GRASS VALLEY, Calif. March 23, 2017 – March 22 was World Water Day, but NID’s Board of Directors did not commemorate the occasion during their regular meeting. Instead, they heard comments from the public ahead of their agenda items. The standing room-only audience voiced their concerns over the proposed Centennial Dam project and again urged directors to make live streaming and video recordings of their meetings available. In a first for the district, the meeting was livestreamed – by YubaNet.
Directors approved $529,184.45 of warrant payments and made some corrections to the minutes of their last meeting before approving them, all part of the consent calendar items.
Newtown Reservoir Cleaning Project
Directors heard a presentation on the proposed Newtown Reservoir Cleaning Project, part of the Sediment Removal Program that is currently unfunded, however staff will be requesting funding in 2018 for this program.
The reservoir is located on private property and has accumulated sediment over the years, significantly reducing the usable capacity. The reservoir cleanup would require the removal of an estimated 6,600 cubic yards of sediment – built up over 30 years. Vegetation removal is also part of the proposal for the 1.6-acre reservoir.
The public hearing on the item brought a question from the public about the sludge to be removed and its potential toxicity, i.e. mercury or arsenic present in the sludge. NID staff responded there are no testing requirements and they do not anticipate any toxins to be present. A question about the cost of the project was answered with an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. Restoring the reservoir to its original capacity is necessary to have it fulfill its function as a buffer. The Newtown Canal feeds into Lake Wildwood, having the reservoir fully functional allows for managing constant flows to the the treatment plant.
Director Weber asked why there was no executive summary of the EIR in the Board packet and how the EIR and the CEQA comment period was advertised to the public. Staff stated it was advertised in The Union only and the surrounding properties were notified. She asked about the nature of the easement on the private property, inquiring if it was a restricted or deeded easement, including the road leading to the reservoir. Staff promised to provide the answer at a later date. A biological inventory will be conducted, according to a statement from NID’s consultant.
Director Weber voiced her concern about the absence of a sediment analysis. “If you track where this sediment is coming from, I think you’ll find it could contain mercury or methylated mercury. I think before doing anything, you need to analyze the sediment.” She asked what happened to the beavers on the property. Staff responded this was the first time they’d ever heard of beavers. Director Miller interjected “Rodent-like creatures, small body, big tails,” to chuckles from the audience.
Director Drew added that the decline of the red-legged frog was due in part to the introduction of the bullfrog on California and that NID had restored habitat for the red-legged frog.
Chair Wilcox reminisced about teaching on the adjacent property and stated he was very familiar with the reservoir. “It is operationally necessary to pull the sediment out of the canal.” He added there were really nice, big trouts in that reservoir and some rare Coast Horned Lizards, difficult to spot as they are hiding in the serpentine-scrub landscape nearby and would not be affected by the project.
Director Drew made a motion to adopt the proposed resolution, seconded by Director Miller. On the roll call vote, Director Weber stated she would not vote Yes on this until she received answers to her questions. The motion passed by a 4-1 vote.
Hemphill Diversion Facility
Directors unanimously approved accepting a grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (VDFW) for the restoration of the Hemphill Reservoir. The diversion dam is located approximately 2 miles east of Lincoln, adjacent to the Turkey Creek Golf Club. Project objectives include development and oversight of a Technical Advisory Group, hydraulic analysis, a sediment transport study, baseline water quality data, and two seasons of adult Salmon, Steelhead, and Redd surveys, conducted above and below the diversion site in Auburn Ravine, according to NID. The Hemphill Diversion Project includes a $177K CDFW grant, along with $118K in funds provided by NID.
The project will run for several years, with completion anticipated in 2020.
Still hope for meeting videos produced by NID?
General Manager Rem Scherzinger announced item #5 dealing with the creation of a new full-time position was pulled from the agenda. Presumably, the new position of Public Affairs Coordinator will be brought back for approval at some point to the full board. The supporting documents for the item state, in part, “The District has steadily increased its reach, profile and impact as a California Water Special District over the years. As the District’s initiatives, projects and level of influence have increased, its need for a focused resource in Public Affairs is evident.”
In the past, the position has been handled by a number of different consultants and the approximate total cost was between $97,500 and $122,500 per year. The proposed salary of $85,508 (plus benefits) is in keeping with similar positions in neighboring districts, according to a comparison matrix provided in the supporting documents.
The silver lining for ratepayers and interested parties in watching meeting videos is found in the job description: “Develops, recommends and implements guidelines, regulations and procedures regarding District-wide print and electronic media such as brochures, articles, fact sheets, photographs, video, web pages, graphics, advertisements, news releases and other materials; works with managers and policy makers regarding web image, media image and conceptualizes approaches to enhance understanding and acceptance of District projects and programs; reviews materials prior to dissemination to the media, citizens, and employees; understands District’s project and program portfolio and ensures accuracy, thoroughness and understanding of materials; ensures materials enhance the District’s image.” and the position requires the ability to “Use advanced methods and equipment for producing pamphlets, presentations, documentation, website or video content.” [emphasis added]
The requirements appear to leave an option for the Public Affairs Coordinator to eventually produce the meeting videos, thus enabling NID’s ratepayers who are unable to attend the Wednesday morning meetings to see their District Board member in action and be better informed on the water agency’s plans and accomplishments.
In the meantime, YubaNet did livestream the meeting, the video is available below and on YouTube.
Editor’s Note: According to NID’s IT person, the district’s public wi-fi would not accommodate the bandwidth requirements for streaming. YubaNet was provided that information at 8:50 am on the day of the meeting. We used our mobile hotspot to stream the video to YouTube and no district bandwidth was harmed/used during the production of the video.