Agency raises offer for Fallon water rights

FALLON - A state agency trying to settle a water dispute by buying and retiring thousands of acre-feet of water rights from willing Fallon-area farmers has sweetened its offer by $600 per acre-foot.

The Carson Water Subconservancy District said it will pay $2,200 per water right acre on the Carson River and $3,800 per acre-foot for Truckee River water rights in the Newlands Project.

The subconservancy district is hoping to purchase and retire 6,500 acre-feet of water rights in the Newlands Project by July 2006.

It's an attempt to settle more than 2,000 protests of Newlands Project water rights claims filed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

The tribe has agreed to drop its challenges if the water rights are retired, meaning more water will flow from the Truckee River to Pyramid Lake, officials said.

Since the program started about four years ago, subconservancy director Ed James said agency has only purchased about 2,400 acre-feet of water rights.

"It's going to be tough to reach 6,500," James said.

The subconservancy district is also trying to get the word out to Fallon and Fernley-area residents that they may own water rights and not know it.

Many homes in Fallon and Fernley were sold with minuscule water rights, sometimes just a fraction of an acre. While owners of such water rights are charged an operation and maintenance fee, their water generally can't be delivered and is pretty much worthless.

But it's not worthless to the subconservancy district, which will take whatever it can get, James said.

The district is also exploring the possibility of paying the tribe in exchange for the ability to use certain water rights for the program.

The tribe has so far been unwilling to accept water into the program from owners who have fought the tribe's challenge. Those water right claims could end up in the tribe's hands no matter what, depending on reviews from the Nevada State Engineer.

Several water right owners are hoping to be allowed to sell their water rights into the program and get paid for them, rather than risk losing their water with nothing in return. Even if water right owners win their cases, their claims could be challenged again in court.

"Some people are really tired of this" and just want to sell, James said


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