TCID approves date for water orders, deliveries
Lahontan Valley farmers and ranchers received good news Tuesday a the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District’s monthly meeting when the Board of Directors voted to allocate 70 percent of normal demand for water for the 2016 growing season.
The directors said TCID will begin taking water orders on March 14 with water deliveries commencing on March 21.
The vote followed discussion among the directors and water users who crammed into the boardroom. Based on earlier information about the snowpack and water levels, directors looked at a 60-percent allocation, but other reports suggested the time frame between April to June would be in the 70-percent range.
Jeff Anderson of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snow Survey separately released information to the Lahontan Valley News on Wednesday. He said February was a dry month with only about 30 percent of average precipitation in the mountains.
“The Carson basin snowpack percentages are below 100 percent for the first time this winter, currently at 91 percent of median,” he said. “The most recent stream-flow forecasts we have for the Carson River made on Feb. 22 call for 85 percent of average river flow for the April through July period. This amounts to 145,000 acre-feet.”
Some farmers were also at odds with the time frame of the water season, some favoring an early start while others wanted the water season to extend into late autumn.
“I would like to see late water starting around the beginning of April,” said Colby Frey, who runs the family wine operations south of Fallon.
Another water user said if farmers must delay the planting of grain after March 20, then they lose yield. A farmer from the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe said he would like to see the season extended and receive water as soon as possible.
“We can’t guarantee the end of the season,” said Rusty Jardine, TCID’s district manager. “That depends on each use … whether they use their allotment.”
Jardine said he has already met with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the new water season and will meet with the FPST on March 17 to review their Memorandum of Agreement for water deliveries on the reservation.
“This allows us to resolve any concerns,” Jardine said.
Ernie Schank, president of the TCID Board of Directors, said everyone in the Carson Division will receive the same allotment unless the Orr Ditch Decree says otherwise.
While the TCID directors relied on the latest projections, the National Weather Service said rain and snow will pound the Sierra range for a period upward to 10 days.
“The consistent storms through next week has the GFS showing some pretty big numbers for total precipitation in the 10-day forecast through next Thursday,” Anderson pointed out. It has up to 5 inches of liquid on the east side of Lake Tahoe and up to 10 inches west of the lake near the crest. That is 50-100 inches of snow roughly over the next 10 days.”
The date for receiving water will give both TCID and the U.S. Geological Survey time to repair a water-measurement gauge at Wadsworth, a device that is critical for measuring the canal’s flow.
Work began Wednesday on replacing the the gauge and should be completed by March 11 with full allowable diversion at Derby Dam made by March 16. Jardine said TCID must ramp down the flow of water before repairing the gauge. Once the work is done, TCID slowly returns the flow of water to 350 cubic feet per second.
“The Wadsworth gauge is a critical measuring device on the canal. It indicates if we are in compliance with the court order (for cfs).”
Schank said workers have a short time to repair the gauge as not to delay ranchers and farmers in the Truckee Division for irrigating. Construction will also take place on Saturday and Sunday.
Presently, the Newlands Project that consists of the Carson and Truckee Divisions is estimated at 57,868 irrigated acres. Jardine said regular demand or the amount of water necessary to satisfy the legal right or demand to such acreage in a full water season, considering varying water duties imposed upon such acreage within the Newlands Project, is about 202,400 acre feet with each acre foot of water equal to 325,851 gallons.
On the bright side for the valley’s water users is the flow of water both into the Carson and Truckee rivers and especially into Lahontan Reservoir.
“The warm temps melted off lower elevation snow and got the mid-elevation snow melting too,” Anderson said. “Lahontan Reservoir storage more than doubled in February, going from 24,610 acre-feet on Jan. 31 to 53,300 on Monday.”