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Subconservancy district advised to say ‘no’ to TROA

by Sheila Gardner

To directors of the Carson Water Subconservancy District, “TROA” is just another four-letter word.

TROA – the Truckee River Operating Agreement – is undergoing a lengthy review and ratification process, and members of the Carson River group are adamant that they won’t sign it.

“Just tell them, ‘Hell, no. Letter to follow,'” said Bernie Curtis, a subconservancy district director and Douglas County commissioner. “It’s important to draft a letter why we’re not signing.”

Director Andy Aldax, who is also a member of the Carson Truckee Water Conservancy District and a Douglas County rancher, said the Carson-Truckee group was asked to sign the TROA.

He raised the issue with Carson River group Tuesday night to determine if signing the document would simply mean the group supported the Truckee River pact or if it would give the agencies more clout in how the operating agreement is implemented.

Ira Rackley, who is wrapping up his tenure as the subsconservancy district general manager, cautioned the group against signing.

“If you read the Truckee River Operating Agreement, the Carson River is not mentioned, is not involved. But simple math will tell you that there are 600,000 acre feet of water and there used to be 250,000 acre feet of water in Pyramid Lake. TROA increases the water and there is only on place it comes out – the Derby Dam diversion.

“The Carson and Truckee Rivers are not separate. Everytime they allocate an acre foot of water from the Truckee canal, it depletes the Carson. Eventually, the revised Truckee River Operating Agreement will allocate more water to Pyramid Lake. The only place they have to get it is the lower Carson River,” Rackley said.

He fears if the subconservancy district signs the Truckee River agreement, “it indicates the board approves of what happens to the Carson River.”

n Conditions for combat. “What TROA creates is condition for combat,” Curtis said. “It will create water wars between Nevada and California and upper and lower users of the Carson.”

Director Kay Bennett, a Carson City representative to the subconservancy district, urged the board to look to the future.

“Years down the line, when the impacts of TROA are being felt, our neighbors in Churchill County will be asking us, ‘Why did you sign this?’ It sets the seeds for lots and lots of controversy along the line,” Bennett said.

“After years of watching TROA’s secret negotiations, it’s going to mean wall-to-wall houses and casinos in Truckee Meadows for the benefit of Sierra Pacific,” said Jacques Etchegoyhen. “It hurts a lot of ranchers down stream.”

In other action Tuesday, the board appointed a subcommittee to determine whether to ask the Nevada Legislature to open membership in the subconservancy district to Churchill County.

Acting legal counsel Tom Perkins advised the district to be clear in its request to the Legislature.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to turn it over to the Legislature unless everyone knows exactly what they want,” Perkins said. “It you go to the Legislature and say, ‘Can you help us?’ they’ll take over. Be very conservative about having legislation advance. I think that’s real important.”

Aldax asked if admitting Churchill County to the tri-county subconservancy district could cause future conflicts among the communities which share the Carson River water.

n Future conflicts? “Is there any danger we would be in conflict down the road with everything we talked about tonight?” he asked.

Subsconservancy District Chairman Greg Smith’s assessment was “possibly.”

“When push comes to shove, everyone looks to feather their own nest,” said Smith, also a Carson City supervisor.

He estimated it could take two or three legislative sessions before Churchill County was admitted.

The subconservancy district represents Douglas and Lyon counties and Carson City. It was formed in the 1950s when the state was considering the proposed Watasheamu Dam on the upper Carson. The dam was never built, and the subconservancy district was directed by the Legislature to water planning and management. In 1989, the Legislature authorized a 3-cent per $100 of assessed valuation property tax in the tri-county area to pay for the subconservancy district.

If Churchill County joins, property owners there would be similarly assessed.

“This is a long-term thing,” said Curtis. “You would have to get the entire populace of Churchill County to buy into this. It’s a 3-cent tax increase.”

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

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