What Nevada Irrigation District doesn't want you to know about Centennial Dam:


1. It's all about the water rights. NID is seeking approval to remove 221,400 Acre-feet of water, more than twice the amount everyone is discussing that can be stored behind Centennial Dam. Yes, Centennial Dam could hold 110,000 AF of water, but NID is attempting to get the water rights to twice that amount of water. But reservoirs don't make water, they simply store it if there's extra. See THIS MAP which shows how miles of Centennial Reservoir would show barren, muddy walls exposed like a strip-mine during the seasonal low and dry years.


Click here to see NID's Application to Appropriate Water sent to CA State Water Resources Control Board. It's also in this documentAND HERE is NID's update that the Board approved the application for 221,400 AF of water, also seen on their website.


2. Centennial could shortchange farmers downstream by over-allocating the water rights. Despite NID doing a great job selling the idea of Centennial to the farming community, the numbers suggest there could be an impending catastrophe for farmers if NID is granted the rights to 221,400 AF of water. South Sutter Water District is located below NID's district, and they rely on the Bear River to fill their reservoir, Camp Far West. Camp Far West Reservoir doesn't even overflow every year, and they have stated that there is a demand for more water than they're currently receiving. So what happens if NID removes 221,400 AF of water upstream yearly? It could shortchange farmers 13 of 18 years, as there would be zero extra water spilling from their reservoir.


Click here to see this VERY SCARY document showing just how heavily NID would short-change South Sutter Water District's Camp Far West Reservoir. See for yourself that if NID had removed 221,400 AF of water, it would have created deficit 13 of 18 years.


3. Where does the water come from? According to NID's documents STATED HERE, the water will come from the Bear River tributary. But a closer inspection of the actual flow of water illustrates that NID is already diverting huge amounts of water from the South and Middle Forks of the Yuba River. These documents are FASCINATING for locals to understand where the water actually comes from, and how highly engineered the watersheds really are. Long story short, ~ 64% of the South and Middle Yuba River watershed above Spaulding Reservoir is diverted through the Drum Canal.

Yuba-Bear Flow Schematic shows the big picture of reservoirs and canals.


Also, this Yuba-Bear flow Schematic shows the same information in a different manner.


SYRCL, the South Yuba River Citizens League prepared THIS EXCELLENT DOCUMENT showing how ~64% of the upper Yuba watersheds are diverted down the Drum Canal into the Bear River watershed.



What others are saying about

Centennial Dam:



Friday Nov 09 2018


Concerns fester surrounding

Centennial Dam

By: Melinda Booth, Executive Director of SYRCL, the South Yuba River Citizens League


It has been four years since Nevada Irrigation District Board (NID) passed closed-session Resolution 2014-43, authorizing a water rights application for a “water storage project on the Bear River” without any public comment or board discussion. This was the beginning of Centennial Dam. Since then, (South Yuba River Citizens League) SYRCL and others have tried to bring Centennial Dam into public purview to promote transparency and open dialogue.


The most recent attempt was at NID’s Special Board Meeting on Oct. 9.


NID Board asked SYRCL to justify their request that work on the Centennial Dam project stop while NID studies the community’s future water supply needs through the Raw Water Master Plan (RWMP). NID Board rejected SYRCL’s request, and the opportunity to finally discuss these issues in a public forum.


SYRCL has numerous concerns about Centennial Dam.


It would demolish the last six miles of free-flowing river, destroy 2,200 acres of oak woodland habitat, impact threatened species, and drown Native American cultural sites that are still used today. The dam would also swallow more than two dozen homes.


Centennial Dam would not provide secure water storage for our community.


California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment warns of increased flood risk due to aging infrastructure, negative impacts on water quality — like mercury, longer droughts, larger storms, and more severe wildfires that increase erosion and sedimentation. A dam is an inflexible solution in a future of climate uncertainty where adaptability is our best hope.


We are concerned about the increasing cost of Centennial Dam. The California Water Commission estimated its cost at $491 million, an independent economist estimated more than $1 billion with financing. The final cost is unknown, but it is a large number that is only increasing and there is no known funding plan.


Worst of all, the cost of Centennial Dam will likely land on our community’s shoulders as there is no apparent way to finance the debts from this project without selling water to customers outside our community. SYRCL values our rural lifestyle and local agriculture for food, open space, and wildlife habitat. Farmers provide valuable ecosystem services on their land and we want to help keep our water local and affordable. We are therefore concerned that our community won’t be able to pay when the bill for Centennial Dam comes due.


We were hoping NID would address these concerns on Oct. 9, but instead they made some troubling claims:


    NID claimed fiscal responsibility pursuant to required laws and regulations. However, they missed SYRCL’s point. As NID’s legal counsel stated, Centennial is still a proposed project, and unlikely to move forward. Spending $14 million of tax and rate payer funds on a project that is not approved or justified is not fiscally responsible.

    NID stated that they had to demolish structures on two properties purchased for Centennial, but never explained why those properties were purchased in the first place. Purchasing and then demolishing structures with no approved project tears a community apart, which is the heart of SYRCL’s concern.

    NID is concerned its water rights application will be canceled if it stops work on Centennial Dam to update the RWMP. “Diligent” pursuit of the application must be shown to the State Water Resources Control Board, and SYRCL believes the RWMP itself constitutes diligence, thus no additional spending on Centennial Dam is required. Also, the Water Board


understands the extended process of water rights applications, allowing other applications to sit for years.


Rather than encouraging any discussion, NID cut off public comment. They instead passed a new resolution that placed an annual $2 million “cap” on Centennial work, calling this a compromise. This is hardly a compromise since NID’s budget already allocates up to $2 million/year through 2023.


SYRCL has been prepared to engage in the RWMP process since April, but the experience and revelations of Oct. 9 make it difficult to believe external participation will be genuinely welcomed and incorporated. However, SYRCL still believes NID can meet the water needs of our community’s homes, farms, ranches, businesses, and the environment through increased efficiency, conservation, and alternative water supply and storage strategies.


A secure water future does not require a financially risky, environmentally and culturally destructive new dam. We must face these issues head on in a public forum through rational and inclusive dialogue. NID must lead the community in a comprehensive and sincere discussion in order for the RWMP to succeed in outlining a sustainable water future for all.


Here is the original article online.



The Damming of the Bear River


The Sierra Nevada’s Bear River is under threat from a new dam proposal, which would eliminate popular recreation sites, Native American cultural sites, and important habitat for fish and wildlife.


Max Odland | May 18, 2017


Northern California’s Bear River is threatened by the proposed Centennial Dam, which would inundate six miles of the last publicly accessible free flowing stretches of the river.


Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to a series of posts that explore different aspects of the Bear River, #2 on the list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2017.

Welcome to the Bear River


The Bear sits in an often overlooked watershed, nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, flowing 73 miles from rocky crags and conifer forests to the oak woodlands, open grasslands, pastures, and fields of the Central Valley.


When European-Americans first came to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, everything changed; hillsides were washed away in the search for gold, and rivers were forever changed. The Bear was in the heart of that rush. Mining gave way to agriculture and, later, to residential development in the watershed.


The resulting water infrastructure leaves the Bear River impounded behind a series of dams over much of its course. Despite the history of heavy-handed manipulation (and perhaps even more so because of it), the remaining stretches of free-flowing water on the Bear River are a lifeline for local communities and wildlife.


The Bear River supports recreation, cultural use and rare habitat. Locals and visitors enjoy hiking, birdwatching, camping, angling, gold panning, rafting, and kayaking on the Bear’s four-mile class II whitewater run. The river is also home to numerous historic sites, including Native American Nisenan village and burial sites. Today, the mature mixed conifer and oak woodlands along the river are still used by Nisenan for plant collection and ceremonial purposes.


The river’s woodlands are an incredibly diverse ecosystem that provides habitat for an abundance of sensitive species, including California black rail, bald eagle, foothill yellow-legged frog, ringtail cat, and big-eared bat. The lower reaches of the river support a number of iconic fish species, including Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, and green and white sturgeon.


You can find a more detailed account of the river and its history here.

What’s at stake?

Combie Reservoir is downstream of the proposed dam. | Photo: Voice of the Bear River

Combie Reservoir is downstream of the proposed dam. | Photo: Voice of the Bear River


The 275 foot tall Centennial Dam would flood the most popular river access points for recreation, along with dozens of Nisenan cultural sites and over a thousand acres of oak woodlands and riparian forest. It would turn six miles of flowing river into yet another reservoir in a nearly unbroken 17 mile chain of reservoirs in the middle reaches of the Bear.


The dam proponents, Nevada Irrigation District (NID), claim that they need to build the dam to overcome the challenges posed by climate change, and to meet growing water demands in the future. However, NID has not demonstrated that it is following best practices for water conservation and efficiency, or that the water to fill this new reservoir will be available in the Bear River watershed under predicted future climate conditions.


Further, NID’s own cost estimates for the dam have risen from $160 million to $500 million (a common occurrence with reservoir projects elsewhere in the country). Local community members have raised serious concerns that the anticipated costs of the dam would undermine needed repairs and more effective climate change management strategies, such as water use efficiency and optimizing existing systems.

What can be done?


Across the country, communities have been rising to water supply challenges like drought, climate change, and growing populations with innovative water conservation and new approaches to water management. In many cases, they have been able to save considerable amounts of money compared to traditional water supply projects like new dams.

A dog and it's owner play along the banks of the Bear River. | Photo: The Voice of the Bear River

A dog and it’s owner play along the banks of the Bear River. | Photo: The Voice of the Bear River


NID should work with the community and river advocates to pursue common-sense water conservation measures and alternatives that promote resilience to climate change without destroying invaluable natural, cultural, and recreational resources. A new dam should be the last alternative considered, not the first.


Fortunately, Centennial Dam must pass through many hurdles before construction, and faces multiple turning points in the next year from state and federal decision makers. It is imperative that organizations and individuals maintain pressure on NID and other key decision makers to reevaluate the need for this new dam.


Right now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is conducting federal environmental review for the project, and has the authority to deny permits to build the dam. Join us in asking the USACE to deny permits for the dam in favor of alternative actions that would improve water security in light of a changing climate, while preserving and enhancing the rich natural, social, and cultural resources of the Bear River.


4 responses to “The Damming of the Bear River”


    Chelsea says:

    July 11, 2017 at 5:50 pm


    Thank you for this enlightening article. The Bear River is my personal favorite and is a huge resource for locals to it. I couldn’t imagine growing up without going to the river year-round, whether it was to swim, tube, go for a hike, or watch wildlife. I hope more people are made aware of this dam.


    maryjane says:

    June 27, 2017 at 3:51 am


    thank you for this.


    Dianna Suarez says:

    May 18, 2017 at 7:37 pm


    Thank you for a balanced, well written article. Our Bear River is so special and important to us. The life all around our river is bountiful and robust. The plant communities are bursting with flowers and food for the birds and insects. The great trees are standing with the grace of hundreds of years. The breeze makes the leaves dance and the water sparkle. Hello from the life and the heart of the Bear.


    Caleb Dardick says:

    May 18, 2017 at 6:56 pm


    Thank you, American Rivers and Max, for bringing needed National attention to the threat to the Bear River.


See the original post here.




Does SSI have a position on the proposed Centennial Dam?

Yes: Follow the Data.


Re: Comments on the Notice of Intent to Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Centennial Reservoir Project


Dear Ms. Hellige:


The following comments are submitted on behalf of Sierra Streams Institute regarding the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Centennial Reservoir Project.


Sierra Streams Institute (SSI) has over 20 years on-the-ground experience in comprehensive local watershed monitoring and assessment; community-based education and citizen-science stewardship practices; and multi-faceted collaborations with government agencies, utility and water providers including Nevada Irrigation District (NID), land trusts, tribes, universities, nonprofits, farmers, and landowners. Our track record of science-based research leadership and recent completion of an updated Bear River Watershed Disturbance Inventory and Draft Bear Watershed Restoration Plan (available online at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B41PFmjcAZs-VUN5LTA2RWhNZEU) in collaboration with many Bear Watershed Stakeholders, uniquely positions SSI to submit the following comments in response to the Corps’ NOI regarding NID’s proposed Centennial Dam project. SSI is currently in the process of completing additional studies in the Bear River Watershed. Preliminary results of these studies are referred to within this letter and the final data results will be made publicly available upon completion of the studies (anticipated completion date is September 2017). As part of the Environmental Review process, we urge the Corps to consider the following requests for information and further project analysis.


The Corps is tasked with determining whether or not the proposed project complies with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 404(b)(1) guidelines,[1] including determining whether it is the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative (LEDPA) to achieve the project’s purpose. We affirm that to fully understand both the benefits and impacts of the proposed project there is a need for a thorough, scientifically rigorous review of the full scope and complexity of the proposed dam’s potential environmental impacts. These impacts may extend beyond the proposed project footprint, downstream through the Delta through issues of flows and water quality, upstream and in adjacent watersheds if other water conveyance systems would be affected by the proposed reservoir’s operations, and laterally through issues of upland habitat connectivity and movement of protected, special-status and invasive species. We request that the scale of the DEIS analysis reflect the full scale of potential project impacts, both within and far outside the proposed construction and reservoir footprints.


Further, the NOI declares that “NID’s stated purpose for the Proposed Action is to provide drought and climate change mitigation, meet projected future water supply needs, and improve water supply reliability for NID’s customers.” The DEIS should discuss all practical alternatives that would address the Proposed Action outlined by NID and investigate the environmental impacts of these alternatives in order to inform which actions will be the least environmentally damaging. Measureable project objectives should be outlined for the proposed project and each alternative in order to provide the public and decision-makers a mechanism to assess how each alternative fulfills the project purpose and compares to the proposed action. Given this proposed project’s potential for significant impacts, we also request that a scientifically rigorous, quantitative, and thorough analysis be published that describes in detail:


    how the region’s current water supplies are being used;

    a range of how those uses may change in the future under a variety of potential development or no-development scenarios and with various water use and conservation options among the current community of NID subscribers;

    a detailed analysis of all relevant and reasonable mitigation measures for the proposed project including cost, locations, feasibility and impacts/benefits; and

    a thorough evaluation of all alternatives to meet the region’s water use needs, including those proposed by the public, implemented in other model watersheds, and/or suggested by the published scientific literature. We request a full disclosure, scientific analysis, and public discourse on supply-side and demand-side alternatives that includes but is not limited to projects within NID’s purview of water storage and conveyance systems.


The following bullet points are questions about potential impacts, mitigation, and alternatives that we request be addressed within the Environmental Review process and DEIS document. This list is not exhaustive, and we request that all other questions from the potentially affected community also be addressed. We further request that the information presented and publications referenced in the above-mentioned 2016 Bear River Watershed Disturbance Inventory be considered in the DEIS as they relate to the proposed project, as well as any additional relevant science publications.


Read the full article here.


Foothills Water Network



Read this very thorough explanation of concerns regarding Centennial Dam prepared by the Foothills Water Network.


Additionally, this document is very thorough:



We, Foothills Water Network, Trout Unlimited, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, South Yuba River Citizens League, Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers, Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, Friends of the River, Sierra Club, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Protect American River Canyons, Bob Center and Tributary Whitewater (collectively “FWN”) have read carefully the August 26, 2016 notice (Notice), Application 5634X01, Petition for Assignment of State Filed Application 5634, Petition to Change State Filed Application 5634 (collectively, “Application”), and supporting documents of Nevada Irrigation District (NID or Applicant) to divert water from the Bear River for storage at various points in the Bear River watershed within Placer and Nevada County, as given in the Notice. A copy of the Notice is appended to this protest...


What is the Foothills Water Network?

The Foothills Water Network Steering Committee members have been environmental activists for decades and occupy leadership roles in conservation organizations. Steering Committee members include:


    Allan Eberhart, Sierra Club California Conservation Committee

    Barbara Rivenes, Nevada County Conservationist

    Marilyn Jasper, Clover Valley Foundation and Chair, Sierra Club Placer Group

    Gary Estes, Protect American River Canyons

    Steve Rothert, American Rivers


Yuba-Bear Work Group


    Sierra Club - Mother Lode Chapter, Allan Eberhart

    South Yuba River Citizen's League, Gary Reedy and Caleb Dardick

    American Rivers, Steve Rothert

    American Whitewater, Dave Steindorf

    California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Chris Shutes

    Trout Unlimited, Chandra Ferrari

    Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers, Frank Rinella

    Gold Country Fly Fishers, Frank Rinella


Middle Fork American Work Group


    Protect American River Canyons, Gary Estes

    California Outdoors, Nate Rangel

    Horseshoe Bar Fish and Game Preserve, Tom Bartos

    Member of the Public, John Donovan

    American River Recreation Association, Bill Center

    Private Boater, Hilde Schweitzer

    American Whitewater, Dave Steindorf

    Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers

    Granite Bay Flycasters, Tony Fabian

    Foothill Angler Coalition, Tom Bartos

    Upper American River Foundation, Bill Templin


Western Placer Creeks Work Group


    Horseshoe Bar Fish and Game Preserve, Tom Bartos

    Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, Jack Sanchez and John Rabe

    Dry Creek Conservancy, Gregg Bates

    Sierra Club - Mother Lode Chapter, Allan Eberhart

    Northern California Federation of Fly Fishers, Frank Rinella

    Ophir Property Owners Association and Auburn Ravine Preservation Committee, Ron Otto



Conservation Groups Question Need for Centennial Dam

May 17, 2016

Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is proposing Centennial dam as a solution to climate change, a very bad idea. This dam idea was first proposed in 1926, was rejected again in 1960. It is a 19th century idea proposed for a 21st century problem. It won’t work.


The Foothills Water Network, a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations, submitted a joint letter to the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) today stating its concerns that the proposed Centennial Dam will have significant environmental impacts on the Bear and Yuba River watersheds and surrounding communities.


The water agency’s proposal to build a new 110,000 acre-foot reservoir with a 275 foot-tall dam on the Bear River would inundate six miles of the Bear River, completely flooding the Bear Campground, more than 25 homes and 120 parcels, and Dog Bar Bridge, the only crossing of the Bear River between Highway 49 and Highway 174.


In its letter to NID, the Network asked NID to describe how its $300 million project would actually operate to meet a long list of stated goals.  “Many of the goals appear contradictory, especially the one that proposes to benefit the Delta by diverting more water,” said Chris Shutes of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. The Network suggested a range of alternative actions for NID to consider such as repairing or modifying its aging facilities, improving canal efficiency, incentivizing water conservation, stopping leaks, and metering water.


“Dams are an example of 19th century thinking,” said Otis Wollan, President of the American River Watershed Institute and a former Placer County Water Agency Board member. “Rather than build a controversial and expensive new dam, this is an historic opportunity for NID to demonstrate how it could meets its needs through increased conservation and efficiency.”

Since nearly half of the South and Middle Yuba River water already gets diverted to the Bear River, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) is concerned that Centennial could demand even more water.


“In a time of record drought and climate change, we need creative, environmentally sustainable solutions such as recharging the groundwater, and restoring meadows, wetlands, and floodplains,” said Caleb Dardick, SYRCL’s Executive Director.


The proposed dam site would completely inundate several sacred Native American sites as well as sites popular with the local community who swim, hike and fish this section of the Bear River.

"The Bear River serves as a territorial divide for three different Nisenan Tribal entities. We are extremely concerned about NID's plans to flood this cultural landscape that contains spiritual and ceremonial sites that are still used by Nisenan people today as they have been for countless generations,” said Shelly Covert, Secretary and Spokesperson, Nevada City Rancheria Tribal Council.


“The proposed Centennial Dam will in effect create a twenty mile long reservoir, drowning the last stretch of irreplaceable, beautiful flowing river and oak woodland available to the public,” said Allan Eberhart of the Sierra Club’s Mother Lode Chapter.


The Network’s letter expressed concern about the dam’s growth-inducing impact in the region. Rather than provide for current NID residential customers, most of whom live at an elevation 1,000 feet higher than the dam site and won’t be served by it, the new water storage may instead facilitate more residential sprawl including as many as 12,000 new homes in Lincoln alone.

"Sierra Watch already helped to stop one bad dam on the Bear River. Now the Foothills Water Network and SYRCL are asking the tough questions about another, and we're proud to stand with them," said Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch, a group that has challenged land-use developments in the Sierra including Garden Bar Dam.


The Centennial Dam proposal has alarmed community members throughout the Bear and Yuba watersheds. Nearly 400 people attended two public scoping meetings about the proposal on March 9th and 10th. Dozens of speakers expressed their concerns about the project’s potential impacts on the environment and surrounding community.


About the Foothills Water Network: The Foothills Water Network represents a broad group of non-governmental organizations and water resource stakeholders in the Yuba River, Bear River, and American River watersheds. The overall goal of the Foothills Water Network is to provide a forum that increases the effectiveness of non-profit conservation organizations to achieve river and watershed restoration and protection benefits for the Yuba, Bear, and American rivers.


For more information please contact: http://www.savebearriver.com Traci Sheehan Van Thull, Foothills Water Network, P.O. Box 573, Coloma, CA 95613 traci@foothillswaternetwork.org.

NID’s proposed Centennial Dam will:

• flood the Bear River Canyon from Meadow Vista to Hwy 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 & wildlife habitat, and current recreational use

• threaten water supply to downstream users

• burden taxpayers & ratepayers with $300 million debt

• damage the health of the Sacramento River Delta




Thursday Jul 20 2017

Reader input: No to Centennial Dam —

Save Bear River


   When my soul is weary and I feel disconnected from every beautiful thing around me, I go to the Bear River.


   In a quiet spot just below the bridge, I plunge my feet in its cold water, and watch. Near me, a family teaches their children to float safely on wobbly inner tubes. They all bubble with excitement. Up river, teenagers coax their hesitant dog onto large boulders in the middle of the ankle-deep flow. (It made it.) On shore, a solitary young man tries out his new fishing gear.


   Then the patterns of nature catch my eye. I watch the bend of water as it flows around a submerged rock. A gentle liquid curve, bending for a moment, then gathering again as it courses endlessly downstream. I sit, watching a deer cross neck-deep to the other side, then follow with my eyes and heart the flight of vultures over the ridge. I sit, tracing upward with my eyes the towering pines.


   Here in this rare place, we are surrounded by beauty not created by man. It touches something in me, and I realize that, once again, I feel collected, gathered, and whole. And I find I am able to love again.


   Downstream, Lincoln awaits us, hoping to build 20,000 new homes — with their accompanying strip malls, asphalt roads, and concrete schools — by damming this portion of the Bear River. We will lose the last six miles of publicly accessible, free-flowing river of the Bear. We cannot dam this river without damning ourselves, for we cannot find ourselves in yet another Wal-Mart parking lot.


   If you want to know more, go to the river, or visit this website: savebearriver.com. You may find out what is worth saving.

   Lucy Clark, Auburn


To read the full article, click here.




Other Voices:

Peter Van Zant: What is the cost of Centennial Dam? And who pays?


December 22, 2017


In 2009, the Brown administration proposed the Twin Tunnel "Water Fix" project to ship water from Northern California watersheds to Southern California water districts at a price tag of some $17 billion.


It included a financing plan: the project would be paid for by water districts and their customers getting the water. Water districts are now deciding whether to commit and many are not.


In 2014 the Nevada Irrigation District floated the Centennial Dam project. It would be between Rollins and Combie reservoirs, on the last publicly accessible free-running section of the Bear River. They published the basic project statistics: 110,000 acre-feet capacity behind a 275 foot high dam and a new 1,000 foot long bridge over the reservoir in the Dog Bar Road area. But it did not include a financing plan.


The cost of Centennial has been a moving target starting at $160 million and rising steadily, with the latest cost pegged at $372 million in NID's recent application for Proposition 1 funds from the California Water Commission. NID has not provided a comprehensive line item list of all project components, costs, and financing approaches.


In frustration, the American River Watershed Institute published the only comprehensive cost analysis of Centennial in 2016. Its estimates on construction, permitting, and mitigation costs including the replacement bridge, and the initially proposed hydro power plant are below:


Dam construction: $259,203,000


Spillway: $26,750,203


Hydroelectric: $54,500,000


Dog Bar Bridge: $56,000,000


Permits & Reports: $11,000,000


Mitigations: $85,000,000


Contingency: $1,000,000


2016 subtotal: $493,453,000


Add in a standard 3.5 percent annual cost escalator and the total project cost in 2020 comes to $605,350,473. The institute's cost analysis report showed that at 4.5 percent financing the total cost would be $1,104,199,891, and with the more likely 5.5 percent financing it would be over $1.2 billion.


Let's look at the funding mechanisms NID has proposed so far.


State funding from Proposition 1: NID is applying for $12 million for recreation and ecosystem benefits. NID's application is admittedly incomplete and is likely to be denied. Even if issued, $12 million is less than 2.5 percent of the needed funds.


State revolving loan funds: Centennial does not qualify.


Recreation income: NID currently losses money on their recreation operations.


Federal infrastructure funding: Congressman LaMalfa recently told a constituent that no federal funds will be made available and NID needs to figure this out on their own.


Hydro revenue: NID has dropped hydro from the project, although Centennial could be subsidized by existing hydro operations. However, electric power markets are undergoing dramatic change that can't be predicted.


Public financing: At a recent public forum, the NID board president said they could issue revenue bonds. These are bonds sold to investors who are first in line for revenues produced by the project.


Water sales: Since new hydro revenue is not part of this project and recreation doesn't pay, the only other revenue source is water sales. NID's customer base can't buy enough water to service that debt even considering future growth. The only way to sell enough water to service the debt is to sell out of the area with the downside risk that water contracts, once executed, supersede use in the district.


Rate Payers: So that leaves you and me. NID has stated that rate payers are the financial "backstop" for borrowed funds. Financial investors wait for no one. At $1.2 billion, if it all falls on rate payers, the bill is $43,514 over 30 years per customer. As a special district, NID's taxing authority is limited and rate payers are the backstop for paying off bonds and other debt.


NID has yet to provide the public with a comprehensive estimate of the cost of, or a financing plan for, their proposed Centennial Dam.


NID has also not provided the operational and hydrologic evaluation needed to show how often Centennial might fill and how its operation would address long drought periods like our recent one.


In addition, Centennial would be located lower in elevation from the vast majority of current customers. And with all this, NID is grabbing water rights from our farming neighbors in the valley supplied by the South Sutter Water District.


Where is the fairness in you and me paying for a dam that brings us no additional water, robs farmers of water, and requires selling our water elsewhere to service debt to private investors?


Peter Van Zant is a SYRCL Centennial Dam Work Group volunteer. He is also a former Nevada County supervisor and a former president of the SYRCL board of directors. He lives in Nevada City.


Here is the original article on The Union's site.



Water district releases independent audit of Centennial Dam project

Liz Kellar

August 22, 2018


On Wednesday, the Nevada Irrigation District released an independent audit of its controversial Centennial Dam project that has been in the works since 2014.


The outside audit came after Project Manager Doug Roderick said in December 2017 that the district had spent just over $11.3 million to date on its proposed Centennial Reservoir project along the Bear River. In response to comments from board member Nancy Weber, who said the district needed to be transparent and accurate, General Manager Rem Scherzinger opted to bring in an independent party to take a closer look at the money spent on the project.


During that December meeting, audience members asked dozens of questions on Centennial-related expenses, including where the money for the project is coming from.


Some of those questions were answered during the audit, with the auditors' findings presented at the board meeting Wednesday morning.


Ingrid Sheipline of Richardson & Co. explained that the scope of the contract called for the audit to determine whether all the project costs were properly assigned to the project. To that end, her firm examined invoices for project expenses, reviewed reimbursements of project costs with bond proceeds and compared consultant expenditures to contracts.


The audit noted that costs exceeded the budget by nearly $675,000, primarily due to property purchases of $1.3 million in 2015. The district has budgeted $4 million for 2018, with $3 million spent to date.


Some accounting issues were discovered, Sheipline said. Some costs relating to property purchases — a little more than $587,000 — had not been charged to the project when they should have been, mostly. And, conversely, some minimal costs were charged to the project that should not have been.


"I don't believe any of the findings are significant or anything that was alarming," she said.


District board member Nick Wilcox asked if there were any areas in the audit that should raise a red flag.


"We looked at all the costs and determined they were appropriate," Sheipline said. "There was no indication of inappropriate expenditures."


But many of the audience members in attendance continued to express frustration with the costs, and the project itself.


"I have more questions than answers for NID after reading this new audit report," said Melinda Booth, the executive director of South Yuba River Citizens League.


Booth noted that one of the many things her nonprofit has continually requested is transparency and a project cost estimate.


"This the first time in the four years of this project that the public has a report summarizing what has actually been spent on the Centennial dam, and the numbers are significant — $13 million spent and $1 million over budget," said Traci Sheehan of Foothills Water Network. "The bottom line is that the audit doesn't in any way explain how much Centennial will cost and how it will actually get paid for."


Booth, Sheehan and others raised questions about a $500,000 budget amendment that was approved in closed session. According to water district staff, the amendment dealt with a property negotiation, which are always discussed in closed session. If the board opted to authorize negotiations within a price range in closed session, it would come back to the board in the form of a warrant to be approved.


Several audience members also pressed for a project cost estimate.


"It was my understanding that a project cost estimate would accompany this audit," Booth said. "However, that request was not articulated in the contract with the independent auditors, therefore we are still left without an answer as what this dam would cost our community."


According to Booth and Sheehan, independent cost analyses have ranged from $500 million to $1.2 billion, far in excess of the $342 million cost projected by the water district.


District board members said that was not within the scope of the audit, however, and was not a topic for discussion Wednesday.


Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


Click here for the article on the Union's website.





Peter Van Zant: Centennial Dam: A long road ahead

Other Voices

Peter Van Zant

April 6, 2018


I first learned that NID was planning another dam and reservoir on the Bear River on Aug. 25, 2012 after a Nevada Irrigation District board meeting.


The South Sutter Water District was there to report that they and their Southern California allies had abandoned their proposed Garden Bar Dam on the Bear River, but they would still need water for their farmers. I asked a NID Director about South Sutter's concern, and his answer was that there would be plenty of water from the planned "Parker Dam," now Centennial Dam.


When Centennial was finally made public, NID was proposing to dam the Bear River canyon between Rollins and Combie reservoirs inundating a beloved 6-mile stretch of river recreation, fishing, camping, hiking, and 140 Native American cultural sites. Centennial capacity would be a 110,000-acre-foot reservoir behind a 275-foot-tall dam and the projected cost began a steady in-crease from $160 million to over $1 billion.


Not surprisingly Centennial has drawn a broad spectrum of criticism and concerns, and opposition.


Centennial is not a “done deal.” Over the next 18 months there are significant process steps ahead for NID and the community that can stop the dam.


The Foothills Water Network is the umbrella organization of the Save the Bear, Stop Centennial campaign. Some 13 organizations and over 200 citizens have protested the NID application for water rights to the State Water Resources Control Board that currently benefit South Sutter Water District's farmers and the Delta ecosystem. Protestants include neighboring Placer County, the South Sutter Water District, and the Placer County Water Agency.


Save the Bear, Stop Centennial supporters have been attending NID board meetings in droves, demanding openness and information about NID's dam plans. It took over a year, but NID finally installed a basic video system providing for more public involvement. Recently, concerned citizens have asked for Centennial project updates at every board meeting. However, NID decided to shuffle Centennial updates to their Engineering Committee meetings, that are not video broadcast, the staff and two board members cannot speak to policy issues, and the meetings are more easily canceled.


At the 2017 Wild and Scenic Film Festival, sponsored by the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), some 2,000 attendees registered as "Dam Watchdogs," committed to track and act on Centennial issues. That number has grown to 3,000.


On April 11, 2017 American Rivers listed California's Bear River among America's Most Endangered Rivers, shining a national spotlight on the proposed dam that would irreparably harm the river's fish, wildlife, recreation, and Native American heritage. Please go visit the day use area to experience the beauty and power of the Bear River Canyon.


NID submitted an application to the California Water Commission for some $12 million dollars from Proposition 1 water storage funds. At this year's film festival, SYRCL gathered over 2,500 signatures on a petition to the water commission opposing state funding for Centennial and began sending representatives to water commission meetings. NID self-calculated a Public Benefits Ratio of $4 of public benefits to every dollar spent. Independent California Water Commission evaluators calculated a Public Benefits Ratio of zero based on NID's incomplete and confusing application. One NID board member stated the zero ratio was "well deserved" and the board voted unanimously to not appeal the zero rating.


Concerned citizens have questioned why NID is wasting rate and taxpayer money buying private property, conducting engineering studies, and shamelessly promoting the project before it has been evaluated and approved. Homeowners report that NID is telling them they better sell now because the dam and reservoir is a "done deal" and future prices will fall. Ultimately homeowners are threatened by eminent domain seizures by NID.


Centennial is not a "done deal." Over the next 18 months there are significant process steps ahead for NID and the community that can stop the dam.


NID is required to produce a legally sufficient Environmental Impact Report and approve it by a vote of the board at a public meeting. NID must obtain a dredging permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers who are required to approve the least environmentally damaging project alternative based on a legally sufficient Environmental Impact Statement. And NID must secure water rights from the California State Water Resources Control Board against the wishes and better judgment of neighbors, wildlife agencies, and the public.


The future is still ahead, but the basic questions remain unanswered: Is it really needed? Is the dam the only way? What is the true cost and financing plan? What are we losing?


Peter Van Zant is a Centennial Dam Work Group volunteer. He is a former Nevada County supervisor and a former president of the SYRCL Board of Directors. He lives in Nevada City with his wife Mary.


To view the original article on The Union, click here.




Another View: NID is moving too quickly on plans for Centennial Dam

By: Michael Tritel /Guest Columnist


Courtesy Michael Tritel / Guest Columnist


In order to empathize with people who are in the footprint of the Centennial Reservoir project and who don’t want to lose their home and land, I can imagine the effect on my life were I to watch my three acres in Meadow Vista slowly disappear under a gigantic pool of muddy water.

Of course, most vegetation is removed. The 300-year-old cedar tree in our front yard would be cut down, as well as the Ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and the five species of majestic oaks that grow naturally — black oaks, blue oaks, valley oaks, interior live oak and canyon live oak.


The original owners of this land planted 80 acres of pears, apples, plums, peaches, walnuts and quince, of which the hardiest and most disease resistant still survive and produce fruit for us and the 60-plus species of birds that visit this acreage. Those trees would all be cut down and hauled off or burned. I can barely write this while keeping remorse and anger at bay.


The 75-year-old house that my wife and I live in would also be razed. Sure, it’s an old house that needs the tender loving care that we’re willing to give it, but it’s our house and we’re hoping to stay here until we die. One can be sure that if the expensive Winchester subdivision were in the footprint of the reservoir, enough lawyers and back-room negotiations would be garnered to fight and defeat the project.


 I am not a hydrologist, a geologist, a lawyer or a Nevada Irrigation District board member, and I don’t think anyone would argue that it is fairly intimidating to have to confront that kind of collective expertise and knowledge. None of us knows as much as they do. That does not mean that the project is good for people or the Earth.


There is mercury in the Bear River watershed and current efforts are under way to remove or remediate the effects of mercury in Combie Lake.


Combie Lake is about a half mile downstream from the proposed Centennial Reservoir. There is also mercury in the Shenandoah Valley watershed in the state of Virginia.


In a recent Audubon magazine article (Fall, 2017), “DuPont will move forward with its commitment to provide $42.3 million in support of restoration on the South River and South Fork Shenandoah watersheds,” in order to remove mercury, says Mike Liberati, South River project director for the DuPont Corporate Remediation Group.


DuPont recognizes their mistakes. Is NID prepared, and are they planning for the extra expense to remove mercury that is known to exist?


NID board member Nick Wilcox’s guest column of the Jan. 11 Auburn Journal states that “only after these analyses are completed, will the board be able to make an informed decision on the project.” And, “Claims by opponents (sic) are premature and completely speculative at this point. The information is not yet available.” Why is NID buying properties, spending millions of dollars, and basically trying to push forward with this project if the information is not yet available?


Wouldn’t it be prudent to get the information before spending taxpayer money? Actions and statements like this suggest that NID is moving forward much too quickly.


Never mind that dams across the country are being decommissioned. Never mind that alternative sources of power are making hydroelectric projects more questionable and possibly even detrimental (recent studies show that some hydroelectric operations have to pay to get their excess power onto the grid).


Mr. Wilcox states that he once felt the same as those who categorically oppose all dams, as if opposing dams is something only for those with less knowledge.


If we only knew as much as the NID board members, or if we only cared about future needs for future subdivisions, if we only relinquished our land (not his) for the benefit of humankind, if we only wanted one more muddy lake with muddy beaches, and if we’d just sacrifice one more brushstroke from nature’s pallet, we’d all be in favor of the Centennial Reservoir and Dam Project.


 Michael Tritel is a Meadow Vista resident.


To read the article on the Auburn Journal's website, click here.




NID breaks down money spent on proposed Centennial Dam project

Matthew Pera

December 13, 2017


Nevada Irrigation District has spent just over $11.3 million to date on its proposed Centennial Reservoir project along the Bear River, Project Manager Doug Roderick said Wednesday.


But the project has not yet been approved.


The district has applied to the State Water Resources Control Board for a water right on the Bear River. It will need to complete an environmental impact report and present the project to the Control Board during a hearing in order to secure that right.


NID General Manager Remleh Scherzinger told The Union this month the district plans to release an environmental impact report late next year.


Responding to concerns raised Wednesday by Nancy Weber, an NID board member, Scherzinger said the district plans to hire an independent auditor to take a closer look at the money spent on the project.


"I think we need to be open about what we've done and it needs to be accurate, and I don't feel that way right now," Weber said.


According to Roderick, the district has so far purchased 25 properties — eight of which include homes — near the Bear River in preparation for the reservoir project. The district has spent $5,455,519 on property acquisitions, he said.



NID has also spent money on engineering and real estate consultants, staff time and legal fees related to the Centennial project.


Community members asked dozens of questions following a presentation on Centennial-related expenses given to the board Wednesday, including where the money for the project is coming from.


Scherzinger said the district will respond to some of those questions during the next NID board meeting in January and will hold off on answering others until after the audit is completed.


To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.


Click here for the original article posted on The Union.




R.L. Crabb: It takes a village idiot

R.L. Crabb


October 12, 2018

Posted by The Union




Peter Van Zant: Be skeptical of NID scare tactics

Other Voices

Peter Van Zant


Nevada Irrigation District still hasn't dropped its ill-conceived plan to build Centennial Dam on the Bear River.


They have yet to demonstrate the need for the project or explained how they plan to pay for the dam's construction. And there is no assurance that the ratepayers won't get stuck with the $1 billion tab either.


In the face of mounting public opposition, NID resorts to using scare tactics. The latest is NID's claim that someone is going to take our water if we don't "use" it. However, California water rights laws guarantee that NID will always have priority over any other water agency for the rights to the water needed in the NID service area.


NID ratepayers need to ask the following questions:


    Our complex California water rights laws give NID first rights to this water. No one will ever “take” our water.


Will hydropower sales pay for the dam? NID no longer plans to install hydropower at Centennial. But premium hydro-power revenues will eventually dissipate due to the ongoing construction of alternative electric power storage like PG&E's recently commissioned Browns Valley battery installation and many others coming on line. Why do you think PG&E wants to sell its local hydro operations to NID?


How much more water do we need? According to NID's own reports and local general plans there is very little additional water needed locally (including Placer County). And there's really no new local water need if NID would just lead us to take the modest steps toward wiser water use being implemented elsewhere throughout the state. The number of new rate payers will not be enough to service a new $1 billion debt for the dam.


How will the dam be paid for? Most likely NID will need to finance the $1 billion dam project. So what will NID do? Sell water. That's right, the huge debt needed to build Centennial will require NID to sell our water out of the area to water the lush lawns of Los Angeles and other Southern California desert towns.


Without the dam debt our water will be safe. The real threat is if NID finances Centennial Dam with out of district water sales. A water sale contract automatically removes county of origin protections for the water sold. When it's gone, it is gone.


Our complex California water rights laws give NID first rights to this water. No one will ever "take" our water. NID has a variety of water rights, many of which are pre-1927 that cannot be affected by any other filings now or in the future.


Also, if a true local need for more water emerges in the future, NID gets first take because of laws passed after 1927 to protect watershed areas like NID's from out of area water grabs.


Don't be scared. Be skeptical.


Peter Van Zant is a former Nevada County supervisor, a former president of the SYRCL board of directors, and a SYRCL Dam Watchdog. He lives in Nevada City with his wife Mary and three goofy pets.


Click here to see the original post on The Union.



Wednesday May 31 2017


NID should wait for study

By: Ricki Heck, Grass Valley


I am deeply troubled by Nevada Irrigation District’s continued real property acquisitions for the Centennial Dam project. NID is using taxpayer money before it has a permitted project, before any financial analysis, before the completion of the science, cultural and environmental studies and before any permits are issued.


I’m not sure NID has a full grasp of the impact their actions have on the property owners in the proposed project area.


Owners are facing many unknowns and they are suffering.  We’ve heard from them. There was a gentleman who spoke before the NID board last month who was very emotional about the prospect of losing his home. He is not the only one. We have heard from many. Others are delaying needed improvements. Will they put on the needed roof before winter, make the additions they have wanted to do, complete needed maintenance projects? Do they begin to look for another home or live with uncertainty?


These same owners are also being economically disadvantaged. If they want to sell now and get out, they have only one buyer. They cannot expect to sell for a market price to a willing buyer, when they have to disclose their property may be inundated by a new dam. This has the effect of lowering their property values and the values of all the properties within the scope of the project. This ensures the only certain buyer – NID – can gobble up their property for a reduced price. Not only is this unfair to property owners, it is simply wrong.


NID, by its actions, is hurting families, seniors, retirees and those who may be living on the margins. NID is driving the value of real estate downward in a market that is now inflated. These homeowners are being denied the opportunity to take advantage of the current profitable real estate market, and may well suffer economic damages. Ask yourself, how someone living in a 10-year-old modular home on acreage can move and replicate what they have in this overheated real estate market.


Today, I am calling on NID to suspend all further property purchases and negotiations for properties within the Centennial / Bear River project area until the full Environmental Impact Study under NEPA is complete, certified and permits are issued.

It’s the right thing to do.


Click here to see the story by the Auburn Journal.



Bob Branstrom: More than transparency

July 16, 2017


Local public agencies are subject to the Brown Act, which sets the minimum standard for transparency in conducting the public's business.


I emphasize that this is a minimum standard and believe that it works well for routine business. But, on major issues, our Sierra foothills residents want and deserve to have a more active role in the democratic process. On these issues, public agencies need more than transparency; they need to actively engage the public. This builds public trust and creates better solutions.


The Nevada County Board of Supervisors learned this lesson regarding cannabis regulation. Despite a high level of public comment urging regulation of cannabis, the board instead banned cannabis cultivation in the county. After the public failed to support Measure W, thereby opposing the ban, the board seems to have moved to a more pragmatic approach of engaging the public.


The community advisory group that began meeting in May includes representatives from the cannabis community, opponents of cannabis, and neighborhood representatives. Together, these individuals represent the diverse interests surrounding cannabis within our community.


More importantly, these individuals collectively hold a level of knowledge and expertise that goes far beyond what the supervisors, county staff, or a consultant might be able to provide. Now the supervisors have the opportunity to create regulations that best meet the diverse needs of our community.


The Nevada Irrigation District may be learning a similar lesson. A recent proposal to implement live video streaming and archiving was widely supported by the community. However, due to concerns about how well the proposal would be implemented, many people urged the NID Board to take time to consult with more experienced people in the community and they agreed.


For an agency that typically tells the community what it is doing, rather than asking what the community wants, this was a huge step. Further evidence of this shift in approach was seen at the same meeting in a report by district staff on managing vegetation in NID canals. Built into the staff's plan was a proposal to set up a community advisory group.


I applaud NID for taking these extra steps to engage the public.


The elephant in the room, of course, is Centennial Dam. NID announced its plans to build Centennial over a year ago and has been moving forward with those plans ever since. However, opportunities to provide public input are severely limited, primarily to comments at board meetings and to comments in the federal and state environmental review processes.


On a project of this size, the public must be allowed more opportunity to participate. The public has made significant efforts to become involved, through comments at board meetings and environmental scoping meetings — and in local media. The South Yuba River Citizens League has taken an important role in raising questions about the dam and in proposing alternatives. NID remains unmoved.


Compounding this problem is NID's lack of transparency about the dam, particularly regarding four key questions: Why build the dam? Where will the water come from? What alternatives have been considered? What will it cost to construct and finance? These questions will be addressed to some degree in responses to environmental reports.


However, NID has some of this information already and has yet to make it generally available to the public. As of the writing of this opinion, the official Centennial Reservoir website has no substantive data, but is instead simply public relations puffery.


What I suggest is this: NID should stop moving forward on Centennial Dam and do what a public agency should do for any significant project — actively engage the public. If there is a need for additional water storage, then NID should come to the public and explain that need clearly and justified by good data. If this need can be justified, then NID should work with the public to explore how to meet that need.


Due to expense and the damage it would wreak, a dam should be the last alternative considered. Before choosing to build a dam, NID should answer, in cooperation with the public, a very simple question: If building Centennial Dam were not an option, what would NID do to solve the problem that it perceives?


Asking the public to help answer this question, rather than telling the public it will build the dam regardless of their concerns, would tap into the rich knowledge base within our community.


Given the many ideas the public has come up with already, it is very conceivable that Centennial Dam is unnecessary.


Bob Branstrom lives in Grass Valley.


To see the article posted on The Union, click here.





Future of Centennial Dam at center of Nevada Irrigation District race

Liz Kellar

October 15, 2018

Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com


NID Division 2 candidate Bruce Herring responds to questions moderated by the League of Women's Voters during a forum Thursday at the Rood Center.


Issues at a glance


Why is this race so important? Why should voters care?


Bierwagen: This race is very important because we are entering changing times where our water supply is concerned. Climate variations, drought and proposed government takings are all threatening our current water supply.


Herring: NID is a storied institution and does a good job of delivering water and producing hydro-electric power. I have met many of the senior staff and have a great deal of confidence in them and their teams. But I have no confidence in the current board. They continue to operate in a provincial and secretive manner. They have also been poor stewards of the public funds at their disposal. The most egregious example of this is the pending rate hike, on top of five straight years of 6 percent increases. Watching the bottom line like a hawk is one of the principal duties of any board. They should have seen this coming.


This race represents a turning point for NID. Voters are faced with a clear choice. By his own admission, my opponent represents the status quo. I represent a fresh look and a more comprehensive vision for the future. The 21st century presents unique challenges to water managers. I believe NID can become a regional leader in watershed management, and pave the way for others to follow in meeting these challenges.


How important is the Raw Water Master Plan update and how can the process be safeguarded?


Bierwagen: The Raw Water Master Plan update is very important because it will quantify many important factors and affirm or negate many already in place. The process is already safeguarded by the fact that a third party organization will be facilitating the process.


Herring: It is extremely important and I support it wholeheartedly. However, without question the process should have been initiated prior to announcing such a colossal public works project as Centennial. The base cost of Centennial is greater than NID’s combined capital assets. These include a dozen reservoirs, a handful of power plants and water treatment plants, and hundreds of miles of canals and pipelines. Amazingly, the current board chose not to undergo a proper planning process to assess the future supply, the future demand, the hydrology, and possible climate impacts. It is therefore of paramount importance that the RWMP go forward in a deliberate, open, and thoughtful manner. It is important that sound data be collected that is specific to our watershed and our needs. As a board member I would do everything in my power to make that a reality.


What is your take on the resolution just passed by the board to limit its expenditures on the Centennial project to $2 million a year?


Bierwagen: The best news here is that the board did not cave to the demands of one special interest group. I support the continual and long term process of adding storage capacity to the system while completing the raw water master plan update.


Herring: First of all this resolution changes nothing in regard to spending on Centennial. The annual budget is approved one year at a time. However, it is common practice for each department head to provide the board with five year projections. I believe the current projection calls for $2 million per year to 2023. Second, the manner in which this resolution was presented raises more questions than it answers. It was not on the agenda. It was presented prior to board action on the original resolution without discussion. It was an amateurish performance by a veteran board. We can do better than this. We should also bridge the gap in mistrust between NID and the environmental community. As I mentioned earlier, NID is a vital public agency. The staff is filled with competent hard working people at all levels.


Certainly the Nevada Irrigation District's board has seen some contested elections around some controversial issues.


But the Centennial Dam, and whether the district needs to continue with the multimillion-dollar reservoir project, is arguably the most contentious issue the district has faced in decades. And the four candidates for two of the three open seats on the board have made their stance on Centennial part of their campaign platforms.


Ricki Heck is running unopposed for the Division I seat being vacated by Nancy Weber, who has served since first being elected in 1998.


Heck has expressed concerns with the Centennial project, writing a number of op-eds in The Union, often in relation to district expenditures in acquiring property in the Bear River canyon.


In Division IV (Placer County), incumbent Will Morebeck is facing challenger Laura Peters. Morebeck, the current president of the water district board, has not specifically advocated for the dam but has stressed the need to provide a high-quality local water supply. In Peters' view, the district still needs to go through proper planning for the reservoir. Even before the Raw Water Master Plan is updated, she said, the district should complete a strategic plan.


But only one race will be decided by Nevada County voters come Nov. 6.


Bruce Herring and Chris Bierwagen are contending for the Division II seat being vacated by John Drew, who has served on the board representing the area including Alta Sierra and Chicago Park since 2002.


Bierwagen, a fourth-generation farmer, is endorsed by the board member he seeks to replace. He has served as president of the Nevada County Farm Bureau and on the board of Nevada County Grown board of directors, as well as on the water district's Water Rates Study Advisory Committee and Weed Abatement Study Committee.


Bierwagen said running for Drew's seat on the water district felt like a natural step, given his family history.


"It's a legacy," he said, adding his grandfather was instrumental in getting water to Chicago Park. And his father, Ernie, served on the board for many years.


"I'm used to hearing the challenges of keeping water flowing in California," Bierwagen said. "I'm passionate about it, I know what's going on. The whole issue of water is of huge interest."


Bierwagen agrees the dam is the hot-button issue, but says the bigger issue is that the district's customers depend on stored water — the snowpack and the reservoirs. He said the controversy over the need for water should be expanded statewide.


"It's not just a local issue, it's a state issue," he said. "There is an abundance in the north and a shortage in the south."


And for that reason, Bierwagen said, some out-of-district water sales could be a good idea from a business perspective.


"It would improve our financial position," he said. "The district has kept rates some of the lowest in the state — the challenge is to keep up with expenses."


Bierwagen said he believed the current board of directors had performed a cost-benefit analysis before proceeding with the Centennial project.


"I trust the board thought that through, as to (whether) it was going to pay for itself or not," he said. "And if we actually need water. I think we will."


For one, Bierwagen said, climate change would mandate more water storage — although, he said, "I think the jury is out on that issue."


And, he said, at its current water usage, the water district has said it cannot provide any new water hook-ups.


He agreed the Raw Water Master Plan update is necessary.


"It should happen first — and it will, given the time it will take to build the dam," he said.


Bierwagen was dismissive of dam opponents' claims about preserving the Bear River.


"It has nine dams and diversions already," he said, "It is not a wild river."


Bierwagen says he's open to the findings from the Raw Water Master Plan update, but does not see any viable alternatives.


"I'm not saying we have to build the dam … But generally, I'm in favor," he said. "If the (update) says we don't need it, that would be a huge factor."


The district works hard to keep water in reserve for drought years, Bierwagen said, and while open to new ideas, he thinks most will prove to be expensive and not that productive.


Bierwagen pointed to the Yuba-Bear River Power Project completed in the 1960s that, he said, saved the district.


"It greatly expanded our water availability," he said.


"The idea of borrowing that much money scares people — but what is it relative to?" Bierwagen said. "Certainly we need to determine if there is enough benefit, and how it will be paid for."


The community needs to be able to have a conversation about the issues it disagrees on, without anger and defensiveness, he said. And, he added, the district needs to better sell the need for the dam, with a bigger public relations program, something more than just inviting people to come to meetings.


"I've been cast as the good ol' boy, as the status quo," Bierwagen said. "That is part of the truth. (But) the district has provided water for 97 years, at a very low rate. We wouldn't have farms here, without that water. That's my defense. We use a tremendous amount of water to grow food. That's the driving force for me."


Herring has lived in Nevada County since 1988. He retired in 2014 from Bitney Prep High School, the last four years as principal. A former whitewater rafting guide, he has served on the board of South Yuba River Citizens League and was co-owner of Wolf Creek Wilderness.


Herring highlights fiscal responsibility, sound communication and a healthy watershed as the cornerstones of his campaign.


He says he has been involved in water issues for 40 years and believes there are many myths and misconceptions about dams.


"In the 20th century, we thought that if we needed to augment our water supply, we should dam rivers," he said. "But that may or may not be the answer here. We haven't proven there is a water supply problem. We have an abundance of water."


Herring acknowledges water supply issues are complex, but says he is not convinced Nevada County has a long-term supply problem. And if it does, he said, he is not sure a dam is the right solution.


The Centennial project is what first brought Herring to district board meetings, starting last spring. He decided to run for Drew's seat because, he said, "The current board is about the status quo and is ill-equipped to meet challenges in a comprehensive manner."


The dam proposal is just a symptom of a larger problem with the board, Herring said.


"They are secretive, and they're pretty loose with public money," he said. "Their rationale for the dam, and their cost estimates, have changed three times in three years. They are not being very honest with the public."


Herring said he is looking to the hard data that will come from the Raw Water Master Plan update that, he said, will show the district's long-term needs, based on long-term demand, and whether it has an adequate supply of water as well as addressing climate change and the hydrology of the watershed.


"All of this data, this sound science, will generate a list of possible options," he said. "That's the goal. It's entirely possible the Centennial Dam will be one of them."


According to Herring, the district should explore what he calls a "whole slew of viable alternatives" that include sediment removal, conservation, upper-watershed enhancement, rainwater catchment, forest thinning and conjunctive groundwater projects.


"NID has never managed the watershed as a whole," he said. "We need to take a look at that, a healthy watershed from top to bottom."


Herring said the Raw Water Master Plan update should have been done before the Centennial project began.


"I've said it all along, the board has put the cart before the horse," he said.


And, he said, the $13 million already spent has exacerbated the district's financial woes caused by mismanagement.


"They have increased rates annually by 6 percent for six years, and they're about to enact another increase, a five-year, 8 percent annual increase," Herring said. "This is an egregious example of fiscal mismanagement. They've seen this coming for two decades."


The problem is, Herring said, the district has purposely kept the cost of water lower than the cost of delivery. Its revenue does not cover the water operations, which has created a shortfall of $8 million a year that has been covered by hydroelectric sales and reserves.


"But the reserve account is dwindling … This is not how you manage the people's money," he said.


Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


Click here to see this article on The Union's website.



Saturday Jan 20 2018


Another View: Centennial Dam is a self-combustible for NID

By: Jack Sanchez / Guest Columnist


In his opinion editorial in Jan. 11’s Auburn Journal entitled, “The Centennial Reservoir Project — thoughts and processes,” Nevada Irrigation District (NID) Director Nick Wilcox presented some of the weakest rationales for NID building Centennial Dam on Bear River imaginable. There are no really defensible reasons for NID to building this dam.


Every report on the water storage given by NID to the Placer County Fish and Game Commission says it has no less than 86 percent of capacity. Wilcox erroneously writes, “NID must adapt and plan for the future.” NID water storage has been fine for years without the ill-conceived Centennial Dam “plan for the future.”


In dozens of letters to the editor and op-eds, unlimited reasons for NOT building Centennial Dam have been put forth by dozens of residents of Nevada and Placer counties from raising the already four existing dams on the Bear River to keeping Camp Far West Dam full to recharge the groundwater in the Mehrten Formation Aquifer, which is being readily depleted with the current water level in CFWD, which was built to provide the groundwater source. These essays can be read on Facebook: Friends of Bear River or SaveBearRiver.org.


Without NID’s Centennial Dam on Bear River, it is already our nation’s second most endangered river according to American Rivers.


The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Centennial Dam is currently being proposed says Director Wilcox. Yet without an EIR already issued, NID is prematurely buying private parcels on Bear River. There is no currently permitted legality for NID to currently purchase these parcels.


Without an EIR in place, NID may be scaring property owners into prematurely selling it parcels cheaply by intimation by saying once the EIR is in place property values with drop precipitously.


Mr. Wilcox writes, “An accurate financial analysis cannot be done before the EIR is complete and the potential environmental mitigation costs established.” He must be ignoring the fact that several financial analyses have been put forth by former PCWA Board member Otis Wollan and Gary Zimmerman, senior economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Gary Zimmerman and many others. Wollan and Zimmerman have both projected costs of Centennial Dam to be as high as $1.6 billion and have termed it “the billion-dollar boondoggle.”

There is no foreseeable way NID can raise this kind of money even with further burdening its customers and taxpayers.


Wilcox further writes, “There are those who categorically oppose all dams. I understand that. I once felt the same way.”


What could possibly have changed his mind? Could it be his generous financial compensation for his service as an NID board member, or is he not up to speed on costs and the several other negatives for building Centennial Dam?


NID has been trying unsuccessfully to build a dam on Bear River since 1926; prospects look not better now.


And instead of dealing with the Nine Water Rights violations against it issued by the California Water Quality Control Board as far back as 2009, or providing fish passage on Auburn Ravine by removing Hemphill Dam as its board of directors told its general manager to do in 2016, NID leadership is self-destructing on Centennial Dam.


Elections for NID board members will take place November 2018 — so please vote.


Jack Sanchez is president and founder of Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead (SARSAS).



Marin Lipowitz

AECOM is a contracted engineering firm working on Centennial for NID. They also have a real estate development arm called AECOM CAPITAL. From that website:


"With significant experience in public-private partnerships designed to assume risk from tax-payers, including independent power projects and real estate developments, AECOM Capital targets high quality risk adjusted investments.


AECOM has vast resources across all engineering, design and construction services that AECOM Capital leverages for deal flow, due diligence, execution and project delivery.

Since its formation in 2013, AECOM Capital has invested in 17 projects, with a total development value in excess of $4.5 billion."


NID sends/sells water to Lincoln for future development projects?




Erick Johnson

"NID sends/sells water to Lincoln for future development projects?"

NID Regional Water Supply Project map (PDF)


NID Regional Water Supply Project


Here is the article on the Auburn Journal's website.





Tuesday Jul 04 2017


Tip of the NID iceberg


Lack of public oversight has allowed the Nevada Irrigation District Board to become a haven for a good old boys club with little regard for ALL of the ratepayers who pay their salaries from their hard earned money taken as taxes and water bills. When asked if they were public servants at the last NID Board Meeting on June 28th, Director Nick Wilcox couldn’t bring himself to say yes. He said, “We are an elected board.” I get the feeling that some on this NID Board see themselves as superior to the people they work for. And when the people from the other side of the Bear River, fully one half of the Bear Watershed that is outside of NID jurisdiction, want to speak, comment time is begrudgingly given and cut short when possible.


During the last NID Board meeting on June 28th, the vegetation management plan was discussed. The costs for the various methods of removing vegetation and algae were compared. Currently, Roundup is sprayed along the water ditches, and algaecide is administered into canals and even ephemeral streams (called “randoms” by NID). The cost for switching to all-manual removal was estimated at 6 million dollars. One of the directors suggested that it would require a large rate increase for the public to go to manual removal. This fear tactic fades in the face of the 8.9 million dollars already spent on acquiring properties and advertising for a reservoir that is not needed when a large aquifer based water bank is available. This is just the tip of the NID iceberg.


Dianna Suarez, Colfax


Here is the article on the Auburn Journal's website




Tuesday Jun 14 2016


Another View: Where is the justification for Centennial Dam?

By: Jack Sanchez


Centennial Dam does not appear to be carefully planned or thought through by the leadership of NID, the public agency desiring to build this unneeded dam in this Age of Dam Removal.


NID has had public meetings but none in Placer County and much of the information given to the public is inconsistent.  At the early meetings, NID said the dam would be paid for by funds brought in by its hydropower plant.  In the later meetings a hydroelectric plant was omitted probably because NID is in the process of applying for a renewal of it FERC relicensing which would provide it with up to fifty years of being allowed to sell the peoples’ water to its paying customers. If a hydroelectric plant is included in the dam, then FERC is involved.  That is one of the many inconsistencies but space precludes describing others, though there are many.


The dam would be the fourth dam on the Bear River which already has three existing dams, Rollins, Combie, and Camp Far West.  Since the Bear shares a small portion of the waters gathered by the Yuba and American Rivers, its gathering on the crest of the Sierra is much smaller than that of its sister rivers.   Native Americans called the Bear River the “Sleeping River” because of its gentle nature created by its limited water supply.  Many experts believe there is simply not enough water in Bear River to fill another dam.


If that is so, the Centennial would basically be largely a dam with muddy shorelines exposed for most of the year with little water storage, which is the main reason put forth for building this dam.  The dam would create an eyesore in what is now a rather pristine reach of the Bear River and would destroy Colfax Campground, a major recreation facility for that area.


Not only would the dam destroy beautiful woodlands, but many homeowners would lose their homes and property, probably through eminent domain though NID has said most property owners will be willing sellers.  The current discernible numbers are 25 homes and 120 private property parcels would be taken and be underwater.  When NID was asked to provide a list of properties inundated by the dam, no list was forthcoming. Would anyone willingly sell his home and property to build a dam that is controversial at best?  In addition, Dog Bar and Taylor Crossings of the Bear would no longer exist.  Nevada County traffic would need to be re-routed through Meadow Vista, adding to its congestion.


To create room for the dam’s hypothetical water storage, a bath tub ring would be created for the water storage area which in itself would destroy thousands of acres of prime mixed oak woodlands with fish and wildlife habitat in additions to loss of the recreation areas.


Camp Far West Dam is owned by South Sutter Water District(SSWD) and without this new Centennial Dam, it is rarely full of water.  Centennial Dam would put downstream water users at risk.  No thought so far has been given to exploring an agreement between NID and SSWD to fill Camp Far West without building a questionable new dam.


Nothing has been planned for Centennial Dam to increase ground water storage or the negative effects on downstream waterways and users and the Sacramento River Delta.  These questions should be asked and answered by NID before it is allowed to continue with Centennial Dam.  Nothing so far has definitively been put forth to support the building of this dam.


The main question to ask is why taxpayers and rate payers must pay over a $300 million for a dam which has, so far, no clearly stated way to pay for it and no clearly articulated reason for building it.


The planning is lacking, with no clear purpose and no clearly stated reason for building this Centennial Dam. Everyone should have clear answers to these questions before this dam even reaches the planning stage.


Ask why?


Jack Sanchez of Auburn is a retired high school teacher and coach.


Here is the article on the Auburn Journal's website.





Tuesday Apr 19 2016


Another View: Centennial Dam would mean higher water prices

By: Gordon Ainsleigh


NID’s proposed new Centennial Dam on the Bear River has some “irregularities”. For instance, I heard the General Manager of Nevada Irrigation District say that 55 percent of their customers live in Placer County, but also say in the same meeting that they would not be having any hearings in Placer County. Sound a little odd? There’s more.


NID’s GM stated at the Meadow Vista MAC that NID needs to catch and store more water in the Bear River Canyon because, due to climate warming, less water is being stored in the high-altitude snowpack - and then he bemoaned in the same meeting about the amount of water that spilled over Combie Lake’s Dam and was lost to NID in the previous drought winter. Hmm … those two statements don’t exactly harmonize.


And there’s another problem: but for spilled water from Combie Lake, Camp Far West Reservoir, about 15 miles downriver from Combie, would soon go dry. However, NID is unconcerned about Camp Far West going dry, because Camp Far West belongs to the South Sutter Water District, and NID has priority water rights to the Bear River prior to SSWD’s water rights. What’s painfully obvious is that NID plans to catch the water that would normally fill Camp Far West and then sell it to South Sutter, making them pay for storing their water twice, once at Centennial and again at Camp Far West, thus making SSWD and its farmers both water poor and cash poor, while enriching the coffers of NID to the point that they probably will give their general manager a big bonus for his predatory genius. And surely there will be enough surplus funds to supply bloated salaries for their general and other managers, and healthy raises for all employees, all paid for by the water-desperate customers of South Sutter.


Can it be an accident that Centennial Dam, proposed at 110,000 acre feet, is almost a duplicate of Camp Far West’s 104,000 acre feet? NID knows that Camp Far West is economically viable, so if NID builds Centennial to take Camp Far West’s water for themselves, they know that their Centennial Project will also be at least as economically viable.


In normal years, the Bear River flowing under Highway 49, a few miles downstream from Combie Lake, is so thoroughly diverted for water storage that it is a dead river for most of the summer and fall. NID’s goal appears to be making the Bear River a dead river 8-9 months of the year. This isn’t the Colorado River, where lowering water levels just uncover more camera-worthy sandstone canyons and parapets, and no one on this side of the Border cares whether any water remains to go into Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. This is the foothills of Northern California, where trees on the high-water line emphasize the reservoir bath-tub ring that replaces a camera-ready canyon, where ugliness goes far down the canyonside to the water. This is Northern California, where our neighbors, the farmers of our Sacramento Valley, will have to pay for high-priced water because of Centennial Dam. There will be no more economical water rates from their own Camp Far West Reservoir. Those farmers will soon be having to pay NID to release water into Camp Far West, on top of their own storage and distribution costs.


We are our brothers’ keepers, and it is up to us to stop NID from dewatering Camp Far West Reservoir and driving up the price of water for our farmers down the hill, just so NID can reap flush funds and high salaries for turning another foothills canyon into an unsightly mud hole.


H. Gordon “Gordy” Ainsleigh is a chiropractor, trail runner and member of the Auburn Area Recreation District Board of Directors. He was born in Auburn and has lived in the Meadow Vista area for 54 years.


Here is the article on the Auburn Journal's website.



Tuesday Mar 22 2016


Another View: Bear River dam proposal is deeply flawed

By: David Ryland


The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) has begun the steps to construct a 275 foot dam on the Bear River, just upstream of Combie Reservoir.  This impoundment will flood six miles of the river, including the picnic area and campground at Plum Tree Road in Placer County. The dam will also eliminate the only road crossing between Auburn and Colfax, at the Dog Bar Road bridge. There are no definitive proposals to create an alternative crossing, but the only possible alternative would have to be on or below the dam- and all traffic would then be routed through Meadow Vista.  It should also be noted that the intended reservoir would turn this lovely river corridor into an ugly holding tank with 100 foot fluctuations in the high water mark. At the upper portions of the reservoir, and at some lowland reaches downstream, this will leave a barren landscape where beautiful riparian habitat has existed for millennia.


The public should not presume that this dam, known as the Centennial Reservoir Project, is a mere pipe dream or speculative concept for NID.  The district is in the midst of land acquisitions that will displace 25 homes and about 120 private property parcels. They have also bypassed the local office of the Bureau of Land Management to acquire public lands, dealing directly with offices distant from the project.   NID has rallied friends in high places, as the project is supported by Representatives LaMalfa and McClintock.  There is clear intent to build this dam regardless of the desires of the majority of the citizens who are directly affected by its construction.


I urge all citizens to voice their opinion about the impact of this proposed dam. You have until April 18th to register your comments with NID, and it is critical that you tell them what they should consider in their Environmental Impact Report.


Please visit the NID website  www.centennialreservoir.org  and www.savebearriver.com  for more information.


Submit your comments to-  tassone@nidwater.com -  in order for NID  to consider your position on this project.


It is important to note that NID is required to seek public comment about the project, and they  must consider alternatives to the reservoir.  In my opinion, there are two significant alternative concepts that NID needs to engage. Recharging the water table is the first alternative that we must review.  Secondly, thoughtful and efficient conservation strategies must be promulgated.  My arguments for these alternatives are detailed below.


Construction of dams to create surface storage is a bad idea. It has been said that it is a 19th Century solution to a 21st Century problem, and I agree.  We are smarter than that, we are better than that.  In a technological era that covets elegance and thoughtful composition, a 275 foot dam is anything but.  More appropriately, we must repay what we owe the aquifers in the foothills and the Central Valley.  Ground water recharge is efficient and it is environmentally just.  Reservoirs are horrible water wasters because the loss of storage from evaporation during the warmer months of the year is immense.  If that same water is allowed to flow in to the valley, or is pumped back in to the water table, it is protected from this significant source of loss.  And, out of respect and appreciation for the agricultural interests of our state, it replenishes the immense amount of water that has been pumped out of the aquifers.


That said, there is a crying need to reign in the consumptive demands of all Californians.  The recent drought has proved that we have the ability to do this, but my offhand observations show that some folks just don’t “get it”.  I recall bicycling down the west shore of Lake Tahoe last summer, past high-end homes with beautiful lawns and landscaping that ignored the posted conservations notices right along their streets.  Then there was the elevated Rainbird sprinkler in Newcastle, spraying water over pastureland late afternoon in September.  I believe that NID has the capacity and the responsibility to identify the segments of their customer base that are using a disproportionate share of the water they already provide.  Water rates and delivery mechanisms can be tweaked to promote higher efficiency from consumers. Let’s do that before we even consider destroying the last free flowing stretch of the Bear River between Dutch Flat and Meadow Vista.


Obliterating the river canyon to satisfy an unquenchable beast is not something I am willing to support.  Having spent two decades on this stretch of the river, mostly fly-fishing, I can state with authority that it is a very diverse and thriving ecosystem.


David Ryland holds a zoology degree from Humboldt State University, with an emphasis in Fisheries Biology. He is a 20 year resident of Meadow Vista and has spent nearly four decades as a mortgage banker in Placer County.




Laurie Millar

Very good article with an ecologically sound proposed solution to climate warming. The other solution is that we all move towards a whole food plant based diet. Not only would this improve our health, prevent and reverse many chronic diseases but it would save the immense amounts of water that is currently being used to in the cattle and poultry industries. The biggest benefit is that this change in diet would rapidly decrease methane gas given off by cows which is a bigger contributor to global warming world wide than co2


Dave Peterson

We all know what's really going on here, its just a bunch of fat cats at NID looking to get a whole lot fatter. Obviously they could care less about the local history of the area as their only concern , clearly is greed and definitely for . Personally I find their arrogance is sickening as we speak I'm about to puke, this is just more of the vile disgust emitted from NID. What about the local Indian Heritage? And let's see some real environmental impact to me it's like nid is trying to cover something up. It'll be interesting to see the look on their faces when the truth comes out to me it's like they're running a crooked and rigged card game. I mean come on now are we playing blackjack or bullshit


Heidi Wahlberg Wolff

This project must be stopped. It has too many flaws and will devastate the local area. Please read this article. Here is link for more information. http://www.savebearriver.com/


Stephanie Curin

Agree whole-heartedly! Thank you for writing this article and raising awareness of the many issues involved with this NID project. The Bear River is a beautiful and unique river to this area with its lush vegetation and abundant wildlife. The recreation area and hiking trails are widely used by residents of Placer County. A reservoir of this magnitude will not increase habitat and will have many negative impacts on our community.

Like · Reply · 2y

Jack L. Sanchez

David adds a voice of reason to the madness and environmental destruction of the savagery of NID's leadership. Only we the people can rise up and stop this madness. We stopped Aiburn Dam; we will stop this NID aberration.


Jenny Ward

Yes!! Thank you for this article Auburn Journal!!! I have attended meeting and working on my comments to NID. My main suggestion to NID is to be the change we need and NOT BUILD MORE DAMS! There are so many conservation efforts that have not been used like contacting high usage customers to see how they can help maybe get new appliances or add gray water systems. Rain barrels are of great use especially for gardeners who do not have access to ditch water. savebearriver.com is a great resource for people and they are also on Facebook.


Richard F. Cross Jr.

Another consideration is the negative impact upon the Bear River migration corridor, depended upon for movement between the high sierras and the valley by many species, including our local migratory black tail herd. This is also ideal western pond turtle habitat, an endangered species, and the list goes on. Yellow legged frog? Additionally, can anyone tell me how the proposed new pipeline in the Lake Valley/Lone Star/Bell Road area fits into this? Will that require a separate EIR, or is it part of this project, supporting infrastructure? I'm really not excited about emminent domain being used to put a giant pipe over my little 2 acre parcel. On edit, here's link to the pipeline info: http://nidwater.com/.../Pipeline-and-Related-Facilities...


Sue Ingle

It is interesting NID is deciding to build a dam verses conserving water going to their rural customers who buy water by the miners inch and run their sprinklers all summer regardless of need. The feeling of "I bought 2 miners inches of water and am going to use it- so screw the drought" went on last year when people were running sprinklers 24hrs a day. If NID charged customers like PCWA does by metering actual use, then the NID water waster would pay for wasting water. Just a thought.....


Here is the article on the Auburn Journal's website.





NID’s Centennial Dam project declared ineligible for state funding

Liz Kellar

May 4, 2018



The California Water Commission has officially declared the Centennial Dam project application, submitted by the Nevada Irrigation District, is ineligible for Water Storage Investment Program Proposition 1 funding.


The Commissioners' unanimous ruling came late on Tuesday, according to a press release from the South Yuba River Citizens League. Tuesday was the first day of a three-day meeting focused on finalizing the public benefit ratio scores for all project applicants.


That decision came as no surprise, after NID opted not to appeal an initial review in February that found the reservoir would not qualify for funding based on the requirements of the grant.


At its Feb. 14 meeting, NID's board of directors unanimously approved a request by the Foothills Water Network to not appeal its public benefit ratio score.


"At the request of the Foothills Water Network, the board directed staff not to appeal NID's preliminary public benefit ratio of zero," said NID General Manager Remleh Scherzinger on Thursday. "Had we been allowed to appeal, I am sure NID would have improved our public benefit ratio score, and through the process would have been able to tap into state money and returned much-needed funds to our community."


NID did not appear in front of the water commission to contest the decision.


On Tuesday, Melinda Booth, SYRCL's executive director, testified during public comment in support of the ineligibility ruling. She told the commissioners that in addition to the 3,000 letters the league delivered in February, she had 400 more asking them to take the final step and vote Centennial ineligible.


Now that the Centennial Dam project has been found ineligible, NID will not move forward in the evaluation process.


"While this action in itself does not stop the project from being built, it does seriously question the viability of Centennial's premise," Booth said. "A panel of California state experts found no value in the project as related to public benefits."


NID had applied for nearly $12 million from the investment program, out of a total estimated cost of $342 million for the reservoir.


"The case for the proposed Centennial Water Supply Project is compelling and the benefits to our region are numerous," Scherzinger said. "The project is a critical part of a much larger solution set needed to meet future water shortages facing our community, including providing the supply necessary to support sustainable agriculture, the environmental and our municipal needs."


Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.



Dianna Suarez

The NID Board of Directors voted not to appeal the ZERO public benefits finding by the California Water Commission because they knew the finding was correct. Foothill Water Network simply stated the obvious, and Mr Scherzinger did not say a word in support of the project during the meeting. Why is he trying to blame someone else now that this decision has led to the project being declared ineligible? No one stopped NID from appealing the decision but NID. And if Mr. Scherzinger thought the project's public benefit score could be improved, why didn't he say so when it mattered? The truth is that they would have had to prove it, and they could not.


Mr. Scherzinger is again speaking out in private to a reporter about how the benefits are numerous although experts found that to be false. Then he talks in newspeak about "solution sets" and "future water shortages" without any factual evidence or documentation to support his unfounded assertions. In fact NID has declared "surplus water" again this year so they can sell water out of district. "Future water shortages" is the fear tactic that Mr. Scherzinger uses to get otherwise decent people to support the dam idea; to get the citizens of Nevada County to pay for a billion dollar dam that will destroy the lives and economies of their neighbors on Bear River while running them out of their homes here, in order to build "cluster homes" down in Lincoln.


And like any good public manipulator, he finishes up with naming sustainable agriculture, the environment and municipal needs. It will be important for the people who care about the future of our communities to see through these inaccurate and misleading statements. There are a multitude of solutions and this community needs the leadership of honest, forward-thinking professionals who utilize collective knowledge and listen to the citizens to implement them.


Here is the article on The Union's website.




Centennial Dam Receives Zero on Public Benefits Score

By South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) -

February 5, 2018


NEVADA CITY, Calif. February 5, 2018 – On Friday, the California Water Commission (CWC) released the Public Benefit Ratio (PBR) for the Centennial Dam Project on the Bear River. According to state technical reviewers of the application submitted by the Nevada Irrigation District (NID), Centennial Dam has a public benefit ratio of zero.


A PBR score of zero means that for every dollar of potential Proposition 1 funds spent on Centennial, the Centennial project would provide $0.00 of public ecosystem and recreational benefits.


“Zero cents on the dollar is a horrible rate of return for California taxpayers. Once again, the proposed Centennial Dam project proves itself to be a financial boondoggle for ratepayers and taxpayers,” said Melinda Booth, Executive Director of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL).


The PBR NID originally submitted in their application was 4.19. NID now has until February 23 to submit an appeal.


The Foothills Water Network (the Network) also has been tracking the Proposition 1 funding process carefully. Traci Sheehan, Coordinator for the Network said, “We appreciate the diligence of the independent reviewers. They came to the same conclusion as our Dam Watchdogs: that the Centennial Dam application overinflated the public benefit ratio and a did not substantiate its claims.”


“We’re now asking NID to pull the CWC application and demonstrate fiscal responsibility by not expending further resources in pursuit of the Proposition 1 funding,” said Sheehan.


SYRCL and the Network question the eligibility of NID’s application for Proposition 1 funding on the basis that Centennial would not create a net public benefit because of the environmental, cultural and economic damage the dam would bring to the Bear River.


“Centennial contradicts the goals of the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). Affordable recreation and thriving ecosystems already exist. Trading thousands of acres of oak woodland and natural wetlands for poor quality habitat with a steep price tag is not a good deal for Californians,” said Booth, SYRCL’s Executive Director.


In 2014 Californians passed a bond to invest in three broad objectives: more reliable water supplies, restoration of important species and habitat, and more resilient and sustainably managed water infrastructure. NID is vying for a portion of the $2.7 billion of Proposition 1 funding available.


Of particular concern to the Network and SYRCL is NID’s application statement that, “The proposed project does not provide measurable improvement to the Delta Ecosystem or tributary to the Delta.”


Yet, legislation is clear. In order to qualify for these bond dollars, NID is required to demonstrate a benefit to the Delta (California Water Code Chapter 8, Section 79752).


The California Water Commission review timeline has been modified and pushed out through July to accommodate appeals. Commissioners will post their response to NID’s appeal on April 20. More information regarding the Water Storage Investment Program may be found online.


SYRCL (pronounced “circle”), is the leading voice for the protection and restoration of the Yuba River watershed. Founded in 1983 through a rural, grassroots campaign to defend the South Yuba River from proposed hydropower dams, SYRCL has developed into a vibrant community organization with over 3,500 members and volunteers based in Nevada City, CA.


SYRCL and allies recently collected and submitted more than 3,000 letters to the California Water Commission urging the denial of NID’s request for $11.95 million in Proposition 1 funding under the WSIP.


The Foothills Water Network is an alliance of conservation, angling and recreation groups, whose mission is to protect and enhance aquatic ecosystem health and recreation opportunities in the Yuba, Bear and American rivers.


Click here to see the article on YubaNet.




Water district releases independent audit of Centennial Dam project

Liz Kellar

August 22, 2018


Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com


On Wednesday, the Nevada Irrigation District released an independent audit of its controversial Centennial Dam project that has been in the works since 2014.


The outside audit came after Project Manager Doug Roderick said in December 2017 that the district had spent just over $11.3 million to date on its proposed Centennial Reservoir project along the Bear River. In response to comments from board member Nancy Weber, who said the district needed to be transparent and accurate, General Manager Rem Scherzinger opted to bring in an independent party to take a closer look at the money spent on the project.


During that December meeting, audience members asked dozens of questions on Centennial-related expenses, including where the money for the project is coming from.


Some of those questions were answered during the audit, with the auditors' findings presented at the board meeting Wednesday morning.


Ingrid Sheipline of Richardson & Co. explained that the scope of the contract called for the audit to determine whether all the project costs were properly assigned to the project. To that end, her firm examined invoices for project expenses, reviewed reimbursements of project costs with bond proceeds and compared consultant expenditures to contracts.


The audit noted that costs exceeded the budget by nearly $675,000, primarily due to property purchases of $1.3 million in 2015. The district has budgeted $4 million for 2018, with $3 million spent to date.


Some accounting issues were discovered, Sheipline said. Some costs relating to property purchases — a little more than $587,000 — had not been charged to the project when they should have been, mostly. And, conversely, some minimal costs were charged to the project that should not have been.


"I don't believe any of the findings are significant or anything that was alarming," she said.


District board member Nick Wilcox asked if there were any areas in the audit that should raise a red flag.


"We looked at all the costs and determined they were appropriate," Sheipline said. "There was no indication of inappropriate expenditures."


But many of the audience members in attendance continued to express frustration with the costs, and the project itself.


"I have more questions than answers for NID after reading this new audit report," said Melinda Booth, the executive director of South Yuba River Citizens League.


Booth noted that one of the many things her nonprofit has continually requested is transparency and a project cost estimate.


"This the first time in the four years of this project that the public has a report summarizing what has actually been spent on the Centennial dam, and the numbers are significant — $13 million spent and $1 million over budget," said Traci Sheehan of Foothills Water Network. "The bottom line is that the audit doesn't in any way explain how much Centennial will cost and how it will actually get paid for."


Booth, Sheehan and others raised questions about a $500,000 budget amendment that was approved in closed session. According to water district staff, the amendment dealt with a property negotiation, which are always discussed in closed session. If the board opted to authorize negotiations within a price range in closed session, it would come back to the board in the form of a warrant to be approved.


Several audience members also pressed for a project cost estimate.


"It was my understanding that a project cost estimate would accompany this audit," Booth said. "However, that request was not articulated in the contract with the independent auditors, therefore we are still left without an answer as what this dam would cost our community."


According to Booth
and Sheehan, independent cost analyses have ranged from $500 million to $1.2 billion, far in excess of the $342 million cost projected by the water district.


District board members said that was not within the scope of the audit, however, and was not a topic for discussion Wednesday.


Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.



Tony Loro

Buddies property always sell first


Lisa Mccoy



Mark Edward Johnson

No credability? No fiscal responsibility? No transparency? NO DAM!


Martin Evan Wormser

Will you people stop building dams! Leave the Bear alone.


Monica Senter Laughter

wow- this organization is in serious breach of public trust and considering the increasing value of water resources, i would hope that the new board will shift focus to transparency and responsible forward focused water management. what's happening with the dam project is awful, there is not valid justification, the community opposes and yet they are allowed to continue. just how do we get control of this runaway train?


Tony Loro

Obfuscate. Hide. Re-direct. $342mil > $1.2bil. Sure why not. We can sell the water system to an investment co. Build the dam and charge the users till they rebel.


Monica Senter Laughter

yep- the writing is on the wall, but of course in the age of "truth is not truth" this type of corruption will persist.


Jackie Mason

Monica Senter Laughter Not if constituents vote a more responsible board in. Which also means responsible people must be willing to run for the NID board in every district.


Dianna Suarez

Jackie Mason Ricki Heck District 1, Bruce Herring District 2, Laura Peters District 4.


Here is the article on The Union's website.





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