Facing a challenge from the Paiute tribe which threatens $129 million in Carson Valley ground water rights, county and Minden officials unclogged an 11-year logjam Wednesday, agreeing to work on a pipeline which would render water transfer applications unnecessary.
"By connecting our water systems, we can deliver that water without permits because the place of use already exists," said Minden town engineer Bruce Scott.
The town board hosted county commissioners to discuss litigation related to the management, transfer and use of water rights, approval of infrastructure projects to connect the town and county water systems and federal and state drinking water standards.
With 10,000 acre feet, Minden is the largest holder of ground water rights on the Carson River in Douglas County and is in a position to deliver water throughout Carson Valley.
Town Board Chairman Ray Wilson said members felt the county had ignored its overtures in the past.
"We don't know if it even gets to your board or not," he told the commissioners. "It's really frustrating. If we'd made the (pipeline) connection four or five years ago, we wouldn't be facing the problems we are facing today with the Indian tribe."
The town hopes to construct a $2.2 million pipeline along Heybourne Road with an easement from Bently Agrowdynamics which would connect to a county pipeline near the airport.
With a pipeline in place, the town could transfer its vast water holdings to wells throughout Carson Valley.
By proving beneficial use to the state, Minden and Douglas County can protect water resources from transfer to other entities.
"Our sole purpose is to make available for orderly development water that meets water quality standards," said town board member Robert Hadfield. "There have concerns and comments recently about profiteering. The representatives of the town board meet annually with the state water engineer and staff. We've always been encouraged to continue to develop the Minden water system."
Town board member Ross Chichester and County Commissioner Nancy McDermid agreed to bring a pipeline proposal to county commissioners for the March 6 meeting.
"We became involved in this 11 years ago and we need to get this done," said Commissioner Kelly Kite. "For whatever reason, we get this started and a crisis comes up, and it gets moved to the back burner. The problem is the devil's in the details. Until we say, 'Here's an agreement we can agree on,' it's not going to happen."
Last month, Minden hired a law firm to litigate challenges by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to Carson River water.
The tribe claims the Carson River is over-appropriated, affecting the flow of the Truckee River into Pyramid Lake which serves the Paiutes.
"If the Paiute tribe is successful, construction in this Valley comes to an end," Wilson said.
He promised the water would stay in Carson Valley.
"We're here to protect 10,000 acre feet of the water we have, not make a big profit off it," he said. "They can't stop us from putting water through a pipe."
ABCs OF WATER
n Acre foot - A unit commonly used for measuring the quantity of water; the amount that will cover 1 acre to a depth of 1 foot; consists of 326,000 gallons.
n Beneficial use - A use of water that is, in general, of public benefit and which promotes the peace, safety, health and welfare of the people of the state. A certificated water right is obtained by putting water to beneficial use and can be lost if beneficial use is discontinued.
n Certificated water right - A state-issued document that serves as legal evidence that an approved application has been physically developed and the water put to beneficial use. The certificate establishes priority date, type of beneficial use, and the maximum amount of water that can be used. The water right can be forfeited after five or more consecutive years of nonuse.
n Ground water - Generally, all subsurface water; specifically, the part that is in the saturated zone of a defined aquifer; water that seeps or flows downward and saturates soil or rock, supplying springs and wells.
n Surface water - An open body of water such as a stream, lake or reservoir; a source of drinking water that originates in river, lakes and run-off from melting snow.
Source: Nevada Division of Water Resources