Millennium Countdown: 1972

Paper: Nevada Appeal - 27 days to the millennium - Wednesday, Oct. 4, 1972

Publisher: Donald W. Reynolds

General Manager: Jack D. King

Editor: John S. Miller

Advertising Manager: James Collins

Circulation Manager: Robert Goertz

Production Manager: Paul W. Stuke

Published daily except Saturday at 102 S. Division Street.

A Nevada owned member Donrey Media Group.

Pyramid water fight begins in earnest

By Kelli Du Fresne

Water in Nevada has often been likened to gold. In the early days of the Comstock, water quality was so poor it is rumored miners drank whiskey instead.

The state's struggle for water has gone on for nearly as many years as the state is old.

In 1865, the state's first surveyor general wrote: "Many millions of acres of land in this state now comparatively worthless would be valuable if irrigated."

Subscription to this belief began wars over water that continue to today. In the 1972 edition of the Nevada Appeal, the paper tells of the beginnings of one of the many lawsuits. Lawsuits began at the turn of the century and officials say they will likely continue in the future.

A decision by the 1999 Legislature established a program for settling disputes in the Newlands Project.

The federal government had filed as many as 13 lawsuits and 2,200 petitions on behalf of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. The tribe is asking that the water used in Fallon be diverted to Pyramid Lake.

The bill, passed in the 1999 legislature, and signed by Gov. Kenny Guinn in June, calls for the state to spend $4 million, Sierra Pacific Power Co. to spend $2.5 million and the federal government $7 million to buy some of the disputed water rights.

The lawsuit arose out of the 1902 Reclamation Act aimed at making Nevada's arid desert agriculturally viable. Practices of over-irrigation and diversion led to a drop in the water level of the lake and the near extinction of the cui-ui fish in Pyramid Lake.

The Newlands Project built Derby Diversion Dan on the Truckee River and Lahontan Dam and reservoir on the Carson River making the farming communities of Fernley and Fallon possible.

Once farming began, diversions from the Truckee River dropped the level of water entering Pyramid Lake. By the 1970s the tribe had organized and started a fight that was to last more than two decades.

In 1990, the farmers lost one round of the battle with the Indians. The 1990 Settlement Act called for farmers to practice additional water conservation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week passed control over when water is released into the Truckee to the Pyramid Lake tribe.

In an effort to protect the cui-ui fish, which is endangered and the Lahontan cutthroat trout, which is a threatened species, fish and wildlife agreed that the tribe has enough experience now to take charge. The agreement was signed Nov. 29, 1999.

Water is released from upstream reservoirs at critical times throughout the year to encourage the fish to reproduce.

This is the first time, the fish and wildlife service has given control of water releases to an Indian tribe where the source of the water is outside of the tribal reservation.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs also approved the agreement. The bureau of reclamation will maintain control of the river and manage waters for flood control.

In 1972, the fight was just beginning.

Under the headline "Feds sue Nevada, California for Paiute Indians" the Appeal copied the following story from the Associated Press:

SACRAMENTO (AP) - It is not legally clear what water rights the Pyramid Lake Indians near Reno have, says a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and that is why the federal government is suing the states of California and Nevada on their behalf.

The Paiute Indian reservation at Pyramid Lake completely surrounds the big lake northeast of Reno. The lake-fed entirely by the Truckee River - is slowly drying up and the Indians have been complaining for years that their tribal rights are being violated by those who take water from the Truckee - Including the federally financed reclamation projects.

The source of the Truckee is Lake Tahoe, in California, and it flows from there into Nevada.

Ed Price, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation official, said Tuesday that the issue of whether Indians have a right to insist that enough Truckee River water be allowed to flow into the lake to maintain a constant level must be cleared up before other disputes over the use of the Truckee water can be finally resolved.

Federal and state officials have been mulling over the problem of Nevada's Pyramid Lake - where the water level has been dropping by about one and a quarter foot per year for decades - for over 20 years.

The suit was filed by the Justice Department in Washington before the U.S. Supreme Court last week,

The lake about 30 miles long, is located completely within the Paiute Indian reservation set up in 1859 by the federal government.

The Indians argue, Price said, that the government's creation of the reservation included an implicit promise that the level of the lake would be maintained.

Critics have argued that if any more water is diverted out of the Truckee, it will lessen the flow of the Truckee water into the Newlands Irrigation Project and a wildlife reservation in the area.

In a release issued Monday, Assemblyman Eugene Chappie, R-Cool, said it was "preposterous and self serving" for the federal government to name Nevada and California as defendants in the suit when the "Biggest water user in the area is the United States Government."

History has a habit of not only repeating itself, but of carrying itself across decades and into today.

In 1972, Congress was considering preservation of Lake Tahoe.

Today, Congress, California and Nevada have set aside about $650 million to control erosion, restore streams, stabilize slopes, build, maintain and improve trials and bike paths, protect and rehabilitate the forest.

Nevada is set to pitch in $82 million, California $274.6 million and the federal government $296.8 million.

In 1972, Congress was looking for $500,000 to study a study.

Under the headline "Nevada: Tahoe topic of study" the paper printed: WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate-House conference committee has reached agreement on legislation carrying $500,000 for a study of federal efforts to preserve Lake Tahoe.

The study would be conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Sen. Alan Bible, D-Nev., said today.

The study is included in water pollution control legislation now being considered by the conference committee.

Bible said the bill would also provide federal grants of up to 75 percent for new waste treatment facilities and funding of up to 50 percent for many publicly owned sewage treatment plans built between June 1966 and July 1972.

The number of people heading to Northern Nevada was also in the news. Under the headline "POPULATION" the paper listed some predictions about just how big Reno would be when the new millennium began - no mention of Y2K was mentioned.

RENO - The Truckee Meadows area faces a steady population boom for the next 10 years, according to a newly finished study.

The population projection report released Tuesday adds there doesn't appear to be anything that can be done to stem rapid growth.

The report, presented to the Washoe Regional Planning Commission, said new residents will continue to pour into the Reno area despite awareness of the growth rate and limited water supplies.

The report prepared by planner Lee Christensen predicts a Washoe County population of 246,000 by the year 2000, double the 1970 census figures. A month before 2000, the state has estimated the population of Washoe County at 323,670.

In Carson City, tax commissioners were looking for just one more thing to tax: CARSON CITY (AP) - The State Tax Commission will seek an attorney general's opinion to determine if the sale of rare silver dollars should be exempt from taxation.

John Sheehan, commission executive secretary, said that regardless of collectors' value of the coins they are still legal tender and exempt from taxes.

But commission member Howard Winn said that "anytime money has more value than its face value it becomes something else other than legal tender - it becomes personal property."


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