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Saving canal a community success story

Eileen JoyceThe trail along the Lower Cascade Canal is a popular recreation area.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

We’re sorry if you missed it. It was a grand party. Guests of Honor were NID Board member Nancy Weber, NID staff, including General Manager Ron Nelson, Assistant General Manager Ben Barretta, and Chief Engineer Tim McCall. Also in attendance were Nevada City Mayor David McKay, and Supervisor Peter Van Zant. And, of course, a few hundred Nevada County citizens who cherish the Lower Cascade Canal, one of Nevada County’s historical treasures.

What was the occasion? The party on Jan. 10 at Seaman’s Lodge was a celebration of a historic event: the decision to preserve the Lower Cascade Canal.

If you haven’t been following this issue, it is a plan by NID to modernize the Lower Cascade system, a five-mile canal that winds from Red Dog Road to Gracie Road, and then to the Loma Rica Treatment Plant. The initial project description called for installation of a 4-foot pipeline and eventual dewatering and abandonment of the canal.



The threat to this 150-year-old canal in the Banner Mountain neighborhood gave birth to a new community group, Save Our Historic Canals (SOHC). For the past two years, SOHC has been working with NID to see if there isn’t a way to modernize the system without losing our valuable community resource.

Well, there is splendid news. On Jan. 8, a new project description was presented to the NID Board of Directors. In the new plan, the canal will be preserved and will continue to serve customers along its length. It will also provide an emergency backup to the new pipeline to be installed in an as yet undecided location. Since the new pipe will carry the bulk of the water delivery, the flow rate in the canal will be reduced. We expect the ongoing Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and needs of customers along the canal will determine the specific flows.




With this news, the capacity crowd in attendance at the NID board meeting rose to give a standing ovation to celebrate the occasion.

This marked the culmination of two years of intense but cordial negotiations between NID and SOHC. On this issue, NID has distinguished itself as a model public agency, providing extraordinary opportunities for public input at a very early stage in the project. The benefits of such an open and inclusive approach are now obvious, and this is a prime example of a government agency and a citizens’ group working together to achieve an amiable and mutually beneficial outcome.

NID has expressed the hope that they “will gain experience regarding recreation as a community-based activity on these two canals.” SOHC has committed to working with NID, landowners, and appropriate community groups in achieving this goal.

Recreation on the Lower Cascade Canal between Red Dog and Gracie roads has wide support among adjacent property owners and the neighboring community. We will continue to support and sustain that consensus. However, each canal should be treated on a case-by-case basis; what is right for the Lower Cascade Canal may not be right for others.

Our positive experience with NID bodes well for resolving other issues of conflict between NID and the public. For example, it offers the promise of a suitable compromise between NID and the recently formed citizens’ group concerned over the new pipeline route, Save Banner Mountain. If you listen closely on a cold, dark night, you may still hear the echo of the cheer that has gone up on Banner Mountain and throughout the county, a cheer that celebrates the peaceful resolution to a potentially prickly issue, and that rejoices in the preservation of a much-loved historic treasure.

Susan Sanders of Nevada City is chair of Save Our Historic Canals.


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