FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2020
CITY OF FERNLEY SUES U.S. RECLAMATION FOR COVID-19 EXTENSION
Fernley, NV, April 9, 2020 – Today the City of Fernley filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to get a COVID-19 extension of time to a 45-day period that Reclamation set to receive public comment on the Truckee Canal Extraordinary Maintenance Project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (“DEIS”). The maintenance project will dry up hundreds of domestic wells in Fernley, and Reclamation has ignored those concerns to date. Now, when domestic well owners need to stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, they cannot come together to tell Reclamation what is wrong with their project. As Fernley’s Mayor, Roy Edgington said, “Reclamation should not dry up these people’s wells, and Reclamation should make the time to listen to Fernley’s citizens. Reclamation has waited years to get this DEIS out, will a couple more months really hurt, particularly when we are all staying home?”
Reclamation was forced to cancel public meetings on March 24 and 25 because of the COVID-19 shut-in orders. Fernley and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe requested that Reclamation extend the public comment period beyond April 20, 2020, and after the COVID-19 shut-in orders are lifted. Reclamation refused and Fernley was left with no option but to file a lawsuit and ask the Federal District Court to intervene.
The Truckee Canal runs through Fernley and transports water from the Truckee River to the Lahontan Reservoir. In 2008, a canal breach flooded Fernley. Now Reclamation is looking for ways to reduce the risk of future breaches. But the fix is worse than the disease. Reclamation wants to line the Truckee Canal and prevent recharge from reaching a groundwater aquifer that serves Fernley’s municipal water system, and over 450 domestic wells. Reclamation will dry up 71% of the domestic wells and cause operational problems for the City’s water system.
Fernley regularly requested Reclamation to consider other options to fix the canal without cutting off the groundwater recharge. And in 2013, Reclamation agreed that the best alternative for canal safety was to create a cutoff wall that would not affect recharge through the bottom of the canal. In its March 2020, DEIS, however, Reclamation removed that option and focused solely on canal lining. Since canal lining will dry up so many domestic wells, public meetings in the EIS process really matter for those domestic well owners.
Despite Reclamation’s refusal to give Fernley more time, other federal agencies in similar situations already granted COVID-19 extensions. On the same day Reclamation denied Fernley’s requested extension, BLM announced an extension of the public comment period the DEIS regarding management of sage-grouse habitat. And on March 19, 2020, the U.S. Forest Service extended the public comment period for the DEIS for its proposed Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest plan because previously scheduled public meeting had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The current national and state declared emergencies have shut down all non-essential government and private business activity. Citizens are staying at home, and public meetings and gatherings are prohibited. As Mayor Edgington said, “Reclamation is surprisingly unwilling to grant a modest extension, even though COVID-19 is clearly limiting the opportunity for people to have their voices heard about such a highly controversial proposal.”
The members of the Fernley City Council are committed to protecting the rights of its citizens to be able to meaningfully participate in the EIS process and on Tuesday, April 7th, held a special meeting to authorize the filing of this lawsuit.
For more information, to arrange an interview, or to request a copy of the lawsuit please contact:
Fernley City Manager
Phone: (775) 784-9800
www.cityoffernley.org / https://www.facebook.com/CityofFernley/
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