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Bureau Of Reclamation initiates studies for final Truckee Canal fix

Reno Gazette-Journal-12/8/10

By Betty Aleck

Following a presentation by officials from the Bureau of Reclamation, City of Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman wrapped up a non-action discussion by saying that the citizens of Fernley won't know until July of 2012 what approach the BOR will take on repairing the Truckee Canal.

In the early morning hours on Jan. 5, 2008, a 40-foot section of the Truckee Canal breached, which impacted hundreds of residents whose homes were in a nearby flood zone.

Making it rain: Scientists hope to boost precipitation in Tahoe

By inserting chemical compositions into clouds, Scientists with the Reno-based Desert Research Institute are planning to stimulate precipitation in Lake Tahoe during the winter in the hopes of increasing the snow pack. A heavier snow pack will supply more water during spring run-off and prevent the Truckee River Watershed from drying up in the autumn.

The scientific technique — called cloud seeding — is becoming more prevalent as it can spur a 5-10 percent increase in annual precipitation at a targeted area, according to DRI research scientist Arlen Huggins.

“Cloud seeding can be extremely beneficial, especially in the drought-stricken west,” Huggins said during a a recent presentation at the University of California, Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center at Sierra Nevada College.

Effects of La Niña on Tahoe/Truckee Snow Uncertain for Upcoming Winter

While other parts of the United States may be in for some extreme temperatures this winter due to La Niña weather patterns, the effects on Tahoe are uncertain.

La Niña is associated with cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and can bring extreme temperatures and precipitation.

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the Northwest may experience a wetter and colder winter than normal, and the Southwest and South may experience a drier and warmer winter than normal, Lake Tahoe falls into the “equal chances” category.

Lake Tahoe area cloud seeding short of cash

With winter approaching and governments struggling through fiscal difficulty, researchers are in search of money needed to squeeze a little extra moisture from snowstorms. The Desert Research Institute in September secured a promise of up to $100,000 from the Western Regional Water Commission to fund a cloud-seeding program for the Lake Tahoe area. In late October, the DRI plans to seek a larger contribution from the Truckee River Fund, which is administered by the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

It's part of an effort to continue a 25-year-old program nearly killed when the 2009 Legislature pulled state funding that was going to the DRI. A last-minute pitch to water purveyors saved the program last winter, and now officials are trying to line up the money needed during the winter of 2010-11.

Truckee River pact challenged

By Jeff DeLong • jdelong@rgj.com • November 29, 2009

The Truckee River Operating Agreement, more than 20 years in the making, was signed in September 2008 by officials from the federal government, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, the states of Nevada and California and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

What U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., described as "truly landmark legislation" was celebrated as an end to protracted fights over one of the country's most litigated rivers.

Now, Churchill County, the city of Fallon and the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District are back in court, trying to block the agreement's final implementation.

"It is a disappointment, but it's not a surprise," said Mike Carrigan, chair of the water authority, jointly composed of Reno, Sparks and Washoe County.

The agreement, Carrigan said, is "really important" for the future of the Truckee Meadows, particularly for the area's ability to withstand a protracted drought.

Critics counter they are simply looking out for their own future and precious water supplies.

The agreement is designed to permanently replace an antiquated and inflexible water management system that favors farmers, small hydroelectric plants and defunct paper mills.

Instead, it allows for a more flexible system of storing and using water from Truckee River reservoirs, better protecting the Reno-Sparks area from drought, nurturing threatened fish and guaranteeing recreational opportunities.

Allen Biaggi, Nevada's director of conservation and natural resources, said TROA "brings the river's management into the 21st century."

But officials representing the Lahontan Valley area view the agreement as a threat to their future. They filed suit in U.S. District Court last spring against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation seeking to block the agreement's implementation.

TCID, Fallon and Churchill County also are opposing other key technical changes needed to implement the agreement. A hearing in one such case is scheduled before the Nevada State Engineer next month.

The lawsuit states the agreement could directly harm downstream users of the Truckee River.

"Changes in reservoir storage activities as well as conversion of agricultural land and water to industrial and municipal uses entailed by (the agreement) would directly result in shortages of water available ... with potentially disastrous consequences," the lawsuit says.

The agreement would divert water critical to farmers and adversely impact groundwater recharge in Lahontan Valley, said Rusty Jardine, a deputy district attorney for Churchill County. Jardine said the environmental impact report prepared for the agreement inadequately addresses potential impacts.

"We don't want any water that belongs to someone else," said Michael Mackedon, an attorney representing the city of Fallon. "We simply want to protect the water that belongs to us. It's very simple."

A September answer to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. attorney argues the challenge lacks merit, asking the federal court to dismiss it.

"Basically, the EIS is adequate and the regulation is not in violation of law and ought to be upheld," said Gordon DePaoli, counsel for the water authority who is handing the agreement.

DePaoli said the legal challenges will result in significant delay in the agreement's implementation, even if the agreement's supporters prevail in court.

"It will depend if there are appeals, but I think we're certainly looking at all of next year," DePaoli said, adding that might be overly optimistic.

Water users craft Truckee Canal White Paper

Lahontan Valley News, December 5, 2009
LVN Correspondent

ENLARGE FALLON - In an effort to restore complete water flows in the Truckee Canal and to facilitate its repair, a group of water users banded together to research, draft and publish the Truckee Canal White Paper.

A “white paper,” often used for political or technical subjects, is an authoritative report used to address topical issues, inform readers and help people make decisions about that topic.

“We wanted to educate the general public so they would all have factual information,” said Bill Shepard, a member of the working group that wrote the paper. “The idea was the paper would be researched and nothing was printed that was controversial or one-sided — it just presented the facts.”

Shepard approached the Truckee Carson Irrigation District's board in March to discuss writing a white paper to show residents of Fernley and Fallon — along with elected officials — the benefits the canal brings to both communities. While the TCID board saw the merit in the white paper, they felt the report needed to come from an outside source.

TCID holds the operations and management contract to operate the Newlands Irrigation Project, which includes the Truckee Canal that diverts water from the Truckee River to the Lahontan Reservoir for use in the Lahontan Valley.

The Truckee Canal breached during the early morning hours of Jan. 5, 2008, in Fernley, sending a torrent of water into residential neighborhoods and flooding 590 homes.

In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the Bureau of Reclamation — the agency which owns the Newlands Project — mandated flows in the Truckee Canal be cut in half until the canal is permanently repaired. However, the decreased water flows are dramatically affecting the agricultural communities in both Lyon and Churchill counties, which rely upon water from both the small Carson River and the larger Truckee River.

“The canal is an asset which has stabilized the erratic flows of the Carson River and made the agriculture industry something that is fairly constant and steady in the economic scheme of the communities of Fallon and Fernley,” said TCID Board President Ernie Schank.

The Lahontan Valley Environmental Alliance, whose mission is to protect the natural resources and the economic vitality in the valley, formed a working group and helped guide the creation of the paper. The working group included LVEA Executive Director Erica Behimer, LVEA Chairwoman Jeanette Dahl, private water users Shepard and group chairwoman Sonya Johnson and TCID board member Bob Oakden.

Shepard said the group met once or twice a month and the paper went through 54 revisions. Research assistance was provided by numerous entities including TCID, Churchill County, the city of Fallon and Naval Air Station Fallon. All entities received drafts and their corrections were incorporated, Shepard said, adding the final draft was reviewed by six attorneys.

While the final figures are not yet available, Shepard estimated the cost of the white paper totals over $8,000. Behimer confirmed that both Churchill County and the city of Fallon contributed $2,000 to the project, and Shepard said thousands of dollars were donated by farmers and ranchers in the valley.

The group printed 5,000 hard copies of the paper, which is actually an attractive 16-page glossy magazine, and is in the process of distributing them. Each of Nevada's congressional representatives received a copy, along with state legislators and elected officials in Lyon and Churchill counties. Schank personally presented the white paper to Michael Conner, the Commissioner of Reclamation, at the recent National Water Resources meeting.

Schank said he is pleased with the final product and the fact that everything is footnoted and referenced, and that it takes the “politics” out of the Truckee Canal.

“I believe the white paper helps a reader understand just how important an asset the Truckee Canal is to each resident of the Fallon and Fernley areas,” Schank said.

Shepard said the group that wrote the paper won't see the direct results of the paper, but he hopes the unbiased facts in the paper help garner support for farmers who wish to see the canal permanently repaired in a more timely fashion.

“We want to repair it,” Shepard said. “We've paid for anything that's ever been done in the project, and we want to repair it.”

Construction of Derby Dam on the Truckee River and the Truckee Canal began on the project in 1903 with a loan from the federal government. A letter from the BOR in 1997 states TCID — which operates on fees collected from water users — fully repaid the cost of the canal and dam construction.

“The Newlands Project's, whose first phase was the building of Derby Dam and the Truckee Canal, construction costs have been repaid by the water right owners and continues to be an asset to the U.S. Treasury by the income tax revenues from the agriculture, other agricultural-related industries, and the people that are here as a result of the project being built,” Schank said.

Schank also hopes the paper can spur the federal government into expediting the repair schedule so flows in the canal can return to normal. TCID submitted a proposed permanent fix for the Truckee Canal to the BOR in October 2008, nine months after the canal breached. TCID's two-page proposal included costs and how the district could accomplish the work.

“BOR sent a letter poking holes in our plan and insisted it was premature,” Schank said. “It seems they forgot they were the ones who suggested such a remedy. That is what led to some in the community suggesting the writing of the white paper.

“Now the BOR is spending $2.5 million, which was in an appropriations bill earlier this spring, which earmarked that the money be spent in evaluating and preparing a plan for repairs. The drilling work has been completed. We are told the cores will be evaluated and an engineered plan formulated by the BOR.

An Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement will have to be formulated and the process is most likely two to three years.”

Kenneth Parr, BOR Carson City Area Manager, could not be reached for comment about the repair timeline, but he told the audience at TCID's March water users meeting the study would take three years to complete.

Shepard said he was proud of all the people and agencies that helped make the white paper a reality, a sentiment reiterated by Schank.

“It is a good example of many people coming together with an idea and, with some hard work, presenting to the public a united front as to the importance of the Truckee Canal to the communities of the Newlands Project,” Schank said. “I thank all those who were involved, and give hats off to the LVEA for providing the leadership by doing what they were formed to do: protect environmental assets of the Fallon and Fernley communities.”

The Truckee Canal White Paper can be found at the following locations:

· Churchill County Library

· Churchill County Museum

· Churchill County Administrative Building

· LVEA office

· Fernley City Hall

· Fernley Public Library

· LVEA Website: www.lvea.org ;

Lake Tahoe drops below rim for first time in five years

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Lake Tahoe drops below rim for first time in five years
Local hydrologists expect that storms this week will help the lake's level — but not significantly
By Annie Flanzraich
Tahoe Daily Tribune

LAKE TAHOE — Lake Tahoe dropped below its natural rim this week for the first time in five years as a result of a three-year dry spell.

“We have three consecutive below-average winters — you could argue we are in a drought cycle right now, but we are definitely in a dry spell,” said Bill Hauck, Truckee Meadows Water Authority senior water supply coordinator.

On Tuesday, the lake hit 6,222.93 feet before getting a boost to 6,223.05 due to this week's rainstorms. It was October 2004 the last time the lake dipped below its natural rim, which sits at 6,223 feet.

Local hydrologists expect that storms this week will help the lake's level — but not significantly.

“One single storm is not going to bring it up dramatically because the soil conditions are so dry and it's a short-duration storm,” said Chad Blanchard, chief hydrologist with the U.S. District Court Water Masters Office in Reno. “But anything that will help, we'll take it.”

The lake is forecasted to rise about a tenth of a foot due to the storm, Blanchard said. A tenth of a foot of water in Lake Tahoe is equivalent to about 12,000 acre feet or enough water to fill a third of Boca Reservoir.

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Public policies affecting water use in Nevada

January 30, 2009

By Loretta Singletary, Extension Educator, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension


Nevada is the seventh largest state in size with more than 110,000 square miles of land area. Nevada is also the driest state in the nation. The fastest growing area of the state, southern Nevada, only gets 4 inches average annual precipitation. Over 68 percent of Nevada's population lives in Clark County in southern Nevada. Approximately 20 percent of the state's population resides in northern Nevada in the communities of Reno, Carson City and Lake Tahoe. To complicate these demographics further, the vast majority of Nevada (87%) is controlled by the federal government.

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues facing the American West. Agriculture, cities, towns and industry are the primary water users. There are more conflicts over water than ever before in the American West. More frequently, these conflicts involve litigation.

There are several competing uses for water in Nevada. These include the use of water to:

Irrigate crops, including hay, onions, garlic, melons, potatoes, grapes and other vegetables.
Water livestock, including horses, dairy cattle, beef cattle and sheep.
Sustain habitat to support wildlife including fish, birds, deer, wild horses, and other wildlife.
Supply water recreation opportunities such as fishing, swimming and boating.
Supply other recreation including parks and golf courses.

This fact sheet describes demographic trends in Nevada in light of its history as a leader in water resource development in the western U.S. Population growth and changing attitudes towards water resources in addition to shifts in federal policy create an unprecedented period of conflict and change surrounding water. This is particularly the case for rural Nevadans including farmers and ranchers.

Population Growth and Changing Attitudes Towards Water Resources

Population in the U.S. has increased dramatically since its settlement 400 years ago. The current U.S. population is estimated at 287 million and is expected to increase to 414 million by 2050 (2002).

Nevada is the fastest growing state in the U.S. with a population of nearly 2 million. The majority of Nevadans live in urban areas including Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. Rural areas located near these urban centers are growing rapidly, providing open space needed for residential, industrial and commercial development that accompanies rapid population growth.

The availability of water resources to meet the demands of increasing population is a question in the minds of many Nevadans, both natives and newcomers. Nevada remains the driest state in the U.S. and the majority of its water resources are legally bound to its traditional use on agricultural lands.

The agriculture sector accounts for about 78 percent of water use statewide in Nevada. And, statewide, commerce and domestic uses claim 13 percent, 7 percent is used for mining, 1 percent for producing power and less than 1 percent for industry. These figures contrast dramatically with southern Nevada, however, where residential uses account for approximately 60 percent, with 8 percent for irrigation of golf courses, schools, parks and other large green areas, 8 percent for hotels and 10 percent for commerce and fire protection.

Current economic growth in Nevada, however, does not rely on agriculture, in spite of the fact that agriculture remains vital to the economic health of its rural communities. And, plentiful water supplies are needed to support continued population and economic growth. Farmers and ranchers in particular are concerned that water resources may be arbitrarily reallocated if the pressure to support growth in urban areas surpasses the state's history of supporting irrigated agriculture.

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Washoe water authority might raise rates soon, citing customer drop

By Jeff DeLong • jdelong@rgj.com • January 22, 2009

Reacting to the slumping economy and the prospect of a continuing drought, directors of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority might decide to increase water rates for the first time in four years. The board voted Wednesday to initiate discussions that could have a rate increase in place by June.

No numbers have been prepared, but officials said the increase likely would be a low single-digit percentage, possibly increasing monthly water bills by $1 to $2. The board of elected officials and appointed members can raise rates on its own authority.

Officials said the money is needed because of increased operating and maintenance costs of $5.7 million during the past four years.

Another major factor is the sick economy. The water authority has experienced "significant reductions" in investment income because of economic and market conditions and decreasing water sales as the number of vacant homes and businesses expands across the region, chief financial officer Jeff Tissier said.

With growth stagnant in the Truckee Meadows, the utility has no increase in new water connections and resulting revenue.

"The last two years, we haven't seen any," he said. "There pretty much haven't been any connections. We have no idea what customer growth is going to be like, if (any) at all." With a possible third straight dry year looming, Truckee River flow is expected to drop and further diminish income from the utility's hydroelectric plants, Tissier said.

Agencies play a waiting game

By Christy Lattin, LVN Community News Editor
Lahontan Valley News 1/6/09

Water flows through the Truckee Canal last week at 350 cubic feet per second. Maximum flow for the canal is 750 cfs which will be reached only after structural modifications are completed.

For the various government agencies involved with the Fernley flood of 2008, it’s become a waiting game — waiting for money, waiting for plans, waiting for each other and waiting for water.
Both the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District and the city of Fernley are waiting for sizable reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency more than one year after the cold flood waters soaked 590 homes on Fernley’s east side on Jan. 5.

The city of Fernley faced approximately $1 million in direct costs associated with the flood, said Bonnie Duke, city treasurer. The biggest portion of the cost was for repairing streets and sidewalks, pumping water from homes and distributing supplies in the days following the flood.
FEMA reimbursed the city about $500,000 so far, but the city would like to receive another $200,000.

Duke said she hopes to receive the money within the next three months. “Bottom line, half a million dollars came out of the city’s coffers,” Duke said, adding the money was taken from a grant-matching fund the city established for aiding community projects. “We’re lucky we had that other fund sitting there.”

TCID completed the emergency repair and the permanent earthen repair in January and submitted the necessary paperwork for the reimbursement, but they too are awaiting several hundred thousand dollars to cover 75 percent of the costs they incurred related to the flood.

Kate Rutan, executive secretary for TCID, said FEMA separated the repairs into five separate projects. The first two projects, the emergency and permanent earthen repairs, are completed and paperwork has been submitted for reimbursement. The remaining three projects include cleaning drains and pipe systems in the affected areas of Fernley. TCID can seek reimbursement once the projects are complete.

TCID is also waiting on a report from the Bureau of Reclamation before it can proceed on its plan to install a concrete wall in the north face of the Truckee Canal along the 11-mile stretch of the Fernley Reach. The district submitted a one-page proposal for the barrier project to BOR in October and received a five-page response.

Kenneth Parr, BOR Carson City Area Manager, said the Denver BOR office is working on alternative solutions to rehabilitate the canal. He hopes the report will be complete later this month.
When BOR’s alternatives report is complete, both BOR and TCID will work together to choose the best solution. Parr said TCID will be responsible for developing engineered plans for the barrier.
“If (TCID) has the staff to do it, they should do it,” Parr said. “If they don’t have the time or staff to do those plans, they can request the Bureau to do it and reimburse us for that, or go and seek a contractor.”

Dave Overvold, project manager at TCID, said he believes the barrier can be installed during the irrigation season once approved, and he gave a hopeful time frame of completing the project by the end of 2010.

In the meantime, area farmers will continue to wait for water. Lahontan Valley farmers in the Carson division received 80 percent of their water allocation last year while farmers in the Truckee division received 90 percent of their water allocation. The water forecast, though, is not promising.
The water supply conditions released by TCID on Monday states the forecast for the Carson River spring runoff is only 51 percent of average. Overvold said Lake Tahoe is almost empty, which means minimal diversions from the Truckee River. Historically, 25 percent of the water to Lahontan Reservoir comes from the Truckee River, Overvold said.

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