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Bureau Of Reclamation initiates studies for final Truckee Canal fix

Reno Gazette-Journal-12/8/10

By Betty Aleck

Following a presentation by officials from the Bureau of Reclamation, City of Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman wrapped up a non-action discussion by saying that the citizens of Fernley won't know until July of 2012 what approach the BOR will take on repairing the Truckee Canal.

In the early morning hours on Jan. 5, 2008, a 40-foot section of the Truckee Canal breached, which impacted hundreds of residents whose homes were in a nearby flood zone.

At last Wednesday's Fernley City Council meeting, BOR representatives provided an update on the Newlands Project Planning Study, which encompasses repairs to the Truckee Canal, water management and the BOR relationship with the Truckee Carson Irrigation District.

Area Manager Kenneth Parr said that due to the complexity of issues involved, the BOR created a position entitled 'Newlands Project Coordinator' and hired Harvey Edwards to manage that office.

Parr reported that the BOR received Congressional funds to determine how the repairs to the canal would be carried out, adding that the BOR has initiated a Risk Assessment and Planning Study.

The planning study will examine repairs and future water management of the Newlands Project. Additionally, more studies would ensue, including recognizance, appraisal and feasibility studies.

Parr said the recognizance study will determine the costs to repair the canal, which is estimated at $40 million the cost to repair the canal in the Fernley area and $90 million for repairs to the entire Truckee Canal.

Parr added that the BOR is analyzing all possible options, including who will pay for the repairs, including whether or not federal funds are used and/or if Newlands Water users will be charged or would reimburse the federal government for the repairs.

Parr said if a feasibility study is authorized by Congress, it could take 10 years, but the BOR can also enter into an "extraordinary operation maintenance" agreement for repairs with the TCID.

He noted before the repairs are made, the issue of who will pay for them will be determined. In addition, an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment, which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act, will also be done.

Edwards reported that the Planning Study will look at corrective actions using various water flow scenarios, including zero cubic feet per second (cfs), 250 cfs, 350 cfs, and 600 cfs.

He emphasized that under those scenarios, the canal would be configured differently.

Additionally, the BOR will be examining conservation methods like water banking and matching the needs of the irrigators with the amount of water available.

Edwards reported the process will require public input, and a series of meetings will be held with stakeholders, most likely beginning in January of 2011.

Goodman said, "If the water rights holders of the Newlands Project are expected to pay for the repairs, it seems to me they should be in charge of how the repairs are done and who contracts it."