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Developing Positive Stakeholder Relationships During Design of the Banner Cascade Pipeline Project

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Nevada Irrigation District (NID) is a pubic utility district located in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. As the second largest district by size in the State, it provides irrigation and treated water services and generates hydroelectric power. NID has an extensive century-old canal system that provides raw water to both irrigation customers and to NID's water treatment plants. One of these canals, the Lower Cascade Canal, required replacement and upsizing to meet increasing demand. The location of the Canal has made upgrading prohibitively expensive: a new raw water pipeline called the Banner Cascade Pipeline has been adopted instead as a preferred alternative.

Implementation was delayed by numerous stakeholder objections during the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Environmental Impact Report (EIR) approval process. The EIR was eventually approved, but significant negative attitudes towards NID from the stakeholders remained. Negative stakeholder attitudes towards NID had arisen during a previous project in the area and this legacy had persisted despite the passage of time.

As NID entered the design and construction phase, it saw the repair of these existing, negative relationships as integral to successful project implementation. Creating effective communication and trust between the parties would be key, and a primary goal was thus to repair these relationships. Repairing stakeholder relationships required NID to develop unique and comprehensive strategies for public outreach. Termed 'public consultation' rather than 'public outreach' to emphasize a two-way communication, adopted strategies have improved the relationship between NID and the stakeholders. These strategies included:

Regular informal-style public meetings and workshops, coupled with neighborhood group meetings in stakeholder homes;

Individualized and responsive communication with stakeholders;

An emphasis on transparency and demonstration and explanation of incorporation or otherwise of stakeholder input;

Creation of mutual respect between the parties;

Generation of an environment conducive to effective communication during public events.
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Keywords: Public consultation; canals; effective communication strategies; openness and transparency; pipeline; public outreach; stakeholders; water

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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