The Mineral County Board of County Commissioners made a Declaration of State of Emergency for the Walker River Paiute Reservation after the current measurements of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains shows that levels are in excess of 230 percent.
The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with the Desert Research Institute and the Walker Basin Conservancy have produced estimates regarding the flows and changes to Walker Lake from the 2017 snowpack runoff.
A news release from USGS states, “The USGS model simulation indicate that high flows will be present for the Schurz community and may persist through mid-July before starting to abate.”
“Although the threat of spring and summer flooding along Walker River is a major concern, the projected prolonged period of high flows will have a positive benefit for Walker Lake,” said USGS hydrologist Kip Allander.
The simulations suggest that Walker Lake may rise by as much as 15 to 18 feet this year, the most in a single recorded year.
Parched Walker Lake began receiving water on Feb. 5 and has risen over four feet as to date.
The increase of fresh water is decreasing the lake’s salinity, reducing the salinity to about 21,000 mg/L. Walker Lake was at approximately 33 percent capacity at the beginning of 2017 and could increase to 50 percent by the end of the runoff.
“The projected increase in Walker Lake levels and decrease in lake salinity is good news for the Walker River Basin Restoration program. It provides an improved starting point for our restoration efforts and goals to restore Walker Lake to a viable fishery and stopover point for migratory birds,” said Jeff Bryant, Executive Director for the Walker Basin Conservancy. “However, we know that years like this don’t happen often and Walker Lake’s ecologic survival ultimately depends on a steady inflow of fresh water.”
The Resolution No. 17-009 from the commissioners states that there will be enough water in Walker River to fill Weber Reservoir numerous times.
The declaration reports that there could be a potential closure of highways which would negatively impact the Walker River Paiute Reservation and Mineral County’s ability to provide services for such needed items as: health, medical, food or fuel.
The tribe is working closely with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Western Nevada Agency to help monitor USGS gauges and water flows on Walker River. The banks of the river could erode and the tribe is working at controlling the erosion, remove trees and clean ditches along the pathway of the water way to help diminish the impact of flood waters in the Schurz community.
“This was done in preparation for any possible impacts to the County and its residents from the potential upcoming floods as a result of a record breaking year of precipitation that has fallen on the West Coast over the last several months. Our goal is to be as prepared as possible for any impacts so as to proactive to things rather than reactive,” Mineral County Emergency Manager Patrick Hughes informed the Independent-News.
Caution is to be used near any waterways within the county. Please contact your local law enforcement if you see potential danger.