U.S. Water News Online
FALLON, Nev. -- An effort to settle a massive water rights
dispute between local farmers and the Pyramid Lake Pauite Tribe will
likely not be complete by a 2006 deadline, the Fallon City Council
A state-negotiated agreement calls for the tribe to drop protests
against more than 2,000 water rights claims if the Carson Water
Subconservancy District purchases and retires 6,500 acres of water
rights, so that less water from the Truckee and Carson rivers is
allocated to Lahontan Valley farms.
"Where we are now, it doesn't look like we'll be able to reach
that goal," CWSD director Ed James told Fallon officials.
The 1993 protest of local farmers' water rights came amidst
lingering concern over the endangered Cui-ui fish that live in
Pyramid Lake. The tribe's attorney, Robert Pelcyger, said the
protests were in response to a "concerted, systematic effort to
revive dormant water rights that had not been used in a long time."
Local growers listed in the protest deny their water rights were
dormant and many have proceeded with litigation.
The agreement to retire more water in exchange for dropping the
protest was penned in 1999 with the help of the Nevada State
Officials from the tribe, the city of Fallon, Churchill County and
the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District felt it would give
litigation-weary farmers a way out of expensive court battles and
still get paid market value for their challenged water.
Before the program began, James said, he was concerned too many
people would want to participate and there wouldn't be enough money
to buy all the water.
That didn't happen.
After about five years, the CWSD has purchased about 2,400 acres
of water rights. There is now less than two years to go before the
program, which was already extended from a 2004 deadline, ends. But
CWSD hasn't abandoned the program, James said.
"We're still pushing hard because we still believe this is a good
program," he said.
More than 500 acres of Lahontan Valley farmland have been put back
into production as a result of the program, James said, and that
success will stick whether the program reaches its goal or not.
City Attorney Mike Mackedon, who represented Fallon during
negotiation of the agreement known as the AB 380 program, said the
program succeeds with every water right purchased and retired.
"Even if you only purchase 3,000 acres, you've succeeded in
settling 3,000 acres worth of litigation," Mackedon said.
James is looking to persuade people to sell water they don't use
into the program before the 2006 deadline.
"Our goal is to buy water that cannot be served, water that can't
be used right now," he said.
Some city residents own small amounts of water rights, James said,
but there are no longer canals running up to their property. While
the residents can't use the water, they still pay operation fees to
the local irrigation district. They could sell their small water
right to a farmer but transfer fees and a possible challenge to the
water right's validity would make it a less than worthwhile for most
buyers, James said.
But the CWSD will buy it.
The district increased the price it's willing to pay for an acre
foot by $600 last month. It now pays $3,800 per acre foot in the
Truckee River division and $2,200 in the Carson River division.
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