Town of Gardnerville seeks water rights for wetland project |

Town of Gardnerville seeks water rights for wetland project

by Sharon Carter

Owners of formerly irrigated properties in the town of Gardnerville have an opportunity to donate their surface water rights to the town to help maintain the Martin Slough Wetlands Project.

“Many residents in the older part of town, from about Raley’s north to Minden, have surface water (irrigation) rights that are no longer usable – the ditches don’t exist anymore,” Gardnerville Town Engineer Robert Fellows said Friday.

“Their only reminder is a yearly maintenance bill for $15 from the state engineer’s office. The residents can donate those rights to the town of Gardnerville and keep the water in the Carson Valley.”

The town’s move to assume the irrigation rights was spurred by a recent state ruling which eliminates all unused water rights and by concerns voiced by downstream users who fear the slough improvements might reduce its flows, Fellows said.

n Use it or lose it. “If you can’t prove you use them, the water rights go away,” he said. “The town will combine whatever water rights are conveyed to it into a block and use it to help restore the riparian corridor and perpetuate the wetland.”

The Martin Slough Project, an effort in which Gardnerville is joined by Minden, the Douglas County School District and the county, has several facets and is primarily funded by a water quality improvement grant from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

“There will be several educational opportunities for the schools,” Fellows said. “An important educational aspect is that it demonstrates how improving water quality brings back both aquatic and terrestrial plant and animal life.”

The Martin Slough begins at Lampe Park and channels the water through northeast Gardnerville. The project, itself, begins in the old slaughterhouse area behind Carson Valley Middle School and continues past Minden Elementary School.

“We’ve cleaned up the area and it’s already made a difference in how the developer (at Chichester Estates) plans to improve the old slaughterhouse property,” Fellows said. “He’s hired a Portland (Ore.) firm to plant it and make it consistent with what the towns are doing.”

About 7 miles long, Martin Slough travels much of the length of the central Carson Valley, eventually returning to the river near Ambrosetti Pond in the North County.

Another portion of the project is Serenity Park, a riparian restoration which is being funded and built by the Soroptomists International of Carson Valley.

And, some grant monies from the Nevada Department of Transportation’s School Trip Safety Program will be used for portions of the project which deal with traffic safety and walkable communities, Fellows said.

“It’s a great project that ties the community together. It’s close to downtown, but will still give people a chance to get out and enjoy the environment,” Fellows said. “The slough is still an active irrigation ditch, so we have to supplement the flows for any losses to irrigator. That’s where the residents’ water rights can help.”

Those interested in donating their surface water rights to the town should bring their water rights receipt (or bill) from the Nevada State Engineer’s Office to the town office at 1369 Highway 395 during normal business hours.