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Subconservancy district eyes storing water in alluvial fans

by Sheila Gardner

The Carson Water Subconservancy District is looking at a pilot project to store water in the Carson River’s extensive alluvial fan system.

District General Manager Ed James outlined the project for Douglas County Commissioners Thursday.

“A lot of work has already been done by Douglas County, the United States Geological Survey. If the pilot project were successful, we could store water up and down the Carson,” James said.

Alluvial fans are triangularly-shaped deposits of sand and soil located at the base of slopes and formed by the flooding of the tributaries to a larger stream or river.

“Basically, you have a building up of soil over years and years and years which is higher than the valley floor. What we want to do is put the water in those, basically mound up the water to store for future use,” James explained.

James said the fan system in the Carson River is anywhere from 50 feet to 200 feet deep.

“Our planning horizon is 20 years to 50 years, but we have to start looking at those plans today,” James said. “This area is going to be short of water soon. It may not be tomorrow, but whatever planning you do, you don’t want to be limited by the water supply.”

County Commissioner Don Miner told James that previous county boards were daunted by the huge expense involved in developing water storage projects. The subconservancy district was created in the 1950s as a taxing agency for the proposed Watasheamu Dam which was never built.

n Major expenses. “It takes courage to express the major, ongoing expense to protect our water supply,” Miner said.

James said Churchill County officials are looking at a $190 million to $300 million water project which would cost $6 million annually to operate. He said he supervised a project in California which took nine years and cost $43 million to implement.

“It’s too expensive to build tomorrow. If we are prepared, we have saved money and planned for the future,” James said.

Part of the alluvial fan project will be to determine the cost, James said.

Commissioner Kelly Kite, also a director of the subconservancy district, said the water board would be using research that has already been done.

“This is an opportunity to take all that information that has been gathered and paid for and make use of it,” Kite said. “What a novel concept.”

Other subconservancy district activities include regional projects, flood management issues and an integrated water resource management plan for the Carson watershed which runs from Alpine County in California to the Lahontan reservoir in Churchill County.

“It’s important to understand what we’re trying to do and what we’re not trying to do,” James said. “We’re not taking water up and down the Carson, but we can save quite a bit of money with regional projects. The watershed is more than county lines. We have environment and growth issues all up and down the river. It’s a fairly large undertaking, but our goal is to move forward and support our water supply.”

The commissioners endorsed legislative efforts to add Churchill County to the subconservancy district, which now includes representatives from Carson City, Lyon and Douglas counties.

“Tell them to bring their checkbook,” Miner said.

James told the board that Churchill County understands the tax base. Taxpayers from participating counties are assessed to fund the subconservancy district’s efforts.

James said Alpine County supervisors also were interested in playing a role.

“They asked their attorney to meet with the subconservancy district on how they might become a board member. It makes sense to look at having everyone in the entire watershed involved.”

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