Following the approval of a change application by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Federal Decree Court has been asked to give its approval of the ruling by the Nevada state engineer.
On March 20, the Nevada state engineer issued Ruling 6271, which approved the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Water Rights Change Application No. 80700 in accordance with all stipulated conditions.
This ruling came three years after NFWF submitted the initial application to change the manner and place of use for the first set of decree water rights acquired by the Walker Basin Restoration program.
The next step in the legal process is for the state engineer’s ruling to be submitted to the Federal Decree Court.
On April 4, NFWF, filed a petition with the court to approve Ruling 6271, and to modify the Walker River Decree to reflect the change of manner of use and place of use of the subject water rights.
In the petition, NFWF also requests that the court set a hearing date and briefing schedule so that interested parties might inform the court of its views and be heard.
NFWF said it is working with the various protestants who entered into conditional stipulations ahead of the NSE hearing to file documents of support with the Federal Decree Court.
Of the 40-plus original protestants, only a group of junior-priority storage water users contested NFWF’s amended application during the hearing.
The U.S. Board of Water Commissioners also raised a variety of concerns as a de-facto “party” to the proceeding.
However, none of these issues were persuasive to the state engineer on review of the hearing record and NFWF’s amended application.
David Yardas, NFWF’s Walker Basin Restoration program director, expressed hope for timely consideration by the Federal Decree Court.
“We are extremely pleased with the state engineer’s ruling; however, we now need the Federal Decree Court’s concurrence before the water rights at issue can be protected instream.
“We believe that the stipulated agreements with the Walker River Irrigation District, the Walker River Paiute Tribe, and many other protestants represent good-faith efforts by all involved to address their concerns.
“We are, as such, hopeful that the Court will agree, and that decades of work to reverse Walker Lake’s decline will finally begin to bear fruit.”
The Federal Decree Court’s acceptance of NSE Ruling 6271 would allow the consumptive use portion of the changed irrigation rights to be administered in priority for wildlife purposes from the Yerington Weir to the U.S. Geological Survey Wabuska Gage, and from there to Walker Lake consistent with the NFWF-Walker Tribe-Bureau of Indian Affairs negotiated conveyance protocols.
The non-consumptive portion would be available to the Federal Watermaster at his discretion to avoid conflict with and injury to other existing water rights, and to mitigate hydrologic losses from the Yerington Weir to the Wabuska Gage in accordance with the NFWF-WRID stipulation.
The court’s acceptance of the NSE ruling also would memorialize NFWF’s longstanding commitment to ensure payment of water and ditch assessments as if the changed water rights were still appurtenant to the agricultural lands.
To learn more about the Walker Basin Restoration program, visit the website, www.walkerbasin.org, or contact the Yerington office at 215 W. Bridge St., suite 11, Yerington, Nev. 89447 or 775-463-9887.