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Ranchers want to fill void on water auhtority board

by Sheila Gardner

The Gardnerville Town Water Co. has bailed out of the Carson Valley Water Authority, but a coalition of ranchers wants to step in to fill the void.

Water company representative Tom Cook told the authority last week the utility decided to drop out because his board feels there is little direction for original goals of the CVWA and a lack of public support against the claims on Carson River water brought by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

“This is a very heartrending thing to me,” Cook said. “We’re to the point where we’re not really doing anything. I was really mad that only four or five people are keeping this thing going.”

Cook, one of the original CVWA members and a former chairman, said the Gardnerville water company would consider coming back if more people show an interest or the Paiute Tribe renews its claim to the upper Carson River.

The Gardnerville board, which gave $5,000 to the water authority in 1997, said it wouldn’t contribute any more money.

“We’re just a ‘mom and pop’ operation,” Cook said. He said the water company has raised its rates to fund several projects and can’t afford to contribute to the CVWA.

n Money dried up. The water authority has about $15,000 left to complete a project to map land taken out of production. Once that’s gone, remaining board members don’t anticipate an influx of any more money.

The water authority was formed by the Gardnerville Town Water Co. and the Minden Town Board in 1994 to protect water rights from outside interests. Three years later in 1997, when the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe pressed its claim, Douglas County joined, bringing in $100,000 to help fund legal and engineering work designed to protect the communities’ extensive water rights. The Town of Minden contributed $20,000 to the effort.

With Gardnerville dropping out of the authority, CWVA Chairman Bob Hadfield asked the group how it wished to proceed.

“It would be a serious mistake to underestimate the work that was accomplished,” Hadfield said. “I wouldn’t want anybody to cast any doubt that that work wasn’t important. I don’t want that diminished. Our spending authority is gone. I still think it is critical that this dialogue continue between these groups.”

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, through its attorney Robert Pelcyger, asked the federal government to reopen the Alpine Decree regulating Carson River allocation. The tribe claims that upper Carson River users waste water before it reaches the Lahontan Reservoir.

Pelcyger’s challenge led to a flurry of activity by the CVWA, which enlisted the support of Nevada’s congressional delegation to keep the federal government out of Carson River affairs. Users of the Carson River – including Douglas County farmers, ranchers and municipal entities – fear the Carson Valley would dry up if the water is sent downstream.

n No change. Pelcyger said Tuesday from Colorado that there is no new information from the Paiute Tribe as to the progress of their claim.

“Nothing’s happened,” he said. “There is no new information.”

Members were concerned that that Gardnerville’s departure from the group should not be viewed by the Paiute Tribe as a weakness in the organization or abandonment of the group’s purpose to protect water supplies.

Rancher David Hussman said he would meet with Mike Compston and Arnold Settelmeyer to define agriculture’s role in the authority and devise an assessment method, perhaps $1 per acre, to bring to the board’s next meeting.

The three ranchers have attended most of the water authority meetings.

“I’d like the board members to consider agriculture members to be a member of this board,” said Hussman. “We need to be members of this group. We have a whole lot of water to lose and no money to defend it.”

Board members assured Hussman that agriculture interests were at the forefront of their concerns.

“I think the water authority is all about coalition building,” Hadfield said. “That effort is not complete. Let’s keep this organization alive as an organization for that coalition building and encourage others to broaden their dialogue.

“We need to force everybody to look at and re-evaluate what’s important in this Valley. What’s our interest? It’s to make this Valley a beautiful place to live and so that outside interests can’t dictate we we can or cannot do in this Valley,” Hadfield said.

The board decided to begin meeting monthly and to invite the Carson Water Subconservancy District to attend the Feb. 16 meeting to discuss common issues.

n Eye of hurricane. “I think we’re in the eye of hurricane,” Hadfield said. “For the process we’re involved in in the state of Nevada – water planning issues – these are turbulent times. I think we’re in a momentary lull, but there is still a great deal of work to be done. I don’t want to imply that we’re just fighting outside interests. Water planning is really a logical part of growth and development. Water planning needs to be ahead of other processes in the county and regionally.

“I don’t want anyone to think the only reason we’re continuing is because of a threat. Water planning is a consideration any time you’re in an arid state with limited resources,” Hadfield said.

Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen, who represents Douglas County on the CVWA, suggested the group might want to organize a water summit of all entities involved in use of Carson River Water.

“I think this tree will bear fruit,” he said. “The county in no way wants to usurp anybody’s authority. There is a trust there.”

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