Rusty Jardine is passionate about the role he plays with the area’s water.
As general manager of the Truckee Carson Irrigation District, Jardine explained the purpose of the agency and its importance to the Lahontan Valley at last week’s monthly breakfast meeting of the Churchill Economic Development Authority.
As general manager and legal counsel, Jardine explained his world is consumed by a number of decrees and regulations, specifically the Orr Ditch Degree that gives the federal government control of the Truckee River and to ensure parties follow the legal order on water usage, the Alpine Decree that regulates the appropriation of surface water rights of the Carson River and other compacts regulating the use of water flowing in and out of Lahontan Reservoir.
The former prosecutor with the Nevada Attorney General’s office has been with TCID for nine years said the agency operates with. Modest budget of $6 million to $7 million annually and employees about 50 employees including temporary workers. Jardine also gave community and business leaders a historical background of the federal Canal Act of 1890 that created easements predating water projects in the West to allow people to settle in the area and have a reliable, sustainable water supply. The federal government, said Jardine, the saw a need to provide the area with water from both the Carson and Truckee rivers and to explore the need for a reservoir to store water.
The day before his presentation to CEDA, he discussed the implementation of flood operations throughout the Lahontan Valley.
“We’re determining what water comes in and what goes out as we plan space (in the reservoir),” he said.
Jardine said the current estimate of water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack appears to be about 350 acre-feet, enough to fill an empty Lahontan Reservoir with 40,000 acre-feet of water left over. Each acre-foot consists of 326,000 gallons of water.
“We see a lot of water coming down the Carson River corridor,” he said.
Jardine said TCID is sending water to Carson Lake and to the Carson Sink northeast of Fallon. He added the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking additional water for the Stillwater Wildlife refuge.
TCID water master Kelly Herwick, who also spoke, said the reservoir is currently two-thirds full (203,000 acre-feet), and reaffirmed Jardine’s remarks that the agency is making room for the spring runoff. He said TCID is also encouraging water users to engage in spread water.
With the release of water down the Carson River corridor, Herwick said if residents who live near the river are concerned with the higher water levels, which could be more than 800 cubic feet per second, they should call TCID.
“We’ll see what we can do to mitigate the problem,” he said.
Both Jardine and Herwick said flood operations will continue for the rest of April and could extend into May. Each week, representatives of TCID, the Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies meet to examine water conditions. Jardine said he doesn’t expect to use the emergency weir on the V-Line Canal to send water into the desert like TCID did in 2017 when the water content of the Sierra snowpack equaled three Lahontan reservoirs; however, he said runoff conditions this spring could dictate otherwise.
Jardine said much of the success of the weir and spillway two years ago was the construction of the Big Dig channel, which carried water from Carson Lake to Stillwater. He said a Farmers Brigade volunteered their time and equipment to work around the clock digging a wide, deep channel that would carry water from Carson Lake to the Stillwater National Refuge.