Water meetings designed to cut through protest backlog

In an attempt to end a backlog of about 1,900 protests that are holding up water applications, the state engineer encouraged all parties to work out as many issues as possible before they came into the hearing room.

State Engineer Tracy Taylor is considering giving 90 days for applicants and protesters to work out their issues. The protester would have 30 days to outline objections and an applicant another 30 days to respond, followed by another 30 days for the protester to verify his claims. Any issues on water applications that could not be resolved would be decided by the state engineer after a hearing.

"It's not going to benefit anyone to litigate every application that comes before us," he said.

Taylor said he would decide for certain the timeline sometime in the near future.

Two pre-hearing conferences at the state engineer's office Tuesday, one for Douglas County and one for Lyon County, brought different results.

Following the Lyon County meeting, Rusty Jardine of Churchill County called the developers, engineers and water purveyors in the room together to pick a date for the stakeholders meeting. They settled on May 15.

Mike Workman, Lyon County Utilities Director, agreed with the proposed process.

"We have had several meetings with Churchill County (officials) to resolve our differences, and we've had some progress," he said. "We're not just out there trying to cowboy this in, we're committed to the process."

Workman said Lyon County is committed to protecting water resources and has spent a lot of money creating infrastructure including an aggressive well-monitoring plan.

Those at the Douglas County meeting didn't take any action.

Most water change applications are protested by downstream water rights holders such as Churchill County or the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, which protests every water change.

Don Springmeyer, attorney for the Pyramid Lake tribe, indicated the tribe would like to see applications halted until what he called overappropriation of the Carson Valley and Dayton Valley basins could be addressed, but Taylor opposed that option.

"I don't think we can hold back on applications during this process," he said. "I think that in your protest I want you to analyze each protest application. You say the basin is overappropriated and it may or may not be."

Chief Hearing Officer Susan Joseph-Taylor, no relation to the State Engineer, said the Division of Water Resources position was the basins are at equilibrium. She said Springmeyer was looking to "regulate the basins, cut off applications and cut off water rights," she said. "Where we sit, we think the basins are in balance."

Springmeyer called cutting off applications one option, but also said he wanted a comprehensive policy for the basin, similar to the entities that have water rights in the Truckee Meadows.

He said former State Engineer Hugh Ricci, in a meeting in Dayton in 2005, indicated the basin was overappropriated.

He added his clients routinely protest every application to be consistent, because they have been accused of inconsistency in the past.

Douglas County Engineer Carl Ruschmeyer complained that diversions of water to certain wells was required by federal regulations, but when that is done, the Paiute tribe protests, even when water is moved 150 feet across a street.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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