Jack Sanchez: Protect against water grabs like Centennial Dam
Nevada Irrigation District is a very bad steward of the Bear River and Auburn Ravine, which it uses as a ditch to deliver water to its paying customers downstream with little regard for the ecology of Auburn Ravine.
In fact, NID’s Hemphill Dam on Auburn Ravine is an unpermitted dam that has several unaddressed violations on it.
Region 2 Fish and Wildlife Supervisor Tina Bartlett has issued three code violations against NID, one for blocking salmon and steelhead from upstream migration to spawning gravels and, the second, for selling natural stream flow to its paying customers. Neither has been addressed by NID and using other forbiddens.
ATAC meeting was just held with CDFW and NOAA and probably nothing other than NID continuing to delay came out of it. NID has nine other water rights violations none of which has it addressed. We do not need another dam; dams do not create more water, but water creates many dollars for those who can happy talk their way into controlling it.
After years of delaying, NID just recently finally voted to remove Hemphill Dam and install a type of infiltration gallery to direct water toward its Hemphill Dam, but general manager Rem Scherzinger is still equivocation this directive.
Bear River, on which NID now dreams of building Centennial Dam, is already the nation’s second most negatively impacted waterway with three existing dams. Many experts believe, because of its very narrow water gathering cirque in the Sierra, it cannot yield enough water for another dam. If there is not enough water already, why build another dam without exploring a plethora of other options? NID’s Gold Hill Dam still blocks salmon and steelhead migration and spawning on Auburn Ravine and remains unaddressed with many fabricated reasons for delaying fish passage such as a mythical Chapman Falls.
We finally have reached The Age of Dam Removal, freeing many blocked streams for fish, and yet NID wants to build another unneeded dam to increase its bottom line and assuage the egos of its general manager and some of its board at the expense of ecology of Bear River. Survival of West Coast anadromy depends on opening tributaries of California’s two great rivers for spawning.
Auburn Ravine is a tributary of Sacramento River. How much of this water does NID plan to sell to other maverick water contractors in Southern California like Westlands, Orange, and Metropolitan, who is working to buy five islands in the Delta to further appropriate Northern California water? NID says it does not plan to sell water outside its district, but how can anyone believe NID especially when it has no plan to pay for the $300 million currently projected cost and over time that cost will geometrically increase?
The movie Chinatown focused on California’s major item of contention and political intrigue — water. Nothing has changed. We must wake up and realize the value of our water and protect it from water grabs like Centennial Dam. We do not need another dam; dams do not create more water, but water creates many dollars for those who can happy talk their way into controlling it. Opponents stopped the proposed Dog Bar Dam on Bear River. Centennial Dam is opposed for several reasons. NID’s proposed Centennial Dam will:
Flood the Bear River Canyon from Meadow Vista to Highway 174.
Destroy 25 homes and over 120 private property parcels.
Inundate the Bear River Campground, Dog Bar, and Taylor Crossing.
Re-route Nevada County traffic through Meadow Vista.
Destroy thousands of acres of prime oak woodland with fish and wildlife habitat, and current recreational use.
Threaten water supply to downstream users.
Burden taxpayers and rate payers with $300 million debt.
Damage the health of the Sacramento River Delta — and these are just for starters.
Beware of those who want to build Centennial Dam … beware! And finally, for all this folderol, the NID Board voted to give its general manager an 18% raise and to drastically raise the cost of water for it customers.
Jack Sanchez lives in Auburn.
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