A scheduled two-day negotiating session on ways to get more water into northern Nevada's shrinking Walker Lake was cut in half Monday because a mediator's contract still isn't final.
Despite the slow start, state Conservation Director Mike Turnipseed said he remains hopeful about an eventual compromise that would help the desert lake, located about 100 miles southeast of here.
Another meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12, and between now and then lawyers involved in the process hope to have a final draft of the contract with professional mediator Barbara Cosens.
Cosens was picked because of her past mediations dealing with tribal and natural resources issues.
Twenty-nine people, representing local, state, federal and tribal interests, showed up for Monday's meeting, "but we didn't get close to talking about the issues," said Turnipseed.
"But at our next meeting we hope to start talking about the lake and not the mediation agreement."
Those involved in the mediation include the federal government, states of California and Nevada, Lyon and Mineral counties in Nevada and Mono County in California, the Walker River Paiute Tribe and the Walker River Irrigation District.
The Walker Lake Working Group, heavily involved in the save-the-lake effort, is participating through Mineral County.
Walker Lake's decline began more than a century ago when the first farmers diverted water from the Walker River to irrigate their fields. The river starts in California before crossing into Nevada.
Since then, Walker Lake has fallen about 130 feet and lost 70 percent of its water. And the level of salts and other impurities have increased enough to endanger the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and other fish.
The negotiating process was started following a summit meeting earlier this year that brought together about 300 state and local officials, tribal leaders, scientists, environmentalists and farmers.
Those at the summit, hosted by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., were told that local compromise and federal dollars might be able to reverse the lake's decline.
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