherzinger and ask to serve on the Hemphill Advisory Group, because NID is a public agency that encourages public involvement. So contact him at email@example.com or 530-273-6185 to help shape what NID does on the Auburn Ravine and what happens so salmon and steelhead can spawn in the two parks in Auburn.
Speaking of NID's Gold Hill Dam, which was built in 1853 and contains most of the chemicals used in mining and much residual gold, fish passage will also be delayed for decades or more in NID-think before they remove it.
Actually, since the sediment is so toxic, the obvious procedure is to build a fish ladder, which the original builders provided for with an opening on the north side of the cement construct, but NID will only come to this obvious conclusion after years of "studies," further delaying the time when Auburn will have salmon spawning in its center if there are salmon/steelhead still in Auburn Ravine.
Since NID is a public agency, it is definitely in need of public input … and guidance. Send NID some suggestions.
Jack Sanchez is the president and founder of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead. He lives in Auburn.