Group hires hydrologist to look at water levels

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YERINGTON - A group organized to protect domestic wells from the effects of a federal proposal to save Walker Lake is taking steps to monitor underground water levels in the Mason Valley.

Domestic Action on Wells Group President David Haight said that a comprehensive hydrological model of the valley has been created.

"DAWG acquired the services of a geologist/hydrologist firm and we got our first data on May 4," Haight said. "When the federal government says how much water they will take and over what period of time, I will tell them the total amount of destruction they will create within this valley.

"This is not an exaggeration. I am drawing the line in the sand."

A retired engineer in defense electronics, Haight has challenged claims that enough additional water can be removed from the Walker River water basin to lower the salinity of Walker Lake to an environmentally acceptable level without adversely affecting users within the water basin.

According to numbers being used by federal agencies, in order to reach the desired total dissolved solid count of between 10,000 to 12,000 milligrams/liter, an initial drop of approximately 450,000 acre feet of water will be needed. An additional flow of 47,000 acre feet of water per year for 10 years would be necessary to maintain the lake at a healthy level for Lahontan Cutthroat trout and native chub.

Haight claims the removal of the additional water will dry up domestic and agricultural wells within the basin.

"From all of the data I have seen, the salinity data for the lake came from various sources, none of which can be correlated. I will require the federal agencies to provide me with acceptable salinity data," he said. "What I have seen to this point is not acceptable to me. It is important to know exactly what the needs are."

Haight is skeptical of the federal analysis. He said his organization has received information from a reputable biologist, "And the 'happy fish' and 'belly-up fish' salinity numbers from the federal agencies are quite different from what this individual has told me.

"It my personal experience, in the past in doing mathematical analysis of federal reports, that if their numbers don't work, they make the numbers work.

"It has been shown that after doing a mathematical analysis using their numbers this program will not work. They have totally ignored that and continued with the environmental impact study."

Last year the BLM was given funds through the Bureau of Reclamation for specific tasks related to the environmental study of the Walker River Basin. BLM contracted with Public Resource Associates to do hydrological work in the basin. It has also contracted with the U.S Geological Service to review those findings.

This year, the Bureau of Reclamation awarded a contract to Desert Research Institute for work on the Walker River Basin environmental impact statement.

Haight said he believes the Desert Research Institute would not hide anything in relation to the study and did not want to imply he was concerned with their study results.

The BLM recently extended the scoping period for the environmental impact study to July 31 and announced it will schedule public workshop meetings in August or September.

BLM officials said the purpose of the workshops is to develop alternatives. Specific sites, times and dates for the meetings have not been set.

Haight claims the public workshops will be a waste of time.

"The only means of getting new information into the environmental study is to do it during the scoping period.

"According to federal regulations, no new information may be added after the scoping period. Based on this, the workshops are a farce," Haight said. "They have closed all avenues to address this issue except through legal channels."


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