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Reid says he supports water authority

by Sheila Gardner

Douglas County commissioners are looking for more than a verbal commitment from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, that he will protect their Carson River interests in a federal dispute with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

But Reid said Friday he is on record as a supporter of the efforts to keep the federal government out of management of the Carson River.

Water consultant Jim Vasey told the commissioners Thursday that the Paiute Tribe’s challenge of the Alpine decree which regulates distribution of the Carson River is far from over.

“Through a united and coordinated effort by the Carson Valley Water Authority, we’ve headed off a response by the (U.S.) Justice and Interior departments,” Vasey said. “Sen. (Richard) Bryan wrote a very good letter that he supported the Alpine decree and stood behind state control of our water.

“Nobody else in our congressional district has done the same,” Vasey said. “Sen. Reid said he would take care of things for us, but there has been nothing in writing.”

Reid said Friday in a telephone interview from Elko that he has written on behalf of the county.

“We sent a letter to the departments of Justice and the Interior and copied in the County Commission,” Reid said. “I have made a number of public announcements that this isn’t anything the federal government needs to get involved with.”

Vasey said Thursday he was concerned that once the Truckee River Operating Agreement is signed, the Paiute Tribe will turn its attention back to the Carson. The Paiute Tribe and Reid are major players in the Truckee River plan.

“My work on the Truckee has nothing to do with this,” Reid said of the Alpine decree.

n Election issue? Vasey told commissioners he was unable to determine from State Water Engineer Pete Morros when the document might be adopted, “but certain people hope it will be approved before the November elections.”

Reid faces a November challenge from Rep. John Ensign, R-Las Vegas.

“Maybe Sen. Reid won’t be around after November,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger.

Reid said he hopes the decree is adopted before the end of the year.

Vasey, on behalf of the Carson Valley Water Authority, is coordinating the agency’s response to a December 1996 letter from Paiute Tribal attorney Robert Pelcyger challenging how the Carson River water is distributed.

The letter was sent to the Justice and Interior departments on behalf of the Paiute tribe alleging that the water master and state engineer were improperly administering the Carson River under state law and the Alpine decree. The letter also claimed that the supposed mismanagement was to the detriment of the Paiute Tribe through loss of water entitlements.

The water authority and other users of the Carson River fear that opening the Alpine decree may subject the water to interference at the federal level.

Bryan is on record upholding the state’s right to manage the Carson River, while Vasey said Reid has made a verbal commitment.

Reid said he also made his allegiance to the water authority known at last April’s Carson River conference.

“I’m on record everywhere,” Reid said. “They (county commissioners) may have some things to worry about, but this isn’t one of them. Tell them I’ll work with them.”

The Carson Valley Water Authority includes Douglas County, the Town of Minden and the Gardnerville Town Water Co.

So far, the Gardnerville Ranchos and Indian Hills general improvement districts have refused to join.

The county allocated $80,000 to the agency, the town of Minden gave $50,000 and the water company $5,000.

Vasey outlined the water authority’s progress over the past 18 months.

Vasey also recommended that the board insist the state use population and water tables the county prepared in the upcoming Nevada water plan.

The water plan is being prepared by state water planner Naomi Duerr.

The Carson Valley Water Authority has expressed concern that if the state believes Douglas County has too much water, the supply may be subject to forfeiture or transfer to other areas.

“My concern is that you have a state water plan prepared by a state demographer that may be a document some one could stand up and use against you in court,” Vasey said. “At least you can go on record as opposing what she does.”

n Reward conservation. He also urged the board to push for legislation that would reward conservation efforts by ranchers and other water users.

“You shouldn’t stand to lose water rights because you are more efficient,” Vasey said.

The water plan – the first in 25 years – is expected to presented to the Legislature in February.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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