Other voices: NID, stand by your mission statement
Nevada Irrigation District recently launched a new Web site. The district’s mission statement is clear: “The Nevada Irrigation District will provide a dependable, quality water supply, strive to be good stewards of the watersheds and conserve the available resources.”
At the January NID board meeting, citizens from south county expressed their desperate need for water. Residents on Banner Mountain, also present at the meeting, echoed the same need – that NID provide them with a dependable, quality water supply. Water is paramount to the health of all communities within the NID district. Accessibility to reliable water sources, whether groundwater or piped, is a common need shared by south county and Banner Mountain residents. Citizens from both groups live within the water district’s boundaries – and NID has a proposed project that has the potential to meet the water needs of both groups of Nevada County residents.
This project is the Lower Cascade Canal – Banner Cascade Pipeline, which has the capacity to bring roughly 95 cubic feet per second of water down the mountain. This is a massive undertaking. There is no precedent for NID to follow regarding a project of this magnitude, especially a project that will have significant and destructive impacts on the property owners of Banner Mountain.
According to its mission statement, NID is committed to the kind of stewardship that respects water resources. One of the most potentially harmful impacts of the pipeline project would be to our wells. Hydrogeologic assessments indicate that NID’s project poses a significant risk to the wells along the pipeline route. Property owners have continuously asked NID to consider that these wells are their only water source. Our wells face potentially irreparable impacts because of the nature of construction practices required for NID’s pipeline project. Groundwater that flows into our wells stands to be disrupted by the presence of the pipeline trench. Potential disruption could occur because our aquifers consist of water-filled fractures existing in underlying bedrock. Even a minimal disruption by NID’s project to the surface of these aquifers could seriously alter the historic water pathways to wells. In addition, the blasting that is necessary to create the pipeline trench poses a significant threat to the stability of existing wells.
The risk created by NID’s pipeline project is alarming to property owners along the pipeline route. At a November 2006 NID board of directors’ meeting, Dr. Andrew Kopania, a consultant hired by NID, presented a “Hydrogeologic Assessment Report” that included a mitigation measure relating to impacts on wells. However, after the meeting, Dr. Kopania was asked by a concerned Banner Mountain resident: “Can you guarantee 100 percent that our wells will not be impacted by the project?” The hydrogeologist replied that he could not make such a guarantee. Dr. Kopania’s answer implies that NID’s own mitigation measure is inadequate. As property owners along the pipeline corridor, we stand at great risk to lose our groundwater supplies because of NID’s project.
The “LCC/BCP Project” was developed by NID to serve the water needs of various communities in the district. However, this recognized need did not originally include residents of Banner Mountain. Until February of this year, NID had no intention of providing property owners along the pipeline route with access to the raw water line. More importantly, NID refused to include a treated water line as a contingency water source in case of well failure due to impacts from the project. A treated water line is also vital to the installation of a critically needed system of fire hydrants in our area of “very high” fire danger.
Banner Mountain residents recognize the water needs of all community members within the NID district. To protect our right to be served in accordance with NID’s mission statement, the people along the pipeline route need an enforceable plan that provides access to treated water as a contingency for well damage. The NID board of directors recently voted to add a treated water line to the project. However, it must be noted that NID could pull the treated water line from the project at any time and for any reason. We residents ask that NID legally commit to adding the treated water line to its project. For our part, we recognize that there will be costs associated with accessing NID water. We simply urge NID to stand by its mission statement and provide access to a dependable, quality water supply for the residents of Banner Mountain. We should not have to assume responsibility for the risks and impacts to our wells because of NID’s project.
Stephen Baker is a hydrogeologist who owns an environmental consulting firm in Nevada City and lives on Banner Mountain.
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