The Bureau of Reclamation hosted three public meetings in August to discuss the Newlands Project Planning Study. The study will investigate a range of potential alternatives to serve Newlands Project water rights and reduce public safety risks associated with operating the Truckee Canal. The meetings will occur in Fernley, Nixon and Fallon – three communities within or near the Project.
Each meeting will begin with a presentation followed by an open house during which attendees can review study information and interact one-on-one with study team members. During the meeting, Reclamation will present information and receive public feedback on the Study’s objectives and purpose, outline steps in the planning process and discuss an initial list of actions that could be combined to form alternative plans for safely serving people, communities and lands that rely on Truckee or Carson River water delivered by the Project.
The study was motivated by a January 2008 breach of the Project’s Truckee Canal that flooded nearly 600 properties in the city of Fernley and led to restrictions on the amount of water the canal may convey. The study is a federal effort to investigate options for safely serving Project water rights, and will culminate in a special report to help guide decisions about the Project’s future.
Originally known as the Truckee-Carson Project, the Project is one of Reclamation’s oldest irrigation projects. Since 1903, it has served water users in the Truckee and Carson River Basins for agricultural and, increasingly, other purposes. Operation and maintenance of Project facilities is performed by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District under a contract with Reclamation.
On December 9, 2009, the United States Department of Justice mailed notices to owners of water rights for the use of Truckee River water under the Federal court decree in the case of U.S. v. Orr Ditch Water Company, No. A-3, including owners of water rights in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Newlands Project.
The notice informs water right owners of a motion filed by the U.S. and other parties in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada to amend the final decree to reflect changes needed to implement the Truckee River Operating Agreement. The notice also provides instructions on how water right owners can participate in further proceedings. This mailing was directed by the U.S. District Court and includes a copy of the District Court’s Initial Scheduling and Case Management Order.
On September 6, 2008, after 18 years of negotiation, TROA was signed by representatives of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; States of California and Nevada; United States; Truckee Meadows Water Authority; Cities of Reno, Sparks, and Fernley; Washoe County; and water agencies and public utility districts in Nevada and California.
TROA was negotiated pursuant to Section 205 of the Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water Rights Settlement Act of 1990, Title II of Public Law 101-618 (Settlement Act). The Settlement Act requires, among other things, that in order to enter into effect, the signed TROA must be submitted to the U.S. District Court with supervision over the 1944 Orr Ditch Decree for approval of any necessary modifications to that decree. The motion to modify or amend the Orr Ditch Decree was filed on November 20, 2008. The mailing of December 9, 2009, consisted of approximately 7,700 notices, including notices to all water rights owners in the Newlands Project.
The Bureau of Reclamation on June 11 released for public review and comment of the Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact of the Newlands Project Water Rights Retirement Program. Reclamation proposes to provide $3 million to the Newlands Project Water Rights Fund as directed by Public Law 110-161, Section 208 (a)(4), for a Federal-State-Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe program for the retirement of water rights.
The Newlands Project Water Rights Retirement Program would acquire and retire surface water rights from willing sellers in Reclamation’s Newlands Project to benefit Pyramid Lake and provide an alternative to time-consuming and costly legal or administrative proceedings involving challenged water rights. Great Basin Land and Water, a Nevada non-profit organization, would administer both the Water Rights Retirement Program and Fund.
The Draft Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact were prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and are available online.
[see Bureau of Reclamation, June 11]
In a decision filed on December 7 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Pyramid Lake Paiute v. Nevada State Engineer remanded in part and upheld in part the District Court’s decision regarding the Nevada state engineer’s rulings in a case involving ten Truckee River water rights transfers. The case Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe of Indians appeals the district court’s order affirming the decision of the Nevada State Engineer which granted the transfer of water rights from the parcels of property to which they were then appurtenant to new parcels. All of the water rights are within the boundaries of the Newlands Reclamation Project.
Pyramid asserts that the rights could not be transferred because they had already been abandoned or forfeited within the meaning of the law of the State of Nevada. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand in part.
The opinion was written by Circuit Judge Ferdinand Fernandez:
“At issue are challenged transfers of water rights within the Newlands Reclamation Project. As relevant here, those rights are governed by the Orr Ditch Decree. Pyramid challenges the State Engineer’s approval of ten of the transfer applications. Pyramid asserts that if, as it believes, the water rights in question were abandoned or forfeited, the water itself will remain in the Truckee River. It will then flow into and benefit the ecology of Pyramid Lake, which is located within the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation.
We have, once again, been called upon to revisit water rights issues arising out of the Newlands Reclamation Project and the Orr Ditch Decree. We appreciate that the State Engineer and some of the applicants are becoming mighty tired of their trips to and from the federal court system. Thus, we have tried to sharpen our statement of the rules that must be applied. Alas, we cannot bring this process to a close, but must let parts of it continue on their torturous path.”
The Bureau of Reclamation is extending the deadline to submit comments on the Newlands Project Resource Management Plan to Friday, October 19, 2007. Reclamation is preparing the RMP for the lands managed in association with Nevada’s Newlands Project to foster proper stewardship of public lands. The goal is to create a balance of resource development, recreation, and protection of natural and cultural resources for the lands and waters being managed within the region. The plan will outline Reclamation management actions that will be implemented during a 10-year period.
Mid-Pacific Region Sacramento, Calif. Media Contact: Jeffrey McCracken 916-978-5100 Released On: September 14