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Water rights should be protected from feds

Sheila Gardner

Existing water rights along the Carson River are essential to the economic well-being of Douglas County and should be protected from federal intervention, says Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nevada.

“Any intervention by the federal government is something that causes legitimate concern,” Bryan said in an interview Thursday from his Washington, D.C. office.

Bryan and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, will be asked to meet with members of the Carson Valley Water Authority during the congressional Easter break to address concerns raised by the Pyramid Lake Paiutes’ challenge to the upper Carson River water.

“The most important thing for us to do is to protect state water law,” Bryan said. “Water law is a matter of states’ rights. There is an appropriation process of first in time and first in right.”

The water authority has enlisted congressional help in responding to a challenge issued by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to reopen the Alpine decree which regulates how the water in the Carson River is distributed.

The decree, which spent 55 years in the courts, places the Carson River water on a priority system based on how long users have owned their properties.

“The Alpine decree was the oldest open docket in the federal court system,” Bryan said. “I’m not suggesting I’m an expert, but it just seems to me that the state’s perspective is to protect those adjudicated rights from the federal government.”

Attorney Robert Pelcyger, representing the Paiute Tribe, claimed in a lengthy letter to officials at the federal departments of Justice and Interior that large quantities of the Carson River water are being wasted, diversions and deliveries are not controlled and the constraints imposed by the applicable decrees are being disregarded.

Pelcyger is asking the federal government to rule that rights established after 1902 – virtually all of the Valley’s groundwater – would not be allowed to pump unless the Lahontan Reservoir is full.

“Existing water rights along the Carson are essential to the economic well-being of Douglas County,” Bryan said. “The agenda is really that the Paiute Tribe would like to provide enough water to deal with the Newlands issue so they could sever the Truckee Canal and all the Truckee flow would be in Pyramid Lake. In order to develop that amount of water, they have to draw on the Carson. That concerns those water rights holders and they have reason to be concerned.”

Bryan said he would be willing to meet with the Carson Valley Authority when he is in Nevada the week of March 31.

“I want to make sure their interests along the Carson are protected,” Bryan said.

The water authority met Tuesday to enlist congressional support and set up the organization of the entity whose members include the Town of Minden and Gardnerville Town Water Co.

“Sen. (Harry) Reid said he is ‘very concerned,'” said Minden water consultant Jim Vasey, who is coordinating the water authority’s response to the Paiute Tribe issue.

“He wants to meet with the water authority representatives during the congressional Easter break,” Vasey said at the water authority meeting Tuesday.

The water authority plans to meet with Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, during a town meeting Wednesday, March 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the CVIC Hall.

Attorney Scott Brooke, who represents the water authority and the Gardnerville Town Water Co., outlined proposed modifications of the water authority to include Douglas County as a member and allowing non-voting citizen and water user associates.

County commissioners voted Thursday to appropriate $100,000 from the county’s 210 water fund for the Paiute challenge. The water authority is budgeting $20,000 per month in expenses.