Efforts continue to save dying northern Nevada lake

Nevada lawmakers were told Monday that cloud-seeding isn't likely to help raise the level of northern Nevada's shrinking Walker Lake.

Lorna Weaver of the Walker Lake Working Group said cloud-seeding can help ranchers in northwestern Nevada -- but as far as the dying lake goes "it's a fairly insignificant amount of water. We don't expect it will reach the lake."

The state's Desert Research Institute runs the cloud-seeding program. Officials say it can add 5 percent to 15 percent to northern Nevada's water resources.

DRI uses generators to seed clouds to get more moisture from them. The generators, operated by remote control, release silver iodide particles that attract moisture and form ice crystals, then snow, in winter clouds.

Weaver and Lou Thompson, chairman of the Walker Lake Working Group, also told the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee that mediation efforts are continuing in efforts to get more water into the lake.

The negotiating process was started following a summit meeting that brought together about 300 state and local officials, tribal leaders, scientists, environmentalists and farmers. The summit was hosted by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

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.

Thompson also said that Congress has just passed legislation that could free up some federal funds to help Walker Lake, about 100 miles southeast of here, but no funds are available yet.

Joe Guild of the Nevada Cattlemen's Association said he hoped a "reasonable solution" to the lake's water woes will be found -- but added that legislators should remember that upstream ranchers with appropriated water rights must be protected.

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 three-quarters of its water. And the level of salts and other impurities have increased enough to endanger the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and other fish.


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