County will move water right transfer
December 19, 2006
County officials have withdrawn an application to pull another 15 acre feet from a well by the Ruhenstroth Fire Station after residents charged that overdevelopment and poor planning is sucking the life out of their wells.
The transfer will be reassigned to an area outside Ruhenstroth.
A room full of angry Ruhenstroth residents challenged the proposal before Commissioner Doug Johnson and Community Development Director Mitch Dion late Friday.
Several said they had to drill their wells deeper. Others said they have sand in their water.
According to a U.S. Geological Survey report, the Ruhenstroth area groundwater table has dropped an estimated 5 to 10 feet.
“We thought it may be 10 to 15 years down the road before the wells dry up, but if we let this happen it could be two to three years,” said one Ruhenstroth resident.
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Dion said the problem isn’t new. Residents have been drawing water beyond the recharge rate on the east side of Carson Valley for many years.
“We have to recognize that there’s no effective recharge along the eastern portion of Valley,” he said. “We have an issue we will have to address sooner or later and in my opinion, we have to start talking and planning.”
The issue arose after an application was filed Oct. 11 with the state water engineer to divert about 15-acre-feet of water annually from Minden Well No. 4. The water would have been diverted to the Douglas County Fairgrounds well near the Ruhenstroth Volunteer Fire Department on Pinto Circle, had the proposal been approved.
The diversion is required because developer Peter Beekhof purchased the water from Minden for his Old Sawmill Industrial Park.
This transfer would have increased the well’s output by only 9.28 gallons per minute, but when added to other applications from the same well, the 225-gallon-per-minute is exceeded, said Minden engineer Bruce Scott in a letter to well owners.
Johnson said this issue is just the tip of the iceberg. Per suggestions at the meeting, about 20 people signed up to serve on a committee to address the issues.
“Everyone needs to realize we are maskng the overall problem,” he said. “Hopefully this committee will look at that.”
There is enough water to support the current population. Agricultural ditches provide the best recharge for wells, but most of those are on the west side of Carson Valley, Dion said.
“We don’t want to develop in the floodplain for those reasons,” he said. “But we have to move water where the people are to preserve open spaces for intrinsic values and recharge.”
Ranchers are protecting the water here, but we are doing nothing for them. County officials are willing to hand over millions in redevelopment funds to developers based in Louisiana or Arkansas, one resident said.
“We could use that money to get a water system, so we don’t have to start redrilling our wells every 10 years,” he said.
Susie Vasquez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 211.