Bill is final step in Reno water-import project
December 14, 2013
The final piece of a lengthy project designed to bring water to valleys north of Reno has been introduced in Congress, years after the last pipe in the multimillion-dollar project was laid.
The Fish Springs Ranch settlement would ink an agreement between Vidler Water Co. and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, ending disputes over the piping of 8,000 acre-feet of water from the ranch in the Honey Lake Basin along the Nevada-California line to Lemmon Valley.
"This one is a very complicated matter," Stephen Hartman, Vidler vice president of corporate development, said Friday.
Under the deal, Hartman said, Vidler paid the tribe $3.6 million and conveyed about 6,000 acres of land to it near Winnemucca Lake. Congressional action is needed to finalize the settlement before the tribe can access the funds.
The agreement addresses such things as tribal concerns about water quality in the Truckee River from reclaimed water at a treatment plant and any reserve water rights the tribe may exercise in the future.
"This is the final document," said Elwood Lowery, Pyramid Lake tribal chairman. "Everybody is on board. It looks like it's moving forward."
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Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced the bill in the Senate on Thursday. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei is sponsoring similar legislation in the U.S. House.
Vidler purchased Fish Springs Ranch and its water rights in 2000 and completed a 28-mile pipeline in 2007, just as the recession hit and Nevada's housing market collapsed. The state engineer approved a permit for 13,000 acre-feet of water, but Hartman said the company intends to limit export to 8,000-acre feet per year.
An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre of land 12 inches deep, and is roughly enough to supply two average households for a year.
The project has been a $100 million venture that has seen little return because of the economy and Nevada's long slog to recovery.
Hartman said some water has been pumped sporadically, mainly to flush the lines.
"You need large projects," he said. "There's very little water left in the north valleys."
In Northern Nevada, developers must show they can provide the water necessary to sustain growth.
"The north valleys is one of the logical places for the community to grow," Hartman said. "We just want to see some activity in the area."