Dusk settles on the 26-Foot Drop, a hydro-electric energy generation facility on the V-Line Canal.
Agencies renegotiating contract for water usage in the Lahontan Valley
The Truckee Carson Irrigation District is conducting a public meeting Thursday to update the community on contract renegotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation.
“Renegotiating a contract with the United States is not an easy task,” said General Manager Rusty Jardine when he spoke at the Fallon Rotary Club’s weekly meeting.
The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the Churchill County Commission chambers. Jardine said social distancing and face coverings are required.
Jardine said Reclamation requires TCID provide 80% of total volume measurement. TCID operates the federal reclamation project, and Jardine said the irrigation district abides by two federal decrees: The Alpine Decree states water rights cannot be shifted on the Newlands Project because ownership of the water right is with the water user and not the United States, and the Orr Ditch Decree adjudicates Truckee River water rights and establishes amounts, places, types of use and priorities of the various rights. This gives the United States a right to store water in Lake Tahoe for the Newlands Project.
A deputy water master oversees the Alpine Decree beginning at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Carson River in the Sierra Nevada to the California/Nevada state lines and traveling from Genoa Lane to the gauge at Carson City. A water master controls the flow to the Lahontan Valley farmers and when the water dips below 200 cubic feet per second, priorities are set in the decree for which a landowner gets his fair share of water.
Jardine said the Truckee River Operating Agreement is part of the Orr Ditch Decree and determines the amount of water flowing in the river that can be channeled to the Newlands Project via the Truckee Canal.
According to Reclamation, “The purpose of OCAP (Operating Criteria and Procedures) is to maximize use of the Carson River and minimize use of the Truckee River for Newlands Project irrigation. OCAP does not limit storage in Lahontan Reservoir. Under OCAP, each month Reclamation reviews the amount of water stored in Lahontan Reservoir, estimates the amount of Carson River water that will be available to Lahontan Reservoir, and uses that information to calculate the supplemental amount that may be diverted from the Truckee River, if any is needed, to meet the water requirements of the Newlands Project for that irrigation season.”
Once the negotiations wrap up, Jardine said the electors or water users must approve the new deal, and from there it goes to 10th District Court. The final step rests with Congress. The current contract was negotiated for 25 years, but Jardine said there's talk not to have any anticipated ending dates included on a new agreement.
“I think the President is interested in improving the infrastructure,” Jardine said.
Jardine also referenced 2015 at the Rotary Club meeting, which he called one of the worst drought years on record for the Newlands Project.
“We had a supply of 21% of normal,” he said. “Dry to the bone …but we’re blessed to have a federal project supplied by two water systems.”
Jardine said he’s heard some reports the upcoming winter season could be similar, nothing like 2016-2017. He also said the U.S. Drought Monitor shows Churchill County at severe drought, the first time since 2016.
The water situation, though, completely itself during late 2016 and extending into the following year, said Jardine, when the Sierra Nevada measured record snowfall, and both the Truckee and Carson rivers flooded. In March 2017, TCID hurriedly constructed an emergency weir spillway on the V-line canal to channel excess water out of the reservoir into the Carson Lake and eventually channel to the wetlands through a man-made canal.
Jardine also addressed a concern that recreation is slowly is disappearing at the reservoir.
“The water is receding because of us,” he said, adding water is still being diverted to the area’s farms and ranches.
The reservoir, which holds more than 300,000 acre-feet of water, will be at 6,700 acre-feet at the end of the water season. Jardine said four years ago, the reservoir finished the water season completely dry. Currently, he said the area is experiencing high temperatures and low precipitation, which has increased water usage.