Walker study contradicts federal claims

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YERINGTON - A local water activist has raised new questions regarding proposals to save Walker Lake as a fresh-water fishery.

In a press release issued this week, Dynamic Action on Wells Group President David Haight said there are major differences between the results of a recently completed study done by his watch-dog group and the numbers presented by Bureau of Land Management and Desert Research Institute officials at a July 5 presentation in Yerington.

Haight's two points of conflict involve the magnitude of water transfer efficiencies to the lake from the Wabuska gauge near Yerington and the annual salt deliveries to the terminal lake. Water volume and salt input form the basis for calculating existing and projected total dissolved solids.

"DAWG's calculations show significantly less water and significantly more salt arriving at the lake than those represented by DRI," he said.

Haight said Thursday his study shows 42 percent of Walker River water passing through the Wabuska gauge is lost before reaching Walker Lake.

"John Tracy said the loss is 15 percent. So, there is a huge conflict between his and our calculations."

The Wabuska gauge is located on the Walker River 4.6 miles east of Wabuska.

DRI Associate Research Professor John Tracy said his numbers have been arrived at through the use of several studies.

"Any study used in the environmental analysis must pass two criteria, it must be an established study that has been open for public review and been through a technical review," he said. "I also avoid using percentages in measuring water loss."

Tracy said the amount of water lost from the Wabuska gauge to the lake is "Pretty much a fixed number, no matter how much passes through the gate. You can't really use percentages. Between tribal diversions, evaporation and vegetation, the loss will be approximately 10,000 to 15,000 acre-feet each year, so the total amount of water passing through the gauge will determine the percentage. It will vary from year to year."

Haight said DAWG's study would back up his claims.

"I have nothing to hide," Haight said. "I can back up everything I say with hard facts. There is no conceivable way the total water loss from the gauge to the lake could be as low as 10,000 to 15,000 feet. Historical data supports my claim."

The study is currently at the printer, and it doesn't appear the public will get a look at it any time soon.

"The fact these people are continuing with this obscene program leads me to believe that this issue will only be settled in a court of law. Because of that, I will seek legal counsel before I determine if the study is to be released," Haight said.

Haight has been an adamant and outspoken critic of federal efforts to take additional water from the Walker River Basin and transport it to Walker Lake. He claims there is not enough additional water available to reach proposed salinity levels at the lake without drying up domestic wells and agricultural lands within the basin.

According to federal studies, the salinity level of Walker Lake must be maintained at or below a long-term average of 10,000 milligrams per liter to sustain a healthy ecosystem and healthy environment for the endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout.

Dan Jacquet, assistant manager of BLM's Carson City office, said the technical review of the environmental assessment should be completed by the end of September.

"The Nevada Division of Water Planning has agreed to host a meeting in October to present the results of the study. We promised a peer review process. Once the study is ready copies will be made available to the tribe, DAWG, the Walker River Irrigation District and other interested parties," he said.

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