The Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) provides for the sale of certain federal lands in Clark County, Nevada for development. Money from the sale of the land is then largely used to acquire environmentally sensitive land and, in a broad sense, to fund conservation and restoration projects across the state.
Since 2009, according to the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), $3.6 billion has been used for sensitive land acquisitions and conservation projects in Nevada. Some $200 million in SNPLMA funds are expected to be available for the 18th round of grants.
Round 18 nominations for conservation and restoration projects under SNPLMA are due by September 14, and Carson City is preparing a nearly $2 million grant request for a marsh restoration project proposed for the 500-acre Buzzy’s Ranch property southeast of Carson City.
The blue triangle in the interactive map below marks Buzzy’s Ranch.
Concern that the ranch would become a housing development spurred Carson City to purchase the land in 2010 with a 2.8 million grant from Nevada’s Public Lands Division.
Buzzy’s is in-between other pieces of public land, the Silver Saddle Ranch and Riverview Park, but residential development backs up to parts of the ranch that could have otherwise been a development.
The ranch’s former owner is allowed to conduct agricultural operations on the land to include grazing and the raising of crops. Carson City staff have worked with consultants and the rancher in recent years to identify which areas of the ranch are most productive and naturally receiving the most water and which areas are not.
At the September 3 Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting, City Open Space Manager Lyndsey Boyer presented a request to make a SNPLMA wetlands restoration grant application for board approval.
“The Buzzy’s Ranch Wetland Enhancement Project seeks to purchase 154.3 acres or 694.35 acre feet of (annual) water rights, which are currently permitted by Vidler Water Company on Buzzy’s Ranch, but we’re seeking to purchase and apply them permanently,” Boyer said.
“And they would be applied to the middle portion of Buzzy’s Ranch, which includes approximately 36 acres that comprise the NDOT mitigation wetlands which are located in the southwestern portion of the property adjacent to Carson River Road, as well as approximately 112 acres which are just to the north of that parcel, which is the site of the Ducks Unlimited wetland enhancement project which was completed on the property in 2016.”
Vidler Water President and Chief Executive Officer Dorothy Timian-Palmer confirmed that Vidler is a willing seller if the price is right, though she would not say what that price would be.
According to Ducks Unlimited, every year, more than 2 million waterfowl migrate from Canadian prairie breeding grounds to the Great Salt Lake. From there, birds stopover in western Nevada on their way to the California Central Valley. Rare Nevada wetlands are truly oases in the desert.
Ducks Unlimited has invested more than a million dollars in restoring wetlands in northern Nevada in recent years on as many as 10 projects, according to the group, to include the Buzzy’s Ranch restoration.
“So we’re seeking to purchase these water rights to develop a more permanent wetland system out there,” Boyer said. “Right now it’s a bit of an ephemeral wetland system just due to water availability. “So these wetlands provide critical habitat to waterfowl, shorebirds and migratory birds as they make their way down through North America, they kind of key in on the wetlands and the flooded pastures as kind of a stopover location as they make their way to breeding grounds elsewhere within the country as well as down through the watershed.”
Carson/Lyon Intertie Project
The Intertie Project, as it is known, connects the Minden water system, the North Douglas County water system, the Indian Hills General Improvement water system, the Carson City water system and the Lyon County (Dayton) water system.
In 2007, according to Vidler, the company purchased “municipal, industrial and agricultural water rights in Eagle Valley and the Carson River.” The company constructed a 5.5-mile pipeline to connect the municipal water systems of Carson City and Dayton Utilities.
Interconnected water systems enable Vidler to sell Eagle Valley water to fast-growing Dayton and elsewhere in the interconnected system. The sale of the Buzzy’s Ranch water rights to Carson City will enable more of the groundwater to remain on the property.
The interconnected water systems also enable engineers to work around contaminated wells. Currently Carson City has 8 water wells which are impacted by uranium. Sharing the water dilutes the uranium contamination enough to prevent water quality from being poor enough to mandate the construction of a facility estimated to cost roughly $40 million.
Brian Bahouth is a career public media journalist and writes about the environment and other issues for the Ally. Support his work.