By Leanna Lehman, For the Fernley Reporter
For nearly a year, Truckee Canal water users have faced the frustrating inability to irrigate their fields and grow crops. However, there is finally a glimmer of hope on the horizon as the Truckee Carson Irrigation District (TCID) is now accepting water orders for the upcoming irrigation season set to open on November 1.
This news is a welcome relief to well owners who have seen their groundwater levels plummet, leading to dry wells. While their situation may not notice significant improvement until late spring or early summer, they can breathe a sigh of relief – water is on the way.
The Truckee Canal, spanning 31 miles and supplying water to over 50,000 acres, suffered a breach in January 2008 that caused devastating floods and inflicted millions of dollars in property damage upon Fernley residents. Last fall, TCID, in collaboration with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), halted canal operations to initiate a canal restoration project. This initiative commenced with the installation of 3.5 miles of concrete canal lining, currently under construction.
During a public address at TCID’s October 3 meeting, Fernley Mayor Neal McIntyre sought to mitigate some of the confusion and misinformation surrounding the predicament of private well owners facing a water crisis. McIntyre conveyed that the city had been alerted to potential issues stemming from the prolonged absence of water in the canal. Concerns had arisen among private well owners about the future of their ownership and the associated maintenance. To address these concerns, McIntyre and the City Manager’s office reached out to U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei, who has requested specific information about the problems faced by well owners. This data will help identify available resources to support individual well owners in the future. Letters have been sent to Fernley’s 400+ private well owners, soliciting feedback. To date, the city has received 70-80 responses, but it is crucial for all well owners to complete the form, regardless of whether their well has been affected. In the words of McIntyre, “Please help the City of Fernley help you.”
McIntyre also mentioned a grant program offered by the USDA that could benefit certain residents. “For well owners,” he stated, “if there is infrastructure in your area, they have a grant program that can connect you to city water if you wish.” Fernley residents interested in this program are encouraged to contact the City of Fernley for more information.
TCID Maintenance and Construction Manager Cody Biggs provided an update, noting progress on the concrete line of repair at Painted Rock. “We finished the concrete line of repair at Painted Rock yesterday [October 2],” Biggs reported. “The burn crews are starting to clear and clean up the area, so we’re ready to proceed with grouting, which is scheduled for two weeks from today.”
Fernley residents, however, remain frustrated and concerned, particularly following TCID General Manager Ben Shawcroft’s announcement that water would not be retained in the canal after the irrigation season concludes to serve stock water, which is used for the consumption of livestock or other animals. Shawcroft explained that TCID had thoroughly researched the matter, consulted with the Federal Watermaster, and reviewed the language within the decree. They conclude that they cannot operate the canal outside the designated season for this purpose. Shawcroft noted that his predecessor, Rusty Jardine, had initiated work on a policy related to stock water lines outside the prescribed season just before retiring. TCID intends to resurrect this effort and present the issue to the Policy Committee for review.
In Shawcroft’s words, the potential liability of releasing stock water beyond the prescribed season is too significant for TCID to consider. “At this time,” he stated unequivocally, “we are not recommending serving the stock water lines outside of the irrigation season.”
In closing, it’s clear that the upcoming irrigation season on November 1 is a long-awaited moment of relief for Truckee Canal water users and well owners. The challenges faced by Fernley residents and private well owners must not be underestimated. As we move forward, we must work together to find solutions that benefit our community while ensuring the responsible use of our valuable water resources.