At the Joe Crowley Student Union Theatre, located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, project directors sat with researchers and science professionals at the two-day Desert Terminus Lakes Symposium to share the comprehensive work done over the past 14 years.
As researchers referenced baseline readings needed for the Lahontan Cutthroat fish to return and economic speakers from the region shared agricultural data which weighed the shared use required from the river’s path, one speaker spoke in a passionate, heartfelt way.
Taylor O’Daye, from the Walker River Paiute Tribe began by sharing slides of her tribe enjoying the lake’s shoreline, with abundant fishing and agricultural benefits.
“This lake is our healing lake. I have heard stories of the history and the provisions it gave to our people.” O’Daye explained the beauty from long ago versus the erosion of today’s landscape. She shared the loss of bird’s migrating, fish existing and wild animals accessing the lake. Her cultural perspective projected the sadness and loss which has affected her people who desire the lake to thrive once again.
The Walker Basin Project had one highly involved environmental arm of the research conducted. The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is known specifically for exploring the areas of air, land, life and water quality within Nevada and elsewhere, with two primary locations in Reno and Las Vegas. With more than 500 expert employees, DRI assisted in exploring the necessary water flows of the project, with the quality of water currently in Walker Lake and what is needed for the future.
Currently the oxygen levels are depleted, the algae blooms were lighter due to this condition and the water measures dangerously high in arsenic. As a quality stream of healthy water is returned, soil restoration will bring proper vegetation and ground cover to assist with dust conditions and to properly feed the local habitat again.
Taking into account the waters which originate to eventually flow into the lake, the East and West Walker River combine to become the Walker River, which primarily covers land located within Mason Valley, Schurz and ends at Walker Lake. The lake is called a terminus body, rather than a “terminal” lake, which many wrongly refer to it as. This means that the flow of the water ends at this body within the natural water stream.
With a balanced concern embracing this entire project, the concentration to produce meadows and meanderings to clean the possible contaminates in the water as it flows from agriculture use was enlightening. With expert knowledge working on this endeavor, it was clear that a healthy environment for the lake’s future will allow for growth.
Once an enormous Ice Age lake, Walker Lake has dried down to the lowest point ever, which is smaller than its size during the medieval period when there was a 200 year drought. Continued dry conditions, lack of snow melt and the diversion of upstream waters since the late 1930’s has taken its toll on this beautiful treasure, but the promise of completing the resurgence of a natural flow stands to be professionally served.
With four Hawthorne high school students in attendance, one could understand the history lesson they received. They never had memories of a preserved lake, but listening to the facts of its once vast size, the teens saw the phases of its shoreline. Each student expressed amazement in learning the value Walker Lake provided and were impressed to know that hundreds of supportive professionals had been behind the scenes to revive the lake.
Student Kylie Berginnis was in awe after hearing details regarding such an intricate plan in the effort to restore the lake. “I can’t believe this many professional people have been studying our lake for so many years and that they will be responsible in bringing our lake back to life again. It is beyond what I could’ve imagined. I didn’t even know our lake mattered. Who knew?”