SYRCL and Foothills Water Network recently requested the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) not throw good money after bad and pull out of the running for Proposition 1 funding. Wednesday morning, NID Board of Directors refused to withdraw their application despite having received a public benefit score of zero from the state of California. However, the board did vote to not appeal. NID will not be submitting additional clarifying information to address significant concerns the California Water Commission (CWC) had with their application, specifically the failure to show that Centennial would create local ecosystem and recreational public benefits.
NID Director Nancy Weber expressed disappointment with the quality of NID’s application which was submitted in August 2017. She minced no words when she stated, “This makes us look incompetent.” Her calculation comes on the heels of the State’s assessment of the eleven Water Storage Investment Program projects published just two weeks ago.
These projects are competing with one another for a piece of the $2.7 billion pie of taxpayer money. All projects must prove benefit to the public, in addition to measurable benefits to the Delta ecosystem (or its tributaries) to qualify for funding.
NID’s application for Centennial Dam fared among the worst. The agency made the case that Centennial Dam would create local recreational opportunities and improve the local ecosystem by engineering shallow water wetland habitat. According to the technical review team, NID’s application was inadequate. They failed to prove Centennial Dam would provide the $50 million worth of local recreation and ecosystem benefits they claimed.
Director Wilcox appeared to downplay the assessment of the State when he agreed with the low score. Yesterday he said, “Quite frankly our low score was well deserved and I really have no problems with the low score that we received from the State Water Commission because this is a local project. This is really not a Delta-centric project.”
It is clear that some members of the board did not understand that the independent reviewers were not rating Centennial’s benefit to the Delta, they were scoring the local public benefit ratio NID claimed. The State was estimating the local return on investment would be zero.
NID’s public benefit score was always about the local nature of Centennial. SYRCL feels strongly that public funds should not be spent on projects with no public benefit.
Dam Watchdog Request for Centennial Dam Standing Agenda Item Denied, for Now
Recently, Dam Watchdogs requested that NID add Centennial Dam as a standing item to their agendas.
NID meets every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, and outside cars line the streets, as every spot in the lot is already taken by a quarter to 9:00am. Inside, each chair is full. Community members huddle around the periphery of the room, some even take a seat on the floor. Yesterday, the room was brimming.
The public is eager, engaged and hungry for more information regarding the fate of the Bear River. Unfortunately, in 2017, Centennial Dam appeared only four times on the agenda.
The format, as it stands, makes it difficult to have dialogue. People have them opportunity to raise questions during “public comment,” but board members are not allowed to respond. In other words, the community has had few opportunities to exchange ideas and engage with the issue of Centennial in a meaningful way. Many questions have gone unanswered.
It has been requested that Centennial Dam be included as a standing item under General Orders on the board agenda. It is our intent to that questions raised in real time, are answered in real time. It is our intent that a space for genuine dialogue with District representatives be made.
At the February 14 meeting under the General Manager’s report, it was announced that Centennial Dam would be not be included as a standing item on board agendas, rather on Engineering Committee agendas only. This is insufficient. The Engineering Committee is not attended by all board members and is not live-streamed. The Engineering Committee is also attended by far fewer community members, which would squander the opportunity for a rich exchange of ideas.
This appears to be another attempt to dodge critical conversation. It is apparent that our pursuit for transparency is far from over. We must continue to be united in our quest to nudge NID toward greater openness and true transparency in action.
Important Upcoming Dates:
What: Bear River Recreation Rally at California Water Commission Meeting
When: February 21, early morning-mid-day
Where: 1220 N St, Sacramento, CA 95814
What: Next NID Board Meeting
When: February 28 at 9:00am
Where: 1036 W. Main St, Grass Valley
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