Truckee-Carson Irrigation District may sell water to Stillwater |

Truckee-Carson Irrigation District may sell water to Stillwater

Cory McConnell

FALLON – After holding on to its extra water for the past three years, the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District may decide to cash it out this year.

For each of the past four years, the irrigation district has received extra water as an award for exceeding efficiency goals in sending water out to farmers’ fields around Fallon.

In total, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded the district 30,000 acre-feet from 1999 to 2003.

In the past, the irrigation district has held onto the water so it could meet farmers’ demands in extreme droughts. Due to evaporation, about 23,500 acre-feet of the credit water remains in Lahontan Reservoir.

This year an inquiry from one of the district’s board members has led officials to explore selling the water.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has offered to make a one-time purchase of whatever credit water the district may be willing to sell for the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge.

“We offered $50 an acre-foot for what water is delivered to the (refuge’s) headgates,” said Richard Grimes of the Wildlife Service.

If the district were to sell all the credit water remaining in the reservoir and meet the 68.5 percent water delivery efficiency rate it maintained last year, nearly 16,100 acre-feet would make it to the refuge.

At $50 per acre-foot, the district would make a little more than $800,000 on the deal.

District officials have scheduled a closed-door meeting with attorneys to “discuss any potential legal matters involved in selling the water,” said district project manager Lyman McConnell.

In the past, when the district wanted to give the refuge extra water, the Bureau of Reclamation quashed the plan, saying the wetlands could only receive as much water as its water-right allocation.

Use of the credit water, however, is supposed to be at the district’s discretion.

When asked if the district could sell its credit water to the refuge this year, McConnell said the bureau wanted to see a completed sales agreement before answering.

The credit water is also a possible source to help repay the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe nearly 200,000 acre-feet of water, which U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben ruled the district over-diverted from the Truckee River between 1973 to 1988. District officials must now find a way to pay that water back to the tribe and the lake.

The decision was a partial victory, since the tribe was seeking between 1.1 million and 1.5 million acre-feet of water to be repaid.

A status conference to begin working out a repayment plan is scheduled for later this spring, McConnell said.

If the district decides it would be best to sell off its credit water before it evaporates or is lost to spillage, Grimes said the refuge will buy some or all of it. Whatever the district decides is fine with the refuge, he said.

While refuge officials prefer collecting their water in spring in an attempt to mimic the spring Sierra Nevada runoff that created the wetlands, Grimes said the refuge would be willing to take the credit water any time the district delivered it.

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