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Coalition evaluates Carson River

by Linda Hiller, staff writer

From the air, the East and West forks of the Carson River look like thin, wrinkled satin ribbons laying across the Carson Valley, crookedly paralleling each other from south to north, joining before they reach Genoa.

From the ground, the Carson River river flows through agricultural land, urban developments, golf courses, under highways and around trailer parks as well as homes.

People fish and boat on the river, birds nest near it, farmers depend on it and yet, as rivers go, the Carson River isn’t particularly mighty. But ever since the devastating 1997 New Year’s flood, when there was no doubt about the potential power of the river, experts have put their heads together to try and find some way of preservation and control.

A group of such experts, the Carson River Coalition, representing five counties – Alpine, Calif., Douglas, Carson City, Lyon and Churchill – met last week to further their work on an integrated watershed plan.

For now, the coalition is concentrating on the stretch of river between the old Ruhenstroth power dam and the Muller Lane bridge in the Carson Valley.

“This is a huge task,” said watershed coordinator and meeting facilitator Meg Getty. “We’re trying and take some of our ideas from motherhood and apple pie thoughts to actual, tangible goals.”

“We do want to bring the ideas down to a practical level and to engage the public more,” said Ed James, general manager of the Carson Water Subconservancy District.

n Why here first? The selection of the south Carson Valley segment of the river to be discussed first was logical, Getty said.

“We are more familiar with the Nevada reaches than the California reaches and besides, so much of the California land is federal that it makes it difficult for us to address,” she said. “This stretch is a good representation, and it made sense to start at the uppermost part of the river and move from there.”

Participants are working on a much larger project than most other watershed planning groups tackle, Getty said.

“There are very few models out there for us to follow,” she said. “Most watershed plans are written for 100 square miles or less. Ours is 3,960 square miles.”

n Who they are. The CRC is comprised of representatives from county, state and federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the University of Nevada, Reno, Cooperative Extension, the Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada, Environmental Protection Agency, Carson Water Subconservancy District, US Geological Survey, Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development, and the Desert Research Institute.

“We would hope to have something to bring to the communities next spring,” Getty said. “This is intended to be a working project and document.”

Although the findings and conclusions of the coalition are technically not enforceable, they will be a guide for the various stewards along the river to use.

“We have the luxury of seeing the mistakes of our neighbors along the Truckee and the Walker rivers,” Getty said. “It gives us a glimpse, but we’re still not a regulatory agency and can’t enforce our recommendations.”

n You can participate. The next meeting of the Carson River Coalition will be Monday, Dec. 11 at 11:30 a.m. in the Carson City Community Center. The public is welcome. For more information, call Getty at 782-7838.