Fallon-area farmers are praising a federal judge's ruling in a Truckee River water dispute, saying it spares them their precious water.
U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben ordered the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District to repay 197,152 acre-feet of Truckee water it over-diverted from 1973 to 1988.
The federal government was seeking to recoup more than 1 million acre-feet of water it claimed was over-diverted.
"It was a very favorable decision for us and the people that live here," Fallon City Attorney Mike Mackedon told the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard newspaper.
The government and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, which intervened on behalf of the U.S., initially had sought up to 1.5 million acre-feet of water to be poured into Pyramid Lake.
Justice Department officials did not return a call for comment. Tribal attorney Robert Pelcyger had not read the judge's decision and declined comment.
The Truckee flows eastward more than 90 miles from Lake Tahoe to its terminus at Pyramid Lake. A portion of its water is diverted to the south for farmers in Fallon 60 miles east of Reno.
McKibben wrote that the plaintiffs proved only part of their case against the irrigation district and none of it against individual water right owners, including farmers.
The judge relied on reports by state officials and a defense expert to conclude that the irrigation district is only liable for less than 25 percent of the alleged over-diversions.
McKibben said the government doesn't deserve interest after its long delay in bringing the case to court. The case was filed in federal court in 1995.
While the irrigation district owns some water rights, its officials are unsure how to send nearly 200,000 acre-feet of water to Pyramid Lake.
"It depends on what kind of repayment plan they are going to want, but they're going to have to be pretty creative," said Lyman McConnell, its project manager.
McKibben acknowledged in his decision that repayment may be a problem, but said the court will hold further hearings on a recoupment agreement.
The irrigation district has no plans to appeal the ruling.
"It was substantially in our favor in terms of what they were asking for," McConnell said.