Beverly Orozco
The Walker River Decree Court began calling for instream use of decreed water rights for Walker Lake this week.

The Walker Basin Conservancy was granted permission from the Walker River Decree Court to begin calling for the instream use of decreed water rights purchased from willing sellers to benefit wildlife and the restoration of Walker Lake. The Conservancy made its historic first formal call for instream water to the Federal Watermaster this week.

In 2010, 7.745 cubic feet per second (cfs) of righted decree water was acquired under the authority of the Walker Basin Restoration Program (Program), now being implemented by the Conservancy, for the benefit of the Walker River and Walker Lake. On May 22, 2018 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals approved the State Engineer’s grant of the Program’s water right change application #80700, which requested a change in beneficial use from irrigation to instream flow for wildlife benefit from the historic point of diversion at the Yerington Weir to Walker River and Walker Lake.

Monday, the Federal District Court formally modified the Walker River Decree to conform to the Conservancy’s approved water right change, and marks the first time water acquired via the Program can be administered instream for the benefit of Walker River and Walker Lake.

“We are thrilled that a portion of our Program water is now protected and will remain instream until it reaches Walker Lake. This is an exciting milestone for everyone who has dedicated time to restoring Walker Lake,” said Jeff Bryant, Executive Director of Walker Basin Conservancy. “We have a lot of work ahead of us and look forward to engaging with stakeholders to ensure the rest of our water portfolio sees a similar outcome.”

To date, the Conservancy’s Program has acquired approximately 43.7 percent of the water needed to reach targeted restoration goals at Walker Lake and is actively working with willing sellers to reach goals to support the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout and other key wildlife species once again.