Lyon County commissioners divided on water-transfer support |

Lyon County commissioners divided on water-transfer support

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

The Lyon County Commissioners voted Thursday to accept the state engineer’s decision on water transfers from Washoe County.

Three development companies sought Lyon County’s OK for their petition to State Engineer Tracy Taylor to move water via a pipeline from the Black Rock Desert region in Washoe and Pershing counties into Lyon and Storey counties.

Sonterra Development Co. is seeking to move more than 7,200 feet of water; High Rock Holding LLC is hoping to transfer more than 20,000 acre-feet of groundwater, and Juniper Hill Partners LLC is planning to move 20,000 acre-feet of surface water through the proposed pipeline.

Greg Bilyeu, vice president for water resources for TEC Engineering of Reno, which represented the three companies, said the proposed pipeline route would begin at Oriental Farms in Hualapai Flat at Highway 34, follow a powerline route southeast of the Black Rock Desert to Empire Farms, from where it would go down Highway 447 east of Winnemucca Lake.

It would then joint the right of way of the powerline to Fernley. From there, it would follow Interstate 80 west to Storey County to USA Parkway. Going through the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the pipeline would come out at Highway 50 and USA Parkway, turn west along Highway 50 through Stagecoach and on to Dayton.

The commissioners first voted 3-2 to deny sending a recommendation for approval on the first request: that of Sonterra Development Co., which is owned by Wade/Lakemont Co.

Commissioners LeRoy Goodman and Larry McPherson voted to recommend approval, but commission Chairwoman Phyllis Hunewill and Commissioners Bob Milz and Don Tibbals voted to deny the motion recommending approval.

Michael Stewart, owner of Oriental and Empire farms, which sold the water rights to Sonterra, then spoke on behalf of High Rock Holding LLC. He asked the commissioners to approve a statement agreeing to approve whatever water engineer Taylor decides, when the issue comes before him.

Stewart was concerned that if the commission voted against recommending approval, they would in effect be signaling to Taylor they didn’t want water imported from anywhere.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve that language, with Hunewill still opposed.

Hunewill is upset that a new version of the Lyon County Lands Bill under consideration by Congress would take water from Mason and Smith Valleys to use in Walker Lake.

She said she couldn’t object to the federal government taking water from Lyon County while at the same time voting to take water from Washoe County.

Milz requested the Sonterra request be brought back for another vote with the language changed to approving what the state engineer decides, and that was approved 3-2, with Hunewill and Tibbals opposing the motion.

The commission then voted 3-2 on the Juniper Hills request.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.