End in Sight for Truckee River Water Dispute

Jan. 28, 2008
Study concludes proposed agreement would boost water quality

There might be an end in sight to the longstanding dispute over the Truckee River’s waters since federal officials said a proposed agreement between various parties would result in no significant adverse environmental impacts, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The Truckee River Operating Agreement would provide a key boost to the river's water quality and fishery, the final environmental study by the U.S. Department of Interior and California Department of Water Resources concluded, according to the paper.

The operating agreement, designed to end decades of conflict over the river’s water by balancing the interests of Fallon-area farmers, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe's fisheries and upstream urban users, was negotiated by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 1990, the newspaper reported.

“I'm 100% sure the agreement will be signed this year,” Betsy Rieke, Lahontan Basin area manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said. “The completion of the final EIS [environmental impact statement] has provided enormous momentum.

“It's historic … Users have fought over Truckee River water use since the late 1800s,” Rieke added.

The Truckee flows more than 100 miles from the California side of Lake Tahoe to empty into Nevada’s Pyramid Lake.

There are still several hurdles remaining before the agreement can be signed, according to Kenneth Parr, deputy area manager for the reclamation bureau.

He said his agency must complete a water storage contract for the Reno area's water purveyor and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne must sign a record of decision, the paper reported. The operating agreement must also be approved through a referendum vote by the tribe.

Two court decrees concerning the Truckee's water must be modified to include terms of the agreement before implementation could begin, Parr added.

“We would like to begin implementation of the operating agreement in a couple of years,” Parr told the paper. “I think we've gotten through the biggest hoops and that's getting the final EIS and EIR [environmental impact report] out.”

Lori Williams, general manager of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, said legal challenges could further delay the operating agreement, the paper reported. Her agency provides water to the Reno area.

“There could be lawsuits that could take us out several years,” Williams told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Under the agreement, the paper reported, Reno, Sparks and Washoe County would provide water rights to improve water quality in the lower Truckee River and the amount of drought water storage for the Reno area would triple.

The agreement also would enable a permanent allocation of water between Nevada and California in the Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Carson River basins and improve conditions for the endangered cui-ui and threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, reclamation bureau officials said.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune