Study on lake comes up with no easy answer

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YERINGTON - A $280,000 study has determined there is no easy answer to finding additional water for Walker Lake.

While agreeing it was a necessary and beneficial process, members of the Walker River Basin Advisory Committee concluded that the study to determine how to improve the lake's chances for survival did not solve the problem of getting more water to the endangered fresh water fishery in a viable and cost efficient manner.

Representing Mineral County on the committee, Bob Lybarger said the group had not found a solution to finding the necessary water.

"We have not solved any problems. We found out there is not going to be any (water) available," he told the more than 80 people crowded into the Mason Valley Golf Course Club House last week to hear the final analysis of 18 months of work. "Every one of us on the committee understands the others' position. No matter what we do it will affect someone adversely."

Funded by the Energy and Development Appropriations Act of 1998 and administered by the Bureau of Reclamation, the eight member, multi-agency advisory committee represents interests within the Walker River watershed, including the Antelope Valley, Calif., Mono County, Walker River Irrigation District, Lyon County commissioners, Mineral County commissioners, Walker River Working Group and two members of the Walker River Paiute Tribe.

Loretta Singletary of the Lyon County Cooperative Extension Office, who served as the committee coordinator, was pleased with the results.

"This was a bold and unprecedented effort for such diverse interests to collaborate to seek solutions to problems in the basin," she said. "It was a sincere, earnest, courageous attempt given the complexity of the problem. I couldn't be happier."

Committee members will discuss a proposal from Bureau of Land Management Carson City District Manager John Singlaub to continue as an advisory group to the BLM's environmental impact study.

"We want more information on the details of the offer. We need a reason to continue," Singletary said.

Representing the Paiute Tribe, Water Resources Coordinator Elveda Martinez was not sure if the Tribe was interested.

"We are not ready to endorse the study yet," she said. "We need to know if it is usable or useless. We do not know if we want to continue participating."

The committee contracted with Resource Concepts to find what measures could be undertaken to enhance the viability of Walker Lake by conducting a review of selected data. Most measures proved to appear too costly, low in relative contribution to the water total needed or prohibitive by current law. Cloud seeding and control of water consumptive vegetation appeared the most realistic measures for immediate consideration.

Department of Wildlife officials suggested the installation of an oxygenation system in Walker Lake as a short-term measure to get the Lahontan Cutthroat through drought situations.

Questioning the need of going through so much effort to save the cutthroat, Mason Valley Rancher David Perri asked what the cost per pound of fish might be when all was taken into consideration. Others asked if there was another place to recover that particular fish.

Singlaub said the cutthroat is not the driving force behind saving the lake. "We manage by ecosystems, not by individual fish. This is not just an endangered species issue."

Singlaub praised the study, noting, "It will save us a lot of work. It showed us what is prohibitive. They did a good job of looking at the whole laundry list and narrowing it down to what is feasible."

He offered to look into acquiring additional funding to allow the committee to continue.

Representing U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, Tom Baker told the gathering "You have got to be at the table working with the agencies to protect your interests. If we don't, the state and federal agencies will solve it for us."


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