Sierra Watch comments on Bear River dam report

Earlier today, I posted the report on the proposed Bear River Dam, which I’d written about this past weekend. Now Sierra Watch has weighed in with its comments:

“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 contact Peter Van Zant, Sierra Watch Field Director, at (530) 265-2849.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

2 thoughts on “Sierra Watch comments on Bear River dam report”

  1. Talking to a number of people on multiple water boards the mercury levels will stop any dam from being built. I don’t have my notes handy but that was the gist of what they told me last year after sutter water district came to town.

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