Resident is concerned about ditch project | RecordCourier.com

Resident is concerned about ditch project

by Sharon Carter

When Mable Havens, 85, and her late husband, Jerry, built their home on Elges Avenue in the 1970s, concerns about irrigating their property centered around whether the Carson River would be more than a trickle during the dry years and if there would be enough water left for them after the agricultural users on the Company Ditch took what they needed.

A new, affordable housing apartment complex, Crestmore Village Apartments, is proposed for the 5-acre alfalfa field across the street from Havens’ home and she fears her irrigation water could be at risk.

Havens said she is concerned about the project on many levels.

She worries an influx of families into the neighborhood will increase the already growing traffic flow and create unwarranted dangers for children who will have to wait on the street for school buses.

She said she and her neighbors mourn the potential loss of their unobstructed views of the fields and Pine Nut Mountains, and they fear the value of their properties will decline as a result of the three-building project.

But, perhaps most aggravating to Havens, is that in order to build the complex, Picerne Development of Phoenix is required by the county to move the ditch underground – something Havens believes could increase her water woes.

“We all have water rights on that ditch, rights that go with the land,” Havens had told planning commissioners Tuesday. “The Federal Watermaster controls the ditch and I don’t believe it can be covered. Has (watermaster) Garry Stone approved it?”

After the planning commission approved the apartment complex Tuesday, Havens and her neighbors vowed to carry their protests further.

Wednesday, Havens worked at her home computer preparing for Thursday’s meeting of the Gardnerville Town Board. She generated letters protesting the three building, 40-unit complex.

By the town board’s 6 p.m. meeting, Havens and her neighbors had collected more than 60 signatures.

“The water situation is very important – people don’t seem to realize if there’s a water right, it has to be protected,” Havens said.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Federal Watermaster Garry Stone said the first he had heard about enclosing the ditch was when Edna Stodick, Havens’ sister and another holder of water rights on the ditch, contacted him.

“There are active, decreed water rights being served by that ditch,” Stone said. “The 130-year-old rights are inviolate. They can’t be tampered with without the agreement of the ditch company or unless the ditch has been abandoned. That ditch has not been abandoned, and it still serves Stodick and Chichester water rights further north.”

David Hussman of the Water Conveyance Advisory Board (or less formally, the Ditch Committee), said he recalled that Picerne Development had been to the board.

“It’s likely the frontage on the property is all that has to be piped and, if it’s called for, they’ll have to divert water from the culvert, under the road to pieces of land that have to be irrigated,” Hussman said. “It doesn’t look like we’ll have any trouble over there.”

The ditch committee will review the developer’s plans, which will include any necessary diversions to get the water over to the west side of the road, at its March 2 meeting.

But for Havens and her neighbors, the fight will continue. They hope to garner more support by the time the Douglas County Commissioners vote on the project at the March 5 meeting.

“I don’t have anything against affordable housing. I think it’s needed,” Havens said. “I just feel there are better places for it.”

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

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