Centennial Dam Background


The Nevada Irrigation District (NID) proposes to build a new 110,000 acre-foot reservoir with a 275 foot-tall dam on the Bear River.  This would inundate the last six miles of publicly accessible, free-flowing river on the Bear, completely flooding the Bear Campground, more than 25 homes and 120 parcels, 140 Native American cultural sites, and Dog Bar Bridge, the only crossing of the Bear River between Highway 49 and Highway 174.

In a time of record drought and climate change we need creative solutions to address our local water needs, and big, expensive dams are a thing of the past.

More than half of the water in the upper Middle and South Yuba River watersheds is diverted to the Bear River. SYRCL is concerned that Centennial Dam, if built, could demand even more Yuba River water, especially when dry years leave the new reservoir low.

NID should be looking for alternative ways to manage limited water resources that are environmentally sustainable such as restoring meadows, wetlands, and floodplains. NID should consider a range of alternative actions such as repairing or modifying its aging facilities, improving canal efficiency, incentivizing water conservation, stopping leaks, and metering water. A new dam should be the last alternative considered, not the first.

SYRCL is educating our members about this proposed dam. We’ve let NID know we’re concerned and paying close attention. And as an organization founded to stop inappropriate dams, we are not going to stand by if the Yuba is threatened or if there are better ways for NID to meet its future water needs.

SYRCL is mobilizing and assembling a team of 1,000 Dam Watchdogs, people who will help us scrutinize every angle of the Centennial Dam project and raise awareness of the impacts on the Yuba and Bear Rivers, water supply and wildlife.

The Foothills Water Network (FWN), a broad coalition of more than a dozen local, state and national conservation groups, including SYRCL, is challenging this project. FWN is on top of the formal regulatory process, commenting on what NID should study in its environmental review. FWN also filed a protest of the water rights application as did more than a dozen other agencies including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Bureau of Reclamation, and South Sutter Water District.


Environmental Review

On April 18, 2016, SYRCL & The Foothills Water Network (FWN) filed a comment letter to NID stating its concerns that the proposed Centennial Dam will have significant environmental impacts on the Bear and Yuba River watersheds and surrounding communities. Read the Comment Letter to NID (PDF).

The Centennial Dam proposal has alarmed community members throughout the Bear and Yuba watersheds. Nearly 400 people attended two public meetings about the proposal in early March 2016 to express their concerns about the project’s potential impacts on the environment.

Water Rights Protest

On October 25, 2016, The Foothills Water Network submitted a joint water rights protest to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) demanding that NID’s water rights application for the proposed Centennial Dam be denied based on environmental, public interest and legal grounds. Read FWN’s Water Rights Protest (PDF). Read the Press Release (PDF).



We expect the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be available in July 2017. Join us to learn more.