YERINGTON -- Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said it would be a major challenge to resolve the many issues surrounding the saving of Walker Lake but reassured local officials he is committed to protecting agricultural interests along the Walker River.
"This is not an issue that will be solved overnight. Sen. (Harry) Reid wants to save Walker Lake and I am all for saving the lake, but I'm not for giving up your way of life up here. I am totally committed to that," he said Tuesday during a one-hour visit at the Lyon County Commission meeting room.
Ensign told about 20 residents he has not yet seen a workable solution he could support, noting it must be innovative and not win-lose, but, "Where it is a win-win situation. You don't get everything you want, but a better solution to what we have today. It must solve it for the future and everybody knows that their way of life can go on."
He cautioned, however, that water allocation issues with the Walker River Paiute Tribe must be resolved first. The reservation lies between upstream agricultural users and the lake.
Claiming federal studies related to acquiring additional water for the lake are not based on science, Lyon County Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill pressed Ensign for guidance in getting an independent scientific study of the Lahontan cutthroat trout reintroduction program and the Bureau of Land Management environmental impact study on upstream water purchases.
She said if the government is successful in purchasing the water it claims is necessary to save Walker Lake, "It will leave less than 30,000 acre feet of water in the basin. We are not talking about buying a few ranches up, we are talking about economic devastation."
Ensign promised he would direct his staff to study possibilities.
Attendees urged Ensign to do whatever possible to stop federal money from being used to purchase local water rights and property.
Noting that Nevada is one of the country's smallest agriculturally productive states and Lyon County the most productive per acre agricultural county in Nevada, Commissioner David Fulstone said taking 25-30 percent of the agriculture away through such purchases would be crippling to the industry.