Personal liability among the Truckee-Carson Irrigation Board of Directors opens old wounds.
After the 2008 Fernley flood, each of the seven board members were sued individually and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. The consensus of those sued — Ernie Schank, David Stix Jr., Lester de Braga and Bob Oakden — was they did not deserve to be held personally responsible for the breach.
The men have argued they did not neglect or ignore signs the Truckee Canal was faulty. Nevertheless, the four men plus current Project Manager Rusty Jardine have championed for legal protection against claims against public servants within an irrigation district.
Newcomers Joe Gomes, Wade Workman and Eric Olsen were not members of the board in 2008, but Schank and Jardine made their feelings clear on the situation during last week’s board meeting.
The two men recently testified before the Natural Resources Committee at the Nevada State Legislature about the situation facing irrigation districts throughout the state. Schank and Jardine voiced support of the bill, although Jardine said there was
some resistance among committee members.
“It was proposed to go out and see that individuals were properly covered,” Jardine added. “There would be some flexibility for the district to purchase that.”
Their hope, however, may come by the end of the Nevada legislative session. AB 310 is an amendment to Chapter 539 of the Nevada Revised Statute, which sets the provisions governing irrigation districts.
AB 310 would allow for irrigation districts such as TCID to provide liability insurance to protect employees, board members and other individuals associated with the district against personal liability lawsuits. The bill stipulates a district representative cannot use the insurance for use outside district business.
It also specifies that each representative of the district owes a duty of loyalty and duty of care with an expert in good faith to the entity. The duty of loyalty and care, Jardine said, coupled with meeting an expert about specific issues would lower the risk for an individual associated with the district.
“It minimizes their exposure to liability to certain acts,” he said.
AB 310 would also allow a district to indemnify any representative for any debt, obligation or other liability incurred in through the course of their work for a district.
The amendment also allows for any advancement, indemnification or reimbursement of expenses of coverage under an insurance policy up to $50,000. Finally, AB 310 would increase the indebtness of any board member from $500,000 to $1 million.
“These are measures specific to Chapter 539 of the Nevada Revised Statute,” Jardine said. “This would afford some protection to persons who would ultimately become officers of the irrigation district.”
State Sens. Pete Goicoechea, James Settelmeyer and Donald Gustavson and Assemblymen Tom Grady and Ira Hansen sponsor the bill. It was recommended by the committee Thursday to pass the bill as amended.
In other TCID news —
Despite recent precipitation, Jardine said it is not likely TCID will increase water allotments for the Carson Division.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) April through July run-off forecast for the Carson River at Fort Churchill outlined an unattainable projection at the current rate.
TCID’s goal for storage at Lahontan Reservoir is 221,500 acre-feet and 118,600 acre-feet must be diverted.
To meet the goal, TCID must divert more water from the Truckee River to the Truckee Canal than is allowed by flow restrictions. Diversions in the Truckee River remain subject to limitations set by the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the Federal District Court for the District of Nevada.
“I think we will see some relief from that (the storms),” Jardine said, “but not to where it will bump up our water season.”
Wash stations at Lahontan Reservoir to prevent the spread of quagga mussels are expected to open in May.
TCID is pleased with the efforts by the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Nevada Department of Wildlife and other entities to protect Lahontan, Jardine said.
Boaters are required to enter one of two decontamination stations — one at the Silver Springs entrance and the other at the North Shore Marina near U.S. Highway 50.
The one-time yearly fee is $10, but boaters can add the charge to their registration. Inspections are expected to take 15 to 30 minutes.
Members of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection will attend the May 7 board meeting to discuss water quality.
Jardine said the topic of discussion will center on concerns about measures to impose certain water standards for farmers. The standards have not been applied, and Jardine said the district will voice its concerns with any possible proposals.
TCID and the city of Fernley will offer field training and water workshop on the lower Truckee River and Truckee Canal on Wednesday.
TCID officials The Fernley City Council is scheduled to attend, along with representatives of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. The city of Fernley has arranged to use a Lyon County School District bus, so members of the public are invited to attend.
The field training will start at Fernley City Hall at 8:30 a.m., and the group will travel to the Fernley Water Treatment Plant, Derby Dam, Marble Bluff and Lahontan Reservoir. Lunch will be provided in Nixon.
Following the tour, a joint meeting of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, TCID and city of Fernley regarding regional water issues will be held at Fernley City Hall. Space is limited for the field training. RSVP by Friday by calling 775-784-9910 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.