Open Letter to Nevada Irrigation District

Since its inception in 2009, SARSAS has been working with Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and other water contractors to get fish passage over its dams to get salmon and steelhead to the two parks in Auburn to spawn.

Imagine seeing the fish spawning in Auburn School Park between Placer High and City Hall in the very center of Auburn; imagine them spawning in Ashford Park off Auburn Ravine Road.  What an environmental and economic boon for the Auburn area with tourists driving off Highway 80 to see the fishes spawn.

But that is a way off.  First, salmon must reach Wise Powerhouse one mile downstream from Auburn; steelhead are already there.

When Ron Nelson was General Manager (GM) of NID, he worked with SARSAS to get fish passage over Lincoln Gauging Station and, as he said at the Dedication Celebration for the Fish Passage Installation, “The idea for fish passage came up in a conversation at a watershed meeting with Jack Sanchez, and, after four short years (chuckle), we have salmon and steelhead over Lincoln Gauging Station.”

That was in 2011 and no progress has since been made to get fish over Hemphill and Gold Hill Dams maybe because NID is trying to build the Centennial Dam on Bear River and a water treatment plant for Lincoln even though California Department of Fish and Wildlife says NID is in violation for two FW Codes, blocking fish and taking natural stream flow from Auburn Ravine.  NID has paid $1,000,000 to the Water Resources Water board just in filing fees and nothing on fish passage in Auburn Ravine.    Additionally, Foothill Water Network has protested nine water rights violations outlined by the Department of Water Resources Water board against NID.  No resolution has been made to date.

SARSAS tried to arrange a meeting to collaborate on fish passage on Auburn Ravine with the NID Board Chairperson, ACC Bill Kirby, Lincoln CC Stan Nader, Placer Supervisor Jim Holmes, and NID Board Rep from Lincoln, all of whom were willing to attend to attempt to work out fish passage of the rest of Auburn,

The next day I received a phone call from current NID General Manager saying NID could not meet because of pending litigation from Placer County and summarily cancelled the meeting even though he was not invited.

One of our SARSAS Board Members is a former Placer County District Attorney.  This is the answer he received from his email inquiry about pending litigation against NID: “Our office has no case currently filed against NID”.  There is no pending litigation against NID by Placer County as the GM stated as the reason to cancel our meeting although two meetings have been held between the Placer DA’s Office and NID’s GM.  Truth and integrity are something no leader should dispense with when dealing with the public.

Next, in an email to me, the current NID’s General Manager further stated that NID would not address fish passage on both its dams on Auburn Ravine simultaneously:  “Recent CDFW studies further our belief that Chapman Falls is an impediment to passage and so Gold Hill will need to be evaluated after our Hemphill project is stabilized”.

I have lived around Auburn Ravine all my life and have walked that reach of Auburn Ravine with former SARSAS Board Member Ron Ott, one of California’s foremost fish authorities, and Fish Biologist Dave Beach and many others many times, and none of us ever saw a blockage, and no one I know has ever heard of Chapman Waterfalls.  There are no barriers to fish passage because steelhead have been documented in Auburn Ravine in the reach below Wise Powerhouse by CDFW  in its just released Auburn Ravine Instream  Flow Study, well above Gold Hill Dam.  Gold Hill Dam was built in the 1850’s and some fish may have been getting over it during high water events and spawning.   Auburn Ravine has over 7,000 salmonids per mile making it one of the richest fisheries in Northern California.  If salmon and steelhead are going to be saved from extinction on the West Coast, then most of the 738 tributaries of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers must be opened for spawning and that’s what SARSAS is doing on Auburn Ravine.

NID is said to be the Water Master of the Auburn.  One would think the Water Master would be the organization most intimately concerned with the well- being of the Ravine it uses as a pipeline to deliver water to its paying customers, which reverses the natural flow, diminishing not increasing, into summer and fall.  A stream has an entire ecology and anything that upsets the natural balance of the stream upsets all the creatures in that environment, the fish, the entire aquatic life, the birds and the animals.

A good steward of a waterway it uses to deliver water to its customers would concentrate on maintaining and restoring the entire ecology of that waterway.  That is what a good custodian ought to be expected to do for a natural stream and its creatures used as a pipeline.

A good steward would consider the negative effects its actions have on the people as well as the creatures who live in the community Auburn Ravine and correct those effects before creating another dam to negatively more people and creatures … that’s what any rational person would think.

Jack L. Sanchez

SARSAS President and Founder

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