Even 20 years ago, local planners could see the limited water supply in the north valleys would limit development north of Reno. So, the owners of the Fish Springs Ranch in the Honey Lake Valley brought a proposal. The ranch had thousands of acre feet of water available if the county would build the pipeline to develop it.
In the end, the county walked away from the project, unwilling to invest the millions it would take. Twenty years later, the project is built by Vidler Water Company. Tuesday night they essentially gave the infrastructure and the water rights to the county.
"They will get their money back by selling water to developers," says Rosemary Menard, the Director of Washoe County's Department of Water Resources. "But the county will own and operate the system and issue service orders."
So, Vidler still owns the water. The county now owns a 28 mile pipeline, pumps and storage tanks that connect with an existing county owned system in Lemmon Valley.
The ground water there has been dropping in recent years. The addition of the imported water will reverse that trend and provide for future development.
"It's a big deal," says Menard. "It's a new increment of supply for future development. Eight thousand acre feet of water. That's perhaps 16 thousand homes or businesses."
The source of the water, Fish Springs Ranch is in Nevada, but most of the Honey Lake Basin is in California. Lassen County officials have been concerned about the project from the beginning and at one point filed a lawsuit against it. That suit has apparently been dropped.