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Officials hope to get together on water woes

Sheila Gardner

With all the overtones of a dysfunctional family barbecue, Douglas County’s water purveyors meet Thursday in what officials hope will be the first few steps toward an integrated water system.

“I’d like to see the county literally come together and take the first steps toward an integrated water plan in Douglas County instead of the piecemeal approach we’ve had for the last 130 years,” said Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen.

“I think it’s doable,” he said. “It’s going to take a little bit of hard work not to dredge up the past sins of which there are plenty to go around. My philosophy is going to be ‘I don’t care what happened yesterday, we’re going to tomorrow.'”

Etchegoyhen said officials are fighting what he calls the misconception that the county wants to control the water.

“I think we’re the most appropriate tool to integrating Douglas County’s water systems, but what I’m going to try to truly convey is that I don’t care who is in charge, we just need to put it together. The current county commission is generally not into a lot of big egos. We’re not in it for control. We want the best, most efficient, highest quality water system we can provide at the least cost,” he said.

Thursday’s county commission meeting begins at 4 p.m. at the CVIC Hall in Minden. The water session is to begin at 6 p.m. and last for two hours.

Presenters include State Engineer Mike Turnipseed, Carson Valley Water Authority consultant Jim Vasey, and Ira Rackley of the Carson Subconservancy District. Also up for discussion will be the 1994 Carson Valley Comprehensive Water Plan prepared by Vasey.

“I’ll be there to answer questions,” Turnipseed said. “I’ll be explaining the need to come up with some kind of water plan. The county has enough groundwater rights to meet growth demands up to a certain point, but they need to be thinking about alternative water supplies.”

County Manager Dan Holler said a challenge by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to the Upper Carson River provided impetus for Thursday’s meeting. The Paiute Tribe claims that Carson River water is being wasted through inadequate management and has asked federal officials to look at the longstanding Alpine decree which regulates distribution of the upper Carson to all water users including ranchers and municipalities.

“Douglas County needs to come forward with one voice and one accord,” Holler said. “We need to strengthen how we do that. It requires looking beyond jurisdictional boundaries.

“We need to ask, for instance, does it matter to the rest of us what Indian Hills does or Minden does? Should it matter? Or do we all draw our little boundaries? It’s tough to get by that, but we have to,” he said.

Etchegoyhen said he hopes the meeting will be well attended by representatives of the county’s water purveyors as well as residents.

“Why is this important to John Q. Public? It’s because there are spots in Douglas County where if we don’t do something, there will be inadequate or dangerous water supplies that don’t meet standards,” he said. “Plus, in 10 years I can easily see spending $10 million. It’s a bit high, but we really do have to have a safe system. With grants, we’ve spent $10 million at the Lake of public money and close to $1 million of that was county money. The situation in the Valley is quite similar.”

Etchegoyhen said he doesn’t envision a water czar running the county systems.

“I don’t think the other entities would let one person have that much control,” Etchegoyhen said. “I think the best way to look at this is that Douglas County is like a family and in all families, you have disagreements. You have some siblings and you just think, ‘Where are they headed?’ But in the end, we’re still all a family. In my opinion, this discussion is long, long overdue.”