In a strategic move to fortify its water delivery system, the Nevada Irrigation District (NID) has successfully acquired essential infrastructure previously managed by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). The transfer includes the Deer Creek hydroelectric development, encompassing the South Yuba Canal, Chalk Bluff Canal, Deer Creek Powerhouse, and associated canals and facilities.

The linchpin of this acquisition is the South Yuba Canal, a crucial conduit that transports water from mountain headwaters – specifically from the Jackson Meadows, Bowman, and Spaulding area – down to just above Scotts Flat Reservoir. Beyond facilitating popular recreational activities by keeping the reservoir full, the canal serves as the primary water supply conveyance for NID’s customers throughout Nevada County, including Grass Valley and Nevada City.

NID's General Manager, Jennifer Hanson, emphasized the pivotal role of the South Yuba Canal, stating: “The South Yuba Canal is the lifeblood of Nevada County. This acquisition is an important move to protect the District’s critical water delivery system from the source headwaters high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.”

Constructed between 1854 and 1858 by the South Yuba Mining and Canal Company, the canal has a storied history, initially delivering water for hydraulic mining during the gold rush. 

PG&E's purchased the water system in 1905, including the Deer Creek Powerhouse, the utility's inaugural project generating 5.7MW. NID’s recent acquisition from PG&E encompasses the Deer Creek Development, along with specific land areas, water rights, FERC license, and easements.

As part of the agreement, NID will dedicate a 700-acre conservation easement to the Bear Yuba Land Trust, ensuring the protected lands remain shielded from future development.

The decision to acquire the Deer Creek facilities was prompted by PG&E's indication that the facilities no longer aligned with its business plan. The NID Board of Directors approved the resolution for the purchase in November 2018, and subsequent approvals were obtained from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

While recognizing the ongoing costs associated with maintaining aging infrastructure, the NID Board stressed the necessity of securing the South Yuba Canal for reliable water delivery to diverse customers in the future. Jennifer Hanson affirmed: "The South Yuba Canal is vital and necessary to ensure NID continues to reliably provide water to our diverse customers into the future."

Above: South Yuba Canal. Top Image: Deer Creek Powerhouse, images courtesy of NID