Sierra Watch: South Sutter Water District Releases Bear River Dam Report
Author: Sierra Watch
Published on Jul 6, 2011 - 6:49:18 AM

Pictured: “Potential Inundation Zone”
July 5, 2011 - Today the South Sutter Water District released its long awaited "Garden Bar Reservoir Preliminary Study".

The 37-page report includes some specifics regarding proposed location, possible dam function, potential costs, and projected approval processes.

But it fails to answer the most basic question about the dam: Should the dam be built in the first place?

The report is available at (under DOCUMENTS AND NOTICES).

In the days and weeks ahead, Sierra Watch and our allies and experts will continue to research the report and review its findings.

In the meantime, here is an initial summary of some of its key points:

- Location: the dam would be built in an upstream water district (Nevada Irrigation District) below Garden Bar Crossing on the Bear River; the reservoir would flood land in both Nevada and Placer Counties, including ranchlands permanently protected in conservation preserves.

- Size: the preliminary study evaluates four reservoir sizes, ranging from 245,000 acre-foot to 400,000 acre-foot.

- Cost: estimates for the total cost of the dam range from $415 to $674 million.

- Partners: the report projects ongoing financial support from its partners in Napa, Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino Counties (Cities of Napa and American Canyon, Castaic Lake Water Agency, Palmdale Water District, and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District).

Note that last month the Castaic Lake Water Agency pulled its support, citing "(u)ncertainties regarding the ability to transfer water across the Delta and that impact on the cost effectiveness of the project for the Agency would preclude it from recommending further participation in the project."

- Water Availability: The report acknowledges the existence of "numerous issues that would need to be resolved to confirm the availability of this water and the ability to convey a portion of it through the Delta, if so desired"

- Next Steps: according to the report, the project partners will now need to determine whether to proceed in financing the next round of planning studies; projected planning costs range from $23 to $43 million.

South Sutter Water District and its partners would then embark on a series of multi-year project approval process, including obtaining a water right permit from the California State Water Board, securing a hydropower license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and full CEQA and NEPA environmental review.

For more information – or for bumper stickers – contact Peter Van Zant, Sierra Watch Field Director, at (530) 265-2849. Website:

Related articles:

July 5: Preliminary Study Completed For Garden Bar Reservoir

July 1: New Dam Threatens Sierra's Bear River

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