Minden allocates $20,000 for water fight
The Minden Town Board voted last week to allocate $20,000 in “seed money” supporting legal efforts to protect the upper basin of the Carson River from threatened appropriation to the Lahontan Reservoir.
The money will be used to pay legal and engineering fees, estimated at $20,000 per month, to battle a challenge by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe which hopes to reopen the Alpine decree that regulates Carson River water.
The Paiute Tribe, represented by Boulder, Colo. attorney Robert Pelcyger, has written to federal officials claiming that the large quantities of water in the Carson River are being wasted, diversions and deliveries are not controlled and the constraints imposed by the applicable decrees are being disregarded. Pelcyger is also attempting to claim post-1902 groundwater for the Lahontan Reservoir.
Water users along the river are concerned that if the Paiute Tribe is successful, the Valley’s groundwater supplies will dry up. Officials argue that groundwater rights are under the jurisdiction of the state, not the federal government, and are not subject to the provisions of the Alpine decree.
“What you have are two totally divergent views on the administration of the water,” said Minden town counsel George Keele. “Unless the matter is vigorously addressed, the town’s 11,000 acre feet of water could dwindle to 2,000 to 3,000 in 10 or 15 years. Pelcyger’s arguments need to be carefully countered.”
The county’s response to the Pelcyger challenge is being coordinated through the Carson Valley Water Authority whose members include Minden Town Board and the Gardnerville Town Water Co., with Douglas County as a prospective member.
“The town (Minden) has the greatest quantity of water rights to protect,” said Keele.
Town Board officials are hoping the county will kick in with revenue from the 7-cent water tax to help offset the fees. The water authority is in the process of establishing a fee structure to help pay the legal and engineering bills.
“This is where I see the water tax coming in,” said board member Bob Hadfield. “This is a valley-wide problem.”
The water authority is seeking a meeting with federal officials in Washington, D.C. to respond to the Paiute Tribe’s claims.