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New subsconservancy head is given high marks

by Sheila Gardner

In the four months that Ed James has been charting the course of the Carson River Water Subconservancy District, he’s earned high marks from a board of directors with agendas as diverse as the three counties they represent.

With an extensive background in water management, James has given himself a crash course in Carson River history and issues. He was hired in August as the district’s first full-time general manager at a time when the board was examining its role.

“Two years ago, we were at a juncture, asking ourselves, ‘Are we going to exist or not exist?’ We needed someone to help coordinate regional programs as this area grows. We need to coordinate with river groups, looking at where we’re going to be in the future,” James said.

Douglas County Commissioner Kelly Kite joined the board in January 1997, in the aftermath of the devastating New Year’s flood.

Kite and other Douglas representatives were so frustrated with the subconservancy district that they were considering dropping out. Over the last two years, however, the board has coalesced.

“If I was to go out and hand pick a board for the subconservancy district, I couldn’t do a better job than the one we have now,” Kite said.

“The first thing we did was sponsor projects on the river after the flood,” Kite said. “We wouldn’t have gotten any money if we hadn’t sponsored the projects. The subconservancy district had never done that before. The second thing we did was take responsibility for continued maintenance of the levees for water diversion.”

Kite said the new members who came on in 1997 underwent “trial by fire” because of the devastating flood.

“A spirit of cooperation has carried on. We’re willing as a board to do the best we can with what we have,” Kite said.

He has high praise for James who is paid approximately $80,000 annually to manage the subconservancy district.

“I think he is doing a great job,” Kite said. “I like his willingness to roll up his sleeves and go to work. He is keeping us on track. I think future water issues will be our biggest challenge, but that’s nothing new. It’s been like that for 130 years. I don’t see it changing. We have got to protect our water.”

James said he is impressed with the people he’s met whose business is the river.

n Dedication. “A lot of people are really dedicated,” he said. “They really have a passion. I see my job as working with them to help facilitate projects and programs. I’m not here to do what those groups are already doing. I’m here to help work with them. I’ve been spending most of my time meeting with them to see what their focus is and how the district can relate.”

James said as an outsider coming in, he’s been listening.

“My job is to come in and work with different groups to get these projects started. If we’re interested in a regional pipeline or a pilot study on recharge, it makes a lot of sense to coordinate a watershed plan,” James said.

n From the beginning. Carson Valley rancher Andy Aldax has been on the board since its creation in the 1950s.

“I enjoy serving on it,” he said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. I enjoy the people I work with.”

When Aldax was appointed, the board’s job was to act as a contracting agent for the Watasheamu Dam, a project which was never built.

The Nevada Legislature changed the subconservancy district’s focus in the late 1980s.

“The subconservancy district is taking a greater look at the river management,” Aldax said. “In the future, the district will look towards serving the municipal needs and things like that.”

Aldax said he welcomes James as the board’s first full-time director.

“Ed is doing great,” Aldax said. “He’s sharp, he’s got his eyes open and things are going well for us.”

James, 40, came to Carson City from California where he worked for eight years. Previously, he had been in Colorado.

“When I came out, California was booming. I got an offer with a private consulting firm to come out to Southern California. I started to read the newspapers and I saw the same (Colorado) trends come to California – the last one in is the first one out. I started looking around. The Chino Basin Municipal Water District hired me to develop their water program. I was a member of the Metropolitan Water District Southern California. We served more than 600,000 people, had 26 cities, 10 industrial users and 300 farmers.”

James and his wife Christie decided Southern California was not the place to raise their three children. They were considering Northern California , when Christie saw a newspaper ad for the Carson River subconservancy district job.

“She called (former director) Ira Rackley and talked to him before I did,” he said.

James began work in August and the family settled in Carson City with their three children, Aaron, 11, Nathan, 9, and Melissa, 5.

“We love Carson City,” he said. “Christie is very active with the Cub Scouts and is a team mom in sports. I love coaching my sons’ soccer and baseball teams and I’d like to get back to that here. We also had a youth group in Colorado.”

James and the district have an ambitious list of projects for 1999, including a decision whether to add Churchill County to the district.

“If you look at the Carson River watershed as a whole, it doesn’t make sense not to include everybody. Churchill County would complete the picture. I think we should include Alpine County, but that’s California. We’ll be working hand-in-hand to get Alpine involved as much as we can.”

The district now includes parts of Carson City, Douglas and Lyon counties within the Carson River watershed. Churchill is considered a logical addition because the river ends there.

James said the subconservancy district, while looking at tomorrow, is planning in a 20-to-50-year time frame.

“We have to make sure there is an adequate water supply to meet the community needs for the future – the traditional agricultural needs, recreational needs and future municipal and industrial needs. That’s the biggest challenge, how to plan for the future. There is no cookbook approach to it.”

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