Lahontan Valley water users OK $17.4 million deal to sell Donner Lake assets | SierraSun.com

Lahontan Valley water users OK $17.4 million deal to sell Donner Lake assets

Steve Ranson
sranson@lahontanvalleynews.com

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

FALLON, Nev. — Lahontan Valley water users approved a ballot measure at Monday's special election to allow the Truckee-Carson Irrigation board of directors to sell Donner Lake assets.

More than 90 percent of the registered electors in Fernley and Fallon voted for the measure, 1,766 to 101. The district has 2,045 people eligible to vote.

"We didn't see as many in Fernley voting as we had hoped for, but there was a lot of activity here," said TCID District Manager Rusty Jardine at Tuesday's monthly board meting. "The margin surprised me. I thought there might have been some lack of understanding, but with the vote in our favor, it's surprising and pleasing.

"The board canvassed the votes and unanimously approved the outcome."

Jardine said voters overwhelmingly supported the district to sell its assets that will pay litigants whose homes or businesses were flooded on Jan. 5, 2008, when a 50-foot breach in the Truckee Canal's embankment emptied water to the housing subdivisions that straddled Farm District Road below the canal.

Jardine said he doesn't expect any glitches with the breach litigants.

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"We will be providing the creation of documents to effect settlement," he added.

The question before the voters was whether the irrigation district acting through its board of directors should sell its interest in water storage rights and the dam facilities at Donner Lake in Truckee.

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

Both the Truckee Meadows Water Authority and TCID boards previously approved the sale for $17.4 million.

TCID will be able to settle for $18.5 million, which includes money from the Donner sale and the remainder from insurance. Money derived from the sale, said Jardine, will pay the litigants.

If voters had defeated the measure on Monday, TCID could have faced a judgment of $30 million against the district based on earlier trials both in state and federal courts.

Jardine said TCID and TMWA should close escrow at the end of January and then proceed to another process — dismissal of claims.

Once escrow is completed, TMWA will be the sole owner of Donner Lake assets with complete control of the dam.

Jardine said TMWA will use the water — about 7,500-acre feet — as part of its inventory.

"It will be used as an extra supply of water for drought relief," Jardine said.

With the litigation process and sale nearing an end, Jardine said he and the board of directors wished they could keep their Donner Lake assets.

"We recognize it as a gem, a beauty up there (in the Sierra)," he said.

For the past 25 years because of policies and court rulings, TCID has not been able to use any of the lake's water.

"It hasn't been a real resource to the district," he said.