FAQ & Short Guide to Writing Comment Letters

DEADLINE: Comment letters are due to NID by Monday, April 18, 2016

Let NID know what you think about Centennial Dam!

SAMPLE Talking Points for Comment Letters
in PDF and Word

What is the status of NID’s Centennial Dam project?

On February 16, 2016, NID started preparing the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Centennial Dam project. NID published a Notice of Preparation (NOP), which outlined what will be studied in the EIR. This is important, worthwhile reading!

How can I make sure my voice is heard?

This is where you come in: The Public (YOU!) has the right to submit written comments or suggestions about the project and what should be studied and analyzed in the EIR.  You can also make a public statement at NID’s two official Scoping Meetings.

Why should I send a comment letter to NID about Centennial Dam?

This project has many potentially significant environmental impacts listed in the NOP. It’s up to concerned citizens like you to tell NID’s staff and consultants what you are most concerned about. Submitting letters, or speaking out at the Scoping Meetings, is the official way to be heard on the record.

What points should I make in my letter?

Focus your letter on what concerns you the most. Some people focus on the environmental and recreational impacts of a new dam on the land, water and wildlife. Others are very concerned about the price tag or traffic impacts and neighborhood safety. Some want to see other alternatives seriously considered.

Some tips for writing an effective comment letter:

  • Focus your study requests on the environmental process, what you want analyzed, and what alternatives you want considered.
  • Make sure that your specific requests are clear, concise and singular (bullet points are fine).
  • Including your opinion on the dam, or telling your personal connection to the river is valid and OK but is not a factor for staff in developing the EIR – so make sure that your personal opinions don’t distract from your clear, concise requests to NID.
  • Include your name and contact information in case NID needs to contact you to clarify a point.NOP comments are divided into various categories. Reviewing these categories may help stimulate your thinking and may help organize your comments. The comment categories are:

NOP comments are divided into various categories. Reviewing these categories may help stimulate your thinking and may help organize your comments. The comment categories are:

Aesthetics                                                                       Agriculture and Forestry Resources
Air Quality                                                                      Terrestrial and Aquatic Biological Resources
Cultural Resources                                                      Tribal Cultural Resources
Geology / Soils                                                              Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Hazards & Hazardous Materials                           Hydrology / Water Quality
Land Use / Planning                                                 Mineral Resources
Noise                                                                                Population / Housing
Public Services                                                            Recreation
Transportation and Traffic                                   Utilities and Service Systems

Alternatives to the project

A very important part of this process is making sure NID studies alternatives to the dam and reservoir. An extensive and growing list of alternatives can be found at: www.SaveBearRiver.com

Where do I send my letter?

Send your letter (fax, email or regular mail) to NID by 4/18/16 to:

Lisa Francis Tassone, Board Secretary
Nevada Irrigation District (NID)
1036 W. Main Street
Grass Valley, CA 95945
Fax 530-477-2646

Do you have a sample letter I can use as a template?

It’s always best to use your own words. You can start with your personal experience like how long you’ve lived in the area, and briefly share your connection to the Bear River and why you think it’s unique.  Most important: Be specific about your key concerns and questions about the project.

Here are some comments and questions you might want to include in your letter:

CLIMATE CHANGE: NID proposes to build this project to address drought and climate change. In order to accurately determine the purpose and need for the project, the EIR must include a thorough study of the latest climate change science including the projected impacts on the Yuba and Bear watersheds.

YUBA WATER: To what extent would this project rely on water from the Yuba River watershed, and what are the reasonably foreseeable impacts the project would have on river flows in the Middle Yuba River, South Yuba River and Canyon Creek?  Would the project lead to increases in the amount or percentages of water diverted from the Yuba River watershed to the Bear River and if so, then under what circumstances? What would be the effect of any additional transfers to the Bear River on water temperatures, flows and habitat in the South and Middle Yuba Rivers?

FLOWS: What would the impact of this project be on downstream beneficial uses, including fisheries and groundwater recharge?  How would this project impact river flows required or foreseeably required to protect the Bay Delta ecosystem and fisheries?  How would downstream water users and projects like the South Sutter Water District and Camp Far West Reservoir be impacted?

RECREATION: How would the proposed dam impact current recreational uses of the Bear River?   Many area residents now enjoy easy access to river recreation in the project area such as fly-fishing, rafting, gold panning, swimming and hiking.  While many areas would be flooded by the project, the inundation of the Bear River Campground – 250 acres of public land that provides public hiking trails, river access, and camping—is of particular concern. The EIR must identify these impacts and describe how they will be mitigated. These analyses must consider impacts and mitigations for geographically diverse users and specifically address Placer County as well as Nevada County recreationists.

PROPERTY RIGHTS: How would the dam impact private lands in the project area?   The EIR should address how 25 homes and 120 parcels will be impacted including what happens if the dam is not built — will NID retain ownership over those lands?

CULTURAL RESOURCES: How would the dam impact Native American cultural and spiritual resources? The Bear River is the ancestral home of the Nisenan and contains lands that are part of that tribe’s and our region’s heritage.  Will the proposed reservoir inundate these cultural sites?  How else will these sites be impacted through the construction, maintenance or associated activities of the project?

TRAFFIC: How would the dam impact traffic, public safety, and fire protection efforts during project construction and after completion? The proposed project would flood the only river crossing between Placer and Nevada counties from Highway 174 to Highway 49 and there are concerns about egress during the construction phase of the project. How will these issues be addressed during construction?  Where will the new crossings exist and what impact will those new roads and crossings have on our neighborhoods and local community? More broadly, how will these new traffic patterns impact air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, in the region?

FISH & WILDLIFE: How would this project impact local biologic resources? A dam of this size could flood hundreds of acres of prime oak woodland and inundate critical habitat and homes for western pond turtles and foothill yellow legged frogs.  The reach of the Bear River which would be flooded is also an ecosystem rich in native fish. The EIR must include a full and detailed disclosure of all biological impacts including a quantification of the loss of oak woodlands, riparian ecosystem, and habitat impacts for all native and special status species. In order to guide decision-makers and inform the public the EIR must also identify all feasible mitigations for such impacts and their associated costs.

AESTHETICS: How would the proposed dam impact scenic canyon views? The canyon where the dam would be located is steep and forested.  Fluctuating reservoirs often result in an aesthetically unpleasing “bathtub ring” without vegetation.  The EIR must fully disclose the predicted extent of this bathtub ring throughout the year during high, low, and average water years.  It must also identify the aesthetic impact of this ring on multiple user types including local residents, passing motorists, and recreational users.

GROWTH: What impact would the project have on population growth and regional development patterns? The EIR must analyze and disclose any growth-inducing impacts of the proposed project including a discussion of the environmental and quality of life impacts on existing communities.

COSTS: It is essential for the public to understand the environmental implications of the costs and expenses associated with the $300 million project.  How will this commitment of financial resources impact the district’s ability to provide recreational opportunities, and environmental protections throughout its service area?  An understanding of both the costs and the revenues of the project will help inform decisions on environmentally preferable alternatives.

ALTERNATIVES: A very important part of this process is making sure NID studies alternatives to the dam and reservoir. What is the full-range of alternative means by which NID could respond to the effects of climate change and drought, including demand and supply side conservation, modification of existing reservoirs, repair and upgrade to aging and inefficient infrastructure and greater conservation efforts?  The analysis of alternatives in the EIR should include a thorough assessment of whether existing and reasonably projected water needs of the District can be met through improved management of the existing system and must examine a range of reasonably foreseeable future water use patterns.


Contact Traci Sheehan, FWN Coordinator: traci@foothillswaternetwork.org
South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL): www.yubariver.org/centennialdam
Save the Bear:  www.SaveBearRiver.com

Please help us track the impact we are having by forwarding a copy of your letter to:  Traci Sheehan, FWN Coordinator traci@foothillswaternetwork.org.

The Foothills Water Network (FWN) is a coalition 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.

Sample Comment Letters can be found online at: www.SaveBearRiver.com.