Otis Wollan: Just what are NID’s intentions?
September 1, 2017
Nevada Irrigation District can't have it both ways. The district simply can't promise locals that Centennial Dam water will be used within the district to secure the local water supply and then turn around and offer to sell the water to the Central Valley Project / State Water Project (CVP/SWP). But that is exactly what is happening.
Two recent actions by NID call to question their intentions for the water behind Centennial Dam.
At the Aug. 9 special board meeting, NID directors approved application for Proposition 1 funding for Centennial Dam with an Aug. 14 deadline, voting without any supporting information in their meeting packet or information available to the public. That state funding is expressly for ecosystem benefits for the Delta. Accepting state funds commits NID to California Water Commission requirements. For three years, NID has been promoting the dam for local water security, promising the water would be used locally, which is a proud, long-standing NID policy.
Also revealed by the public at the Aug. 9 meeting, and of even greater concern, NID is broadcasting a completely different message statewide than it delivers locally. NID co-funded with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and others the "Storage Integration Study" released in June 2017 by the Association of California Water Agencies (See this story at TheUnion.com for a link to the study). NID Board members had not been informed of the details or conclusions of the report, which on pages 34-36 states that Centennial Dam will be integrated into the CVP/SWP system that delivers water to Southern California.
What in the world is going on here? Does this mean the water is ultimately for Southern California?
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The study shows that Centennial water storage over 40,000 acre-feet — fully two thirds of the water behind the dam — is "available for [state] system-wide needs" and can be used to "augment American River supplies," "provide water supply reliability to urban water users," "enhance temperature conditions in the lower American River," "conserve storage in Shasta," "contribute water supply benefits to the CVP/SWP system … including Delta exports," "augment the flow in the lower Bear below Camp Far West and the Feather river," and "conserve storage levels in Oroville Reservoir."
What in the world is going on here? Does this mean the water is ultimately for Southern California? As the venerable Placer County Water Agency attorney used to tell us on the Placer County Water Agency board, "Don't ever sell water to Southern California and let urban users become dependent on our water, because we'll never get it back when we need it."
What are NID's intentions here? Does this mean that our local NID board members are actually enabling the long-dreaded raid on Sierra Nevada county-of-origin water by Los Angeles and San Diego? This clearly undermines our local sustainable water supply. Is this what NID rate payers are going into debt for?
NID needs to be transparent — and that means more than just how to video stream their meetings. Transparency is not just a video selfie.
Once accessible to the public, the district needs to publicly debate these issues and have clear policies. And the public needs to follow the money.
NID is a public agency, and it is the public that owns the water and power. It is the public that ultimately will incur the debt. The board's responsibility is to frame the critical issues and policies, debate them in public, and make the issues crystal clear.
It's time to come clean … because you can't have it both ways.
Otis Wollan lives in Colfax.
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