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Alpine under consideration for subconservancy district

by Christy Chalmers

Lawyers are meeting to devise a way for Alpine County, Calif., to join its Nevada counterparts in managing the Carson River watershed.

Directors of the Carson Water Subconservancy District, which includes four Nevada counties, decided Wednesday to research ways of adding Alpine to the district. Alpine officials previously approved the talks.

“We’re going to have our attorney talk with their attorney to explore ways of them becoming a member,” said Ed James, general manager for the Subconservancy District. “They just want to have a seat at the board, and we’re looking at how to make that work.”

The Subconservancy District covers the river’s watershed in Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Churchill counties. District members have adopted a philosophy of managing the watershed as an entire unit, instead of focusing on the segments within each political boundary.

Talk of adding Alpine County, where the river’s two forks originate, started about a year ago. At the time, plans were being made for Churchill County, Nev., to join the district. The addition of Churchill, which expanded the district board by two members to 11, was approved during the 1999 legislative session. The Carson River terminates in Churchill.

Alpine could be added to the district using a bi-state compact, but the action would probably have to be approved by both state legislatures. The Nevada Legislature convenes again in 2001, and James said the district wants the request to add Alpine, if it proceeds, to be ready for action then.

James acknowledged that the subconservancy board members are skeptical of creating a body like the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the bi-state board that governs the Lake Tahoe basin. The TRPA is infamous for political infighting and restrictive land use policies.

“They said, ‘Make sure it does not become a TRPA board,'” said James. “We’re actually quite different, though. We can’t make policies and we don’t make land use decisions, so we’re quite different than the way the TRPA is set up.”

James said he’ll probably inform the local governments in the subconservancy district of the talks with Alpine. Decisions about whether the board would be expanded and how much power Alpine would get – Douglas representatives have five votes and the other three counties each have two – have not been addressed.

If the idea succeeds, the Carson River watershed group might be setting a regional precedent.

“I don’t know a lot of watersheds that have this kind of arrangement,” said James. “There are several (interstate) compacts out there, but to look at this as a whole watershed, I think, is truly unique.”