Bill in the works to protect Carson River |

Bill in the works to protect Carson River

by Jeff Munson, Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer plans to submit a bill later this year that could give wild and scenic status to the upper Carson River.

In the works for more than a year, the proposal would include protection of 47 miles of the river, from its point of origin in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area to the California-Nevada state line.

“We’ve made an extended effort to work with as many leaders and elected officials as we can and we’re making progress,” said Tom Bohigian, deputy state director for Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The bill would would target several rivers for protection in California, including the Carson River.

Wild and scenic status would protect the river from damming and diversions, and provide a 1/4-mile buffer zone on both sides of the river.

“There are very few large rivers that are free-flowing in California, and the Carson River is one of them,” said Steve Evans, conservation director of Friends of the River, a Sacramento-based conservation group.

However, an effort to extend the federal designation into Nevada is now dead because of what Evans calls “political reasons.”

The Carson Water Subconservancy District, which monitors the Carson River watershed in Northern Nevada, successfully urged the U.S. Forest Service to exclude the Nevada side in a comprehensive study of the river, Evans said.

District Director Ed James said the Subconservancy has been looking into ways that would help the river through years of drought, and has developed models that would allow the river to flow continuously.

The problem with extending wild and scenic status into Nevada is that the Carson River is a main source for agriculture water use in region, James said. While the intention may be good, the federal status would prohibit future work on the overall watershed, he said.

In August, Alpine County supervisors met with Bohigian and the Forest Service to discuss the protection plan, and received a lukewarm response.

“The board hasn’t taken a formal position, however, they’ve expressed concern about who benefits from the designation,” said Judy Molnar, assistant to the Alpine County Board of Supervisors.

Because Alpine County shares similar uses of the river with Douglas County, including irrigation, supervisors are reluctant to take a position, she added.

“We don’t want to take a position that conflicts with Nevada’s position,” Molnar said.

The wild and scenic protection plan, however, has been endorsed by the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

n Staff writer Jeff Munson can be reached at