Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The Fernley City Council Wednesday night authorized the filing of a motion to intervene in a court hearing next week in which the Truckee Carson Irrigation District is seeking to have its repayment contract with the Bureau of Reclamation ratified for the project to line a portion of the Truckee canal through Fernley.
The council’s action authorizes their special attorney for water matters, David Rigdon, of Taggart & Taggart, Ltd., to file the motion to intervene on the city’s behalf. The hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. Aug. 23.
On June 30, TCID held a special election on a single question asking whether the Truckee Canal should be completely shut off for an entire year to facilitate Reclamation’s canal lining project and asking the electors to ratify a repayment contract with Reclamation that requires water right holders to repay the $35,000,000 cost of that project. TCID has now filed a petition in the Churchill County District Court seeking to have the repayment contract certified on the basis that it was duly authorized by the electorate. The city is seeking to intervene in that case to advocate for Fernley’s interests.
The overwhelming number of TCID electors live in the Carson Division (Fallon) and will be only minimally affected by the project. In the Truckee Division (Fernley) the vote was 29 Yes and 123 No, while in the Carson Division (Fallon) it was 1,857 Yes and 45 No.
The city filed a lawsuit attempting to stop the lining project, but that suit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court Judge. The City’s appeal of that decision is still pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Reclamation said it planned to start the project Oct. 2. However, that could be delayed, because there was a discrepancy in the two bids the Bureau received and the project may have to be rebid.
The City’s lawsuit claims that lining the canal will reduce the amount of seepage from the canal into the underground aquifer, which it says would cause some private wells to go dry.
Many Fernley residents who hold canal water rights for irrigation fear that going a year without water will cause them irreparable harm. Some are worried their fields and trees will die, and others say they may have to sell their cattle.
“It will be devastating for us,” said Bjorn Koch, who has lived on Country Drive for about 22 years. “Everything I’ve planted will possibly be destroyed. I hope more people wake up and realize what’s actually going to happen.
Nola Otuafi and her husband Aki have lived on Country Drive since 1985 and raised their family there and she’s worried the grass on their acre property, which is irrigated from the canal, will die.
“We have our grandkids and kids get together,” she said. “It’s a family tradition.”
Because they are so severely outnumbered, the Fernley water users said the vote was a foregone conclusion, especially since the Bureau of Reclamation said the level of water in the canal would be reduced severely if the measure failed.
Country Drive resident James Mahoney said the efforts by residents to try to fight the project seem like too little, too late.
“It seems kind of hopeless,” he said.