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Nevada reiterates Tahoe shore law

Nevada's law governing public access to Lake Tahoe's shore is about 5-feet different than California's.

“The general rule of thumb is if you're (on the water) in front of private property and you decide to go on shore, you're probably trespassing,” said Jim Lawrence, administrator of the Nevada Division of State Lands.

Nevada law says the public has the right to access Lake Tahoe's shore anywhere that falls below 6,223 feet elevation, unlike California's precedent, which declares the public can go anywhere below 6228.75 feet elevation.

Truckee Carson Irrigation District indicted

Truckee Carson Irrigation District indicted
The Associated Press
Posted: 12/03/2008

RENO, Nev.—A federal grand jury in Reno has indicted the Truckee Carson Irrigation District and four of its employees for allegedly falsifying records to secure additional water supplies from the U.S. government.
The four indicted include David Overvold, project manager for the irrigation district based in Fallon. He and the three others are charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, falsification of records, false claims and false statements.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott in Sacramento says they allegedly inflated data from 2000 though 2005 regarding the efficiency of the district's water deliveries as part of a scheme to secure additional water credits from the bureau to boost supplies primarily for Nevada farmers and ranchers.

Panther Valley embezzlement case could reach $2 million in losses

By FRANK X. MULLEN JR. • fmullen@rgj.com • December 21, 2008

A former treasurer of the Panther Valley Water Users Association is being investigated in connection with siphoning water for profit and embezzling as much as $2 million, according to investigators and utility officials.

The man allegedly sold water rights that the company didn't have to developers and is being investigated in connection with construction of an illegal valve that siphoned at least $140,000 worth of water by bypassing the Truckee Meadows Water Authority mainline meter. He allegedly took out a bank loan and bought heavy equipment and other items with water company funds without the knowledge of the company's board of directors, officials said.

Although the company's board is required to approve purchases of more than $100, the treasurer was able to misappropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars unbeknownst to other company officials, according to company documents and board members.

Washoe County sheriff's detectives confirmed they have been looking into the financial activities of former Panther Valley water utility treasurer Robert Klein since May, but no arrest warrants have been issued.

Klein could not be reached for comment.

"Mr. Klein has fled the area and this is an ongoing case," Detective Morgan Jaeck said. "Once there's a warrant, we'll seek him out then. It's a complicated case. This guy had carte blanche for eight years."

Jaeck said the case involves a tangled web of documents, with still many records to receive.

"We're not sure how long it will take to get to the end of this road," he said.

Illegal valve installed

The missing money came to light after Truckee Meadows Water Authority engineers in August 2006 discovered a partially open valve that allowed water to bypass a TMWA meter that keeps track of deliveries to about 400 Panther Valley customers. The engineers shut down and "double locked" the valve, officials said, but by December 2006, Panther Valley's metered water use was again lower than expected.

In September 2007, after monitoring the area's water use for months, TMWA workers checked the pressure on the water lines feeding Panther Valley. They discovered water was flowing beyond the supposedly closed and locked valve. They dug down to the main line and found the TMWA valve had been disconnected, replaced with a dummy valve, and someone had installed an illegal wide-open valve below ground next to the disabled device.

That meant that for nearly a year, Panther Valley customers were paying their local water company for the water they used, but TMWA was paid only for the small percentage of water that flowed to Panther Valley through its main meter. TMWA officials said the Panther Valley utility eventually owed $250,000 in fees and late charges for water that bypassed the meter.

"In 20 years, it's the most elaborate bypass I've ever seen," TMWA distribution manager Pat Nielson said. "We were truly shocked when we dug up that dummy valve and found the illegal one.

"(The illegal valve) probably cost $1,200 to $1,400 and was buried in the ground, while the dummy valve at ground level looked fine. The problem was (the perpetrator) got greedy. If that underground valve was only partially opened instead of wide open, I don't know how long it would have taken us to find out."

Water and money

But investigators and utility officials said the dummy valve was just a part of multiple frauds against the water company.

The Panther Valley Water Users Association, a nonprofit cooperative, was founded 46 years ago to bring water to an enclave of north valleys residents far from city water service. The company got water from Sierra Pacific and later from TMWA, the area's current water provider. The company serves about 400 customers in the Panther Valley area north of Reno and is self-regulating.

Dennis Richards, Panther Valley utility president, said TMWA informed the company in April that it owed at least $139,000 for water delivered to Panther Valley before October 2007.

Richards said Klein told him he knew nothing about any "misappropriated water."

"TMWA threatened to turn off our water, but as far as I knew, we had paid for what we received," Richards said. "But things were being kept secret by Bob (Klein). He was operating in a different reality."

He said the board treasurer usually handled all business activities and the other board members took the treasurer's word for all financial matters.

"This cooperative was founded 46 years ago by honest people and managed by honest people," Richards said. "We trusted Bob (Klein) for eight years. We took his word for everything. Nobody but board members come to our meetings, and the board members left the finances in (Klein's) hands."

As board members began looking at the association's books, Richards said, they discovered Klein allegedly sold water rights that the company did not have and made commitments to sell additional nonexistent water rights. Klein also allegedly collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in "connection fees" from developers, and those funds are no longer in the association's accounts, officials said.

Board members also found a bank loan had been taken out and equipment purchased without their knowledge.

End of water wars

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Editorial.
September 5, 2008

Tomorrow is a historic day in the annuals of Western states water rights.The Truckee River Operating Agreement — in progress for more than 20 years and the result of 100 years of water rights controversy — will be officially signed in a ceremony Saturday morning at Reno’s Wingfield Park.

The Truckee River flows out of Lake Tahoe in California, crosses the Nevada border near Farad, and ends in Pyramid Lake. The river, claimed by California and Nevada, has been used for recreation, water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, fish habitat and wetlands,among other uses.

Its water was literally fought over in the 1920s when a drought caused Lake Tahoe to fall below its natural rim. Downstream water users cut a canal into the rim to drain more water, causing angry threats and beginning the legal battles over its water. Through the years, the fight has resulted in several legal decrees establishing usage of the river’s water. The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe became involved when the cui-ui fish, its historical food source, became an endangered species.

The 1990 Truckee-Carson-Pyramid Lake Water Rights Settlement Act began the process to come up with a new agreement. Years and years of negotiations, research and meetings resulted in the TROA. Lake Tahoe stakeholders spent endless hours making sure the lake’s particular interests are covered, even to such items as how much water is recovered from snowmaking.

Once enacted, the TROA will replace the 1935 Truckee River Agreement, which has managed the bistate river and established rates of flow, water storage and the conditions under which Lake Tahoe could be pumped.

Now, the decades of controversy and work are culminating in this historic signing. Signing for the mandatory parties are Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Secretary of the Interior; Ronald Tempas, of the U.S. Justice Department; Mike Chrisman, California Secretary of Resources; for Nevada, Alan Biaggi, Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Mervin Wright Jr. of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; and Mike Carrigan, chair of the Truckee Meadows Water Authority.

Saturday won’t be the actual end of the process — federal courts in California and Nevada must now approve it. But there is an end in sight for the embattled Truckee River.

The TROA will 1) allocate the waters of the Truckee River, Carson River, and Lake Tahoe basins between California and Nevada; 2) enhance conditions for threatened and endangered fish species; 3) increase drought protection for the Reno-Sparks area; 4) improve river water quality downstream from Sparks; 5) enhance instream flows and recreational opportunities; 6) settle long standing litigation over water rights to the Truckee River; and 7) lift a 1972 moratorium on water rights applications in the affected region.

And, hopefully, cease the battle over water.

Fernley residents seek to control canal water flow

Lahontan Valley News
April 4, 2008

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Lawyers for scores of residents flooded when an irrigation canal failed in January said Thursday they are seeking a federal court order to restrict water flows in the canal to prevent another flood.
They also said in an amended motion filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on Wednesday that the canal break was caused by poor maintenance and greedy water managers trying to maximize water storage for farmers, not burrowing rodents, as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation concluded.
"Rodents had nothing to do with the flood," said Robert Hager, one of the Reno lawyers representing about 175 flood victims in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.
"It's an easy excuse to blame it on animals that are unable to say `It is not our fault,' and it appears to minimize their culpability," he said at a news conference.
Hager and Lee Hotchkin filed the motion seeking an emergency injunction that would limit flows in the 32-mile canal to one-third of the maximum legal operating level, 250 cubic feet per second.

For entire article, please visit the website.

Judge denies request to allow tests before Truckee Canal reopens

Source: Lahontan Valley News
March 14, 2008,

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday rejected a request by an attorney representing dozens of victims of a Jan. 5 flood in Fernley to conduct tests before the federal government reopens an earthen canal that ruptured and inundated hundreds of homes.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie P. Cooke indicated she could revisit the issue at a March 28 conference after lawyer Robert Maddox tries to reach an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on an inspection.

Maddox represents the owners of about 80 flooded homes in a class-action lawsuit filed in Lyon County District Court in Yerington against the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District.

He said he wanted his experts to inspect the canal to ensure its safety before it reopens. The reclamation bureau has scheduled a Thursday meeting in Fernley to discuss the canal’s reopening.

To view entire article, please visit website.

Fernley flood victims file restraining order against city, county


FERNLEY--Attorney Robert Hager on behalf of his over 100 clients, who are Fernley flood victims, filed a temporary restraining order/mandatory injunction against the City of Fernley and Lyon County.

The order asks that the city and county clean the streets and yards of debris as a result of flooding that occurred on Jan. 5.

Attorney Treva Hearne, of Hager and Hearne law firm, argued as the city streets become drier the areas that have been contaminated with the debris will become airborne.

She said, "We want a restraining order before the court as quickly as possible to clean up the dirt, mud and silt in the streets in Fernley. It's for everyone in Fernley. You don't want to wait until the stuff is airborne."

Minden hires California firm to battle water fight

by Sheila Gardner,
December 21, 2007

Minden officials hired "the largest water law practice in the United States" on Wednesday to defend the town's vast water holdings from challenges by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

Board members, meeting in special session, voted 4-0 to hire Hatch & Parent law corporation of Santa Barbara, Calif.

"If you make a decision tonight, we could be ready to go on one-day notice," senior counsel Michael A. Gheleta told the board. "It seems like your concern is legitimate. It's best to get in early rather than find out the case has left the station without you."

The board heard from five law firms Wednesday before selecting Hatch & Parent.

To read entire article, please visit website.

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