High court rejects tribe's lawsuit claim

The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected the Pyramid Paiute tribe's attempt to block the state's issuance of water rights to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park complex.

The tribe filed suit after TRI Water and Sewer and Tahoe Reno Commercial Center applied for and were granted groundwater from the Tracy Segment Hydrographic Basin by Nevada's state water engineer.

The lawsuit claimed those water rights would conflict with the tribe's Truckee River water rights that supply Pyramid Lake because the Truckee River and Tracy basins are linked underground. Pyramid Paiute lawyers argued the state engineer didn't consider whether granting new water rights within the Tracy Basin would conflict with senior surface water rights on the Truckee River.

The high court, in a unanimous ruling, said substantial evidence supports the state engineer's finding that there is more water in the Tracy Basin than originally thought and, therefore, the approvals won't conflict with existing water rights.

"The tribe does not dispute the state engineer's finding of an increased perennial yield," the ruling states. "Thus, his case does not present a situation where the state engineer has approved new groundwater appropriations in a hydrographic basin that is already fully appropriated."

The ruling states that evidence shows the state engineer specifically addressed the connection between the two water basins in his ruling. It also points out that none of the tribe's expert testimony specifically discussed how approval of the applications would adversely impact the lake or its fisheries.

"As the tribe does not have any right to the groundwater within the Tracy Basin, the tribe also does not have priority over any of the approved applications at issue," the high court's order states.


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