Dispelling the Myths!

August 26, 2020 | Michael Adams

Dispelling the Myths!

Myth No. 1.   I heard that Lahontan Dam is broken!  Is that true?   NO!!!  Each year Lahontan Dam is inspected pursuant to federal law, regulation, and standards governing federally owned facilities (See Reclamation Safety of Dams Act, 1978, 43 U.S.C. §§ 506 et seq and its progeny).  Upon the basis of the most recent inspection, the dam is in good condition.  

What if any maintenance is or may be required?  The District, as the contractor to the United States, for operation and maintenance of Lahontan Dam, had planned to replace what is known as a dome valve.  The dome valve is one of three mechanisms controlling the release of water from the dam. The District has determined not to replace the dome valve at this time because water release control at the dam may be exercised through other control mechanisms. 

Is other maintenance required?  Yes.  Every year we provide regular maintenance that results from recommendations made upon the inspections that are performed by the federal government.  If during the course of an inspection of a federal Newlands Project facility is found to have a serious condition, which poses risk to either life or property, use of the facility would be suspended until the condition had been corrected.  No such condition exists nor will use of Lahontan Dam be suspended this season for any reason.

Myth No. 2.   I heard that because the dam is broken TCID is draining the water in Lahontan.  Is that true?   NO!!!  TCID does not have the right to do that.  TCID does not hold water rights to the water stored in Lahontan Reservoir.  Water rights are appurtenant to lands owned in the Newlands Project by property owners.  

The water level in Lahontan Reservoir is declining rapidly.  Why?  Because the property owners in the Project are exercising their water rights!  Water from the dam is adjusted every day by the District.  The amount of water released is based upon the demand for its use by water right holders.  Water rights constitute a valuable interest in property.  The District has no right to take water it does not control nor may the District restrain water right holders from using water they have a right use within the bounds of the law.  

With regard to patterns of use by water right holders in the Newlands Project, water use is a function of many variables.  Churchill County continues to experience severe drought (See U.S. Drought Monitor).  Crops types also greatly influence both water demand and watering cycles.  Temperatures have been very hot.  Precipitation has been minimal.  Thankfully, the year’s allocation was 100%.  How was that possible?  Because of the water initially stored in Lahontan Reservoir coupled with the contribution from two river systems has provided for a full water supply for the Newlands Project.

Myth No. 3.  I heard that TCID can do whatever it wants regarding the water in Lahontan.  Is that true?  NO!!!  See Response to Myth 2.  Water rights in the Newlands Project are administered by TCID in accordance with federal decrees (Alpine Decree and Orr Ditch Decree), federal regulation (Operational Criteria and Procedures for the Newlands Project, Nevada (OCAP), and the existing contract with the Untied States for operation and maintenance of the Newlands Project.  The District is answerable, ultimately, to the United States District Court for the State of Nevada (Alpine Court and Orr Ditch Court) -if in the administration of contractual duties we do harm to a water user’s legal rights.

Myth No. 4.   I have heard that TCID is going to shut down the Truckee Canal permanently.  Is that true?  NO!!!  A temporary shut-down is scheduled for September 3rd through the 16th.  Water from the Truckee River, through the Truckee Canal, is needed for the benefit of water right holders in Fernley, Hazen, Swingle Bench, and the Lahontan Valley.  Shutting down the Truckee Canal permanently would result in legal injury to all water right holders in the Newlands Project.  Without just compensation having been made to all water right holders, the act would constitute an illegal taking of property by the government.  The Truckee Canal is a federal facility.  TCID has no authority to permanently close a federal facility.

Myth No. 5.  I heard some or all of these myths from a TCID employee or from the social media.  They must be true then, right?  NO!!!  If any TCID employee is passing these myths on, he or she is both misinformed and without authority to speak on behalf of the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, TCID, or the Federal Water Master.  As to comments made in the social media regarding any of these myths: We have no explanation or other comment!

Myth No. 6.  I heard that TCID is required to maintain the level of Lahontan Reservoir for recreational purposes.  Is that true?  NO!!!  Recreational uses at Lahontan Reservoir derive from the act of storing water in a federal reservoir.  The storage of water at the Reservoir does not create a water right for the benefit of the public nor does any federal or state law exist requiring maintenance of a certain surface elevation in Lahontan Reservoir for the benefit of the public.

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