Carson City-based Vidler Water Co. announced it's working on a deal with the owners of Buzzy's Ranch for sale of land and water rights.
The end result might allow Carson City to finally obtain a prized piece of open space. It would also eventually improve water service to residents in Carson and Dayton by providing more infrastructure for the communities to share - if a complicated plan can be worked out.
"It should be a good deal for us and for Lyon County," said Andrew Burnham, Carson's public works director.
Carson the two large parcels of Buzzy's Ranch appraised in 2004. The worth of the 86-acre Andersen property was $625,000 while the 397-acre Jarrard portion was valued at $1.8 million. Now the parcels have been reappraised at $3.5 million for the Andersen parcel and $4 million for the Jarrard property - both without the water rights, according to Juan Guzman, Carson's open space manager.
"We're not developers," said Dorothy Timian-Palmer, Vidler's chief operating officer. "We don't need the land."
Guzman said grants and other money are being pursued to help Carson City pay for the land, which has been eyed for development in recent years.
And helping the landowners obtain tax credits is just one way to try to bring down the final asking price the city would need to pay, according to Vidler.
The water rights would go into Carson City's name, and the city would deliver the water to Lyon. Landmark Communities in Dayton would pay Vidler and the families for up to 1,000 acre feet of water a year. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to meet the needs of an average family of five for a year.
The amount of water available is expected to rise once negotiations with both property owners are complete, according to Timian-Palmer.
The families and Vidler would retain financial control, but the water rights could eventually revert to Carson and Lyon. While Carson's share of water would be smaller and come from the total amount collected, what they obtain would be used to offset peak warm weather demand, according to Burnham.
Water on the ranch would be captured by constructing an infiltration well and a pipe system to send the water in both directions. Carson and Lyon have an agreement providing for shared water system uses, which would be amended to include this operation, Burnham said.
The system would allow one community to help the other increase its water delivery ability when necessary by sending water in one direction or the other.
Last summer's Linehan Fire, which started in Mound House and spread to Carson, for example, was one of those times when that type of arrangement would have been extremely useful, ensuring a steady supply of water to firefighters, said Mike Workman, Lyon's utilities director.
Carson and Lyon had been talking about creating a system connection "for years," he said.
Any water exportation that might result from the rights being sold could be subject to approval by the state engineer as well as rules stemming from the Alpine Decree, which focuses on distribution of Carson River water and gives preference to longtime property owners.
No permits have been obtained for the estimated $10 million in infrastructure needed to collect and distribute the water, Timian-Palmer said.
Water taken from the ranch would be replaced with Carson City's treated effluent. An extension line planned to serve the area would run through Buzzy's Ranch anyway, so watering there wouldn't greatly add to the city's cost for this line, Burnham said.
The idea might also help the city partially solve its long-standing problem with Brunswick Reservoir, which holds effluent. As much as 2,000 acre feet of it leaks into the ground each year and the city has been seeking a solution to the problem.
Buzzy's Ranch provides within its borders wetland, wet meadow and riparian habitat. While it supports a variety of creatures and plant life, it's especially important to birds because the river there maintains trees and willows they need to survive.
"Effluent would further enhance this habitat," Guzman said.
The ranch is in east Carson City property and bordered on the south by the Silver Saddle Ranch.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.