TCID postpones special election to late November
A special election to determine if the Truckee Carson Irrigation District should sell its water storage rights and dam facilities at Donner Lake west of Truckee, Calif., has been postponed to at least the end of November.
In a public workshop/discussion conducted Oct. 12 in Fernley and Thursday in Fallon, TCID District Manager Rusty Jardine said litigation is still ongoing regarding the January 2008 canal breach near Fernley. He said about 590 homes were affected in the flooding and as a result, more than 1,000 litigants filed claims in both state and federal courts.
In a statement released earlier this month by TCID, “Proceeds from the sale of Donner Lake would be expected to satisfy existing legal claims, including compensation to property owners in Fernley damaged by floodwaters in January of 2008.
“Settlement of the breach litigation is expected to result in the lifting of the court imposed restriction upon flow in the Truckee Canal of 350cfs. The Canal would remain subject to operational limitations imposed by the Bureau of Reclamation.”
Jardine said the district bought its water interests in Donner Lake in 1943 for about $50,000.
“The assets are worth a whole lot more today,” Jardine told about 50 TCID water users. “We hope negotiations end in a few weeks, and we will come to you with the settlement.”
Jardine said TCID is pursuing relief in the California Court of Appeals relating to Donner.
Originally, the district and other agencies and individuals faced $1 billion in tort claims, but to date, they have settled for $13.4 million. Jardine said he thinks the settlement amount could rise by $5 million.
“I think we will be able to settle for $18.5 million,” Jardine said.
By selling its stake in Donner Lake water, which amounts to 3,500 acre feet of net yield, Jardine said TCID could receive enough money to settle the claims if they do not exceed $18.5 million. Jardine said Donner Lake is a beautiful facility but during the past decade, TCID has not used any water; instead, it has flowed to Pyramid Lake.
Jardine said confidential settlement negotiations are continuing and that the money would settle the breach litigation, Donner Lake water and the Truckee-River Operating Agreement (TROA). It is TCID’s intent, according to Jardine, to pose to the district’s voters a strategy to avoid entry of judgment, maintain its contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, avoid dissolution of the district and restore the water flow capability of the Truckee Canal.
Jardine said it is paramount to restore a higher flow in the canal to the area’s ranchers and farmers.
According to a previous statement, “in 2014 the Federal District Court for the District of Nevada issued a ruling modifying the Orr Ditch Decree to incorporate the provisions of the TROA. TROA, an agreement had between the United States, the states of California and Nevada, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, and others, was made as a result of P.L 101-618, the Settlement Act of 1990. The District, on behalf of water users, has opposed implementation of TROA but is no longer able to sustain the financial and administrative burdens of such opposition.”
The drought, specifically for the past four years, has not been kind to TCID. Jardine said TCID operates a number of hydro facilities that offset the district’s expenses by returning revenue to operations.
In a good year, TCID reaps about $1.5 million.
“But our budget has taken a horrible hit because of the drought,” he added.