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Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Nevada

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Storey and Churchill county leaders say Washoe County's purchase of water rights to maintain Truckee River water quality is creating environmental and economic havoc in the rural, downstream communities. The issue comes on the heels of the 1996 Water Quality Agreement among the tribe, Reno, Sparks, the Department of the Interior, Sierra Pacific, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection. Under the agreement Reno and Sparks must reserve a portion of their water rights to ensure the quality and flow of water in the Truckee. Instead of using their existing water, officials in both cities are buying water in the counties to meet the obligation. Storey County Commissioner Charles Haynes said purchase of ranch lands, together with the water rights, is detrimental to the county's future. "It seriously affects our master plan, which is very clear about preserving agricultural areas." Other officials said the practice amounts to a type of coercion because when one rancher sells out, it places an increased burden on neighbors to maintain irrigation systems. They point to a water table which dropped to the point groundcover and large, established cottonwood trees were dying. "Its' a serious, pathetic situation, all in the name of environmental concern," said Churchill County Manager Bjorn Selinder.

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