Special session set for Walker Lake plan

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An extra session has been added to public meetings to discuss concerns about a plan to reduce the salinity in Walker Lake.

Residents may question an impartial panel of experts about assumptions underlying the Walker River Basin environmental impact study.

The session is part of the Bureau of Land Management's regular resource advisory meeting. A BLM briefing, set for 3 p.m., is open to the public. The forum itself is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The 15-member panel, called the resource advisory council, is made up of residents considered experts in their field. Members are nominated by their peers, undergo a selection process, then are appointed by the Department of Interior.

"This committee is the eyes and ears for the BLM in terms of public sentiment," said Dan Jacquet, BLM assistant manager. "They may have a better understanding of the public's point of view."

The panel, which advises both the Carson City and Winnemucca field offices, will listen to the public's concerns about the validity of the draft statement. It will then pass that information on to BLM officials.

A sticking point on the Walker Lake issue has been whether the numbers used by the Desert Research Institute, the subcontractor hired to prepare the statement, are accurate.

David Haight, a Yerington resident who heads the Domestic Action on Wells Group, says the averages the DRI is using to figure the salinity of Walker Lake are too low, skewing the results of the statement and leading to unsound alternatives.

"They've used federal data out of context," said Haight. "We used the same numbers they did, but we came up with radically different results."

Representatives from the DRI were not available for comment.

The forum comes on the heels of four workshops held earlier this month which outlined alternatives for reducing the salinity of Walker Lake. At issue is the survival of agriculture in the Mason and Yerington valleys, as well as the recreational livelihoods of Hawthorne and Walker.

"Yerington and Mason could end up looking like the Owens Valley," said Haight, referring to the valley south of Bishop, Calif., that was dried up to provide water for Los Angeles.

What: Public Forum on Walker River EIS

When: 7-9 p.m. Thursday

Where: Catholic Center, 38 N. West St. @ Virginia Street, Yerington


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