One of these days Lady Luck will run out for residents who want to cool off in one of the many irrigation canals that meander through Churchill and Lyon counties.
With daytime temperatures scorching the area with triple-digit temperatures, the first inclination is to cool off.
Swimming pools are fine. Sprinklers are fine. A good cold shower also has two-fold uses.
But what’s not fine is taking the plunge in a canal.
Usually during these hot days, more people flock to the canals to find relief from the high temperatures.
Although the problem is system wide, Operations and Maintenance Foreman Walt Winder of the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District said the majority of people use the V-line canal for recreational purposes from Casey and Bottom roads to the Lovelock Highway. He said the Truckee Canal in the Fernley area also encounters a high number of users during July and August.
“It’s not a good place to swim,” Winder points out. “It is not all right. It is very unsafe.”
Canals are not clean nor are they safe.
Broken glass, sharp rocks, bad undertow currents near cross-structures present safety concerns. For example, almost four years ago, a California woman drowned in the T-Line Canal while trying to retrieve an all-terrain vehicle that had rolled into the water. Three years ago, a 57-year-old Fallon woman drowned in the A-line canal near Bottom Road and Strasdin Lane trying to retrieve her dog who wiggled loose from his collar, and just last year a 6-year-old boy drowned in an irrigation canal near Allen Road.
The canals also carry high levels of bacteria. Nothing can be as unappetizing as sucking in a big gulp of water that has carried an animal carcass downstream. Furthermore, runoff from farmers’ lands carries herbicides and pesticides into the water.
Although local ordinances do not prohibit swimming in the canal, federal law does. The canal system is part of the U.S. Government’s Newlands Project, and trespassing inside the easement where the canals wind through the valley is illegal.
When TCID officials or a sheriff’s deputy advises swimmers of the federal law, swimmers leave the canal without incident. Canals are a lifeline for the farmers and ranchers in this part of Nevada, and by using common sense, swimmers can avoid the dangers associated with the canals and not become a deadly statistic.
We have been very lucky that more people haven’t drowned in one of our canals. TCID or the local deputies aren’t trying to be mean and limit cooling off during these sizzling days of summer.
They don’t want anyone hurt or killed.
That’s the bottom line.
This editorial first appeared in 2009 but this updated message is still current. Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.