Evidence of Secret Agendas:
Reid's Negotiated Water Settlement,
Interior Department, Found Unfair

   copyright 1997, Electric Nevada

An independent federally funded review of Truckee-Pyramid-Carson Water Settlement negotiations says that, from the beginning, the talks have appeared notably biased against the Fallon, Nevada agricultural community.
The study also notes evidence suggesting that Nevada's senior U.S. Senator Harry Reid, along with Interior officials, had quietly targeted for destruction the Newlands Irrigation Project -- on which Fallon farms depend.
Although many Lahontan Valley residents have long contended this, the allegations in this instance come from presumedly objective outside experts.
The study was prepared for the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Comission, which Congress established in 1992 to review water resource activities by federal agencies in the nineteen Western states.
This particular 250-page analysis, The Truckee-Carson River Basin Study, was prepared by a contractor, Clearwater Consulting Corporation, and is to be incorporated into a final report to be presented to Congress and the President in October of this year.
In a section of the study devoted to "important lessons learned" from the Truckee Settlement negotiations, the consulting firm said the talks in many ways were "a case study in how to alienate a party to the extent that it is driven from the solution process."



It was significant, said the report, that Department of Interior representatives, when interviewed, evidenced no inclination at all to recognize the interests of the Fallon agricultural community.
"Even more fundamentally," said the report, "nowhere in the stated purposes of [Senator Reid's initial enabling legislation] are the interests of the irrigation communities elevated to be coequal with the other major interests in the basins."
From the beginning of the negotiations, says the study, the Newlands Project irrigation water "was targeted to meet the needs of [the] other participants" -- the Pyramid Lake Indian tribe, Sierra Pacific Power Company, environmentalists, Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks.
The natural result was an impasse, when the irrigation district said 'no,' But in the consensus generated by the Department of Interior led negotiations, 'good negotiating' by irrigators would have been "their agreeing to give up water."
The study noted that "accounts of the history of events in the Truckee-Carson negotiations frequently state that the irrigators withdrew from


 
negotiations and 'left the table.'" That was an accusation leveled by Reid himself at a formal hearing on the Settlement Act.
"You ran away," Nevada's senior senator charged, leaning across a table and jabbing his pencil at Fallon-area farmers. "The rest of us stayed, but you ran away and now the time has come to move on."
Actually, said the consulting firm, personal interviews with several participants in the process -- including state and federal officials as well as irrigators -- suggested "a mutual decision was made that it was not productive to go forward."
Never did "the irrigators ... express an unwillingness to continue negotiating," said the study.
"Such a characterization of their position may have served as a pretext for others to stop negotiating with them."
Driving the irrigators away from the negotiating table may very well have been the plan in some quarters, says the study.
"At times, actions were taken that seemed designed more to hit out at the irrigators and cause them harm than to advance toward a larger solution. Enough such instances exist to raise the question as to whether driving the irrigators from the negotiations may not have been on




some agendas from the start."
In a fundamental collapse of the negotiation process, said the study, Fallon irrigators were made the "scapegoats" in the Department of Interior-led talks.
"By more than a few accounts, the Truckee-Carson settlement has been able to proceed only by excluding and blaming one of the parties," wrote the reviewing firm.
"Such an outcome represents a fundamental failure to negotiate, and falls short of the kind of goal that should be pursued in western water problem-solving."
Over all, concluded the study, "the Truckee-Carson negotiations provide a case study in how to alienate a party to the extent that it is driven from the solution process."
The report recounts many incidents where federal officials, whether in the Department of Interior or the U.S. Department of Justice, intervened to block Truckee-Carson Irrigation District proposals which appeared to offer more resources for environmental benefit or Truckee Meadows water quality.
"It was almost as if they did not want to let TCID do good things," a State of Nevada participant told the consulting firm.


 
In some instances, said the report, the Bureau of Reclamation appeared to have been ordered by DOI higher-ups not to respond positively to offers by the irrigators.
"One senior Reclamation official stated that the agency could have, for example, provided the resources for efficiency improvements, but was directed not to because 'that would perpetuate the Project.'"
It was one of several incidents, said the study, suggesting that federal officials were concealing another agenda.
"This would suggest that,




notwithstanding the stated goal of maintaining a viable agricultural community, other agendas may be operating which have not been made explicit outside federal circles."

for the full report, visit the
Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission web site

for one of the many events through which the federal government forfeited its credibility with Fallon residents, according to the WWPRAC, see EN's Oct, '96 report:
Feds, Nature Conservancy
In Covert Pact to Gain
Lahontan Farmers' Water


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