Valley Water Authority wants to meet with federal government
The Carson Valley Water Authority is seeking a meeting in Washington, D.C. with federal officials to protest the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s attempt to appropriate water from the upper Carson River for the Lahontan Reservoir.
The Washington trip is part of a multi-part work program that the water authority hammered out last week. Members voted to allocate $20,000 a month to the effort through contributions by individual water users as well as seeking revenue from the county’s 7-cent water tax.
“We need to meet as soon as possible in Washington with Justice and Department of Interior officials to discuss our concerns,” said water engineer Jim Vasey, who is coordinating the water authority’s response.
“We’ve met with the federal water master who confirmed our view that the Alpine decree is being administered properly.”
Water authority members include the Gardnerville Town Water Co., Minden Town Board and Douglas County. The Ranchos and Indian Hills general improvement districts, while not ready to join the group, pledged their support.
“This is the rallying point for all these GIDs,” said Ron Kruse, chairman of the Indian Hills GID. “This will make it or break it.”
Rancher David Hussman said that as of last week, 19 ranchers were interested in participating.
Boulder, Colo. attorney Robert Pelcyger, representing the Paiute Tribe, has told federal officials that he believes large quantities of Carson River water are being wasted, diversions and deliveries are not controlled and the constraints imposed by the applicable decrees are being disregarded. He is attempting to claim post-1902 groundwater rights for the Lahontan Reservoir.
If Pelcyger’s challenge is successful, water experts fear that the Carson Valley would dry up because all the groundwater would go to the Lahontan Reservoir. The state’s groundwater has never been subject to the Alpine decree or under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
With Carson River water filling the Lahontan Reservoir, the Pyramid Paiute Tribe would have more water available from the Truckee River for Pyramid Lake, home of the endangered cui-ui fish.
Rancher Arnold Settelmeyer recommended that the water authority recruit domestic well users as well and the U.S. Forest Service.
“The Lahontan Fish Hatchery is the biggest pumper in the Carson Valley,” Settelmeyer. “Their sole purpose is to provide fish to Pyramid Lake.”
“Our next action is a personal meeting with our Senate and congressional staffs to discuss in more detail case law and other aspects of the decree. I hope if we have a chance to explain face to face, there will be no need to change administration of the Alpine Decree,” Vasey said.
Vasey added that if the water authority is successful in gaining the U.S. government’s alliance, the tribe “would be forced to seek relief in court, opposed by the U.S. government, and would be in a greatly weakened condition.”
Water authority members were urged to prepare a more detailed response to requested actions by the Pyramid Tribe.
Vasey said he would meet with agriculture users to discuss water rights wherever they are – under haystacks or the highway – to make sure “we do the best job we can to protect the rights or they will be challenged.”
“People should not assume $120,000 is going to handle it,” said Minden town board member Bob Hadfield. “It would be prudent to accumulate a legal defense fund. It would be great to get the United States government as part of the defense.”
Vasey said that Pelcyger “has a war chest that is up and running.”
“You need to be able to go to Washington as often as it takes,” Hadfield said.