CARSON CITY — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released the Newlands Project Planning Study Report last week. The report presents alternatives to satisfy Newlands Project water rights and reduce risks to public safety from the Truckee Canal.
The study was initiated as a result of the January 2008 breach of the Truckee Canal that flooded 590 properties in Fernley, and led to restrictions on the amount of water the canal may convey. As mandated by federal court, flows are limited to 350 cubic-feet per second.
The study is a projection of canal flows of 150 cubic-feet per second, 250 cfs and 350 cfs and to determine the stability of the canal at each level. It was approved by Congress and funded through Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009.
Skepticisim, however, from the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, officials and water rights holders in Fallon and Fernley, have questioned the motivation of the report.
In November 2012, TCID’s Board of Directors and BOR representatives discussed at length the report.
TCID has followed all court orders restricting flows and worked with the BOR on several construction projects in order to access higher flows through the canal.
“We have provided for the conduit replacement,” TCID Project Manager Rusty Jardine said. “We take to the table a lot of things that will be properly evaluated.”
BOR officials said the report is not a decision document, TCID officials stressed the position of 350 cfs must be in the canal for water users to irrigate. Jardine, though, said he feels the study will be used in the final report.
“We think it will have some incredible weight in the future,” he said. “It will have a certain weight attached to it. It’s not being created just for the heck of it.”
Director Lester de Braga questioned the 150 cfs number during the November meeting as a starting point for the BOR. Terry Edwards, assistant manager of the Lahontan Basin, said 150 cfs represents a no-action baseline, meaning how much water the canal could withstand now and into the future if no maintenance or improvements were made and still deliver water to Lahontan Reservoir.
De Braga’s querie, though, lingered as no study has been provided to determine any benefits of 150 cfs or if 350 cfs would be as equally safe.
TCID vice president Dave Stix Jr. said the 150 cfs level is unacceptable to the district. The BOR, Stix added, made an arguement in court for why 350 cfs is safe for the canal.
Jardine said the report is a five-year study of flows to determine levels of safety along the canal. Burgett said after five years the canal would be re-evaluated.
The study is the BOR’s effort to investigate options for safely satisfying project water rights, and the report will help guide decisions about the its future.
The study developed seven alternatives for safely serving people, communities and lands that rely on Truckee River or Carson River water delivered by the project. The future of the Truckee Canal is of interest to a diverse set of agencies and stakeholders, and the alternatives formulated and evaluated in the study may include elements that could call for participation by a broad range of partners.
Originally known as the Truckee-Carson Project, the project is one of Reclamation’s oldest irrigation projects. Since 1903, it has served water users in the Truckee and Carson River basins for agricultural and other purposes.
The operation and maintenance of project facilities is performed by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District under a contract with the BOR.