Bureau plans for water rights
Federal money to buy water rights will be available when the effect on Paiute tribal assets has been determined.
According to Nevada Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Area Manager Steve Alcorn, the bureau must go through a seven-step analysis with the tribe.
If there are no conflicts, a portion of the $7 million federal appropriation for purchase of water rights in the Newlands Project could be available by late summer.
“We don’t expect any strong opposition from the tribe and we are doing everything we can to compress the process” Alcorn told Carson Water Subconservancy District officials Wednesday. “We cannot duck our responsibilities. We must go through the proper procedures before we can transfer any money.”
The 1999 Legislature put the subconservancy district in charge of a special fund that will be used to purchase surface water rights from sellers within the Newlands Reclamation Project. Once purchased, the water rights will be retired.
The program was established to eliminate litigation between the Paiute tribe and water users over unused water rights in the project’s agricultural areas downstream of Lake Lahontan in Churchill County and east of Fernley.
Each of the other participating agencies has already submitted at least a portion of its share of the funding and Subconservancy officials expressed concern with moving forward with the water purchases until promised federal funds are received.
District board member Greg Smith expressed support for the Bureau of Reclamation’s efforts.
“I urge the board to not take a hard-line stance. It will not benefit us at all and would harm a good-faith effort,” Smith said. “I am 100 percent sure you are committed to doing your job to resolve this issue. They must complete these steps – it is not an option.”
Churchill County representative Gwenn Washburn expressed distrust for the bureau but said the district could move forward with other business while placing water purchases on hold until federal funding is received.
“Having worked with the Newlands project all my life, I do not have faith in what they say. There is a great distrust of the Bureau of Reclamation in general, the tribe and their attorneys. But we in the project have waited so long on this, another two to three months will not make a difference,” she said.
Subconservancy District General Manager Ed James on Thursday said the board is frustrated with the length of the process. “They (Reclamation) should have solved this earlier,” he said.
The district has incurred $45,700 in administrative costs since July.