Donner Lake assets: Nevada water users asked to approve sale | SierraSun.com

Donner Lake assets: Nevada water users asked to approve sale

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com

FALLON, Nev. — Water users in Fernley and Fallon learned last week that the fate of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District rests in their hands.

TCID District Manager Rusty Jardine and members from the board of directors addressed a proposed sale of the district's Donner Lake assets to satisfy litigation arising out of the Fernley flood almost eight years ago with provisions implemented by the Truckee-River Operating Agreement.

TROA regulates the usage of water storage and flow in the Truckee River. The Newlands Project receives river water that is redirected at Derby Dam west of Fernley to the Truckee Canal.

PLEA FOR SETTLEMENT

A special election to determine if TCID should sell those assets is scheduled for Monday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. District polling locations are the District Office at 2666 Harrigan Road in Fallon (Carson Division) and Fernley City Hall, 595 Silver Lace Blvd. (Truckee Division).

The question is whether TCID acting through its board of directors should sell its interest in water storage rights and the dam facilities at Donner Lake (Nevada and Placer counties California), which is 100 miles west of Fallon in Truckee.

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TCID bought its water interests in Donner Lake in 1943 for about $50,000.

The board of directors will have their monthly meeting on Tuesday and will canvas the voting results.

During the Monday presentation in Fernley and the Tuesday meeting in Fallon, Jardine outlined the reason for the sale and future ramifications if water users turn down the sale to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

"This seems to be the logical thing to do," he said.

Both the TMWA and TCID boards of directors have approved the sale.

Jardine said his plea for water users is for TCID to go forward with the settlement and sale of Donner Lake assets.

Jardine said he strongly feels TCID will be able to settle for $18.5 million, which includes $17.4 million from the Donner sale and the remainder from insurance.

Money derived from the sale, said Jardine, will pay the litigants.

"This settlement ensures our future," Jardine said.

Additionally, Jardine reiterated this week that an approved sale by the water electors would also result in the lifting of a court imposed restriction of water flow in the Truckee Canal. Jardine said it is important to restore a higher flow in the canal to ranchers and farmers.

FUTURE IN WATER USERS' HANDS

If the majority of water users don't cast a positive vote, Jardine said TCID could face a judgment of $30 million against the district based on earlier trials.

On Jan. 5, 2008, a 50-foot breach in the Truckee Canal's embankment emptied water to the housing subdivisions below the canal. Jarine said at the time water flowed at 750 cubic feet per second and inundated 590 houses.

Afterward, Jardine, who was not general manager at the time, said attorneys were contacting homeowners about taking legal action against TCID and other government entities.

Consequently, TCID was sued in both state and federal court, and if the final stage for damages were to occur, Jardine said he is certain the court master would recommend a judgment of $30 million against TCID.

"We want to enter into a settlement agreement," Jardine said, stressing why Monday's vote is important for TCID.

Furthermore, Jardine said because of various rulings in both California and Nevada, TCID's allotment of Donner Lake water was reduced to under 5,000 acre feet of water, prompting Jardine to say the Lahontan Valley has not received any Donner Lake water in years.

"We would like to keep it, but we haven't been able to use (Donner Lake) water in our project for 25 years," Jardine added. "That's why we appeal to you that the time has come to use that asset for a resolution."

Jardine also said the lake is in California, which also poses another set of problems with policies and regulations that are different from Nevada's.

He said TCID has used most of its assets for repairs and litigation for almost eight years. To move forward with the settlement, Jardine said TCID would avoid entry of judgment. With judgment against TCID, however, the agency's future would be in peril.

"If we lose the contract, there could be a three-fold increase in assessment," he said, adding another company could come into the valley and operate the canal system. Also, local oversight of another company operating the canal would diminish.

After taking a few more questions and elaborating on specific points, Jardine looked at the water users and opened his arms.

"My plea to you is to keep the district whole," he said.

About the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District

The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District is a political subdivision of the sate of Nevada, organized and chartered in 1918 to work with the U.S. Reclamation Service (now the Bureau of Reclamation within the U. S. Department of Interior) to eventually assume the operation and maintenance of the Truckee Carson Project (now the Newlands Project) in 1927.

Since, the district has been responsible for the operation and maintenance of the entire federal project, which includes the dam at Lake Tahoe, Derby Dam, the Truckee Canal, Lahontan Dam and approximately 380 miles of canals and 345 miles of drains.

The Newlands Project is generally the last priority for diversion of water from the Truckee River. Lahontan Dam is, for the most part, the last priority on the Carson River.

In addition, the district owns the storage at Donner Lake, which is used to supplement the water supply for the project’s water users.

Visit tcid.org/about/our-history to learn more.