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Settlement Reached in Truckee River Dispute

Three localities and the Department of the Interior will fund a $24 million program to improve water quality and wildlife conditions in the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake, under an agreement signed today by representatives of the United States; the cities of Reno and Sparks, Nevada; Washoe County Nevada; the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection; and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

Under the agreement, Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County, will provide $12 million over the next five years to acquire Truckee River Water Rights. The Department of the Interior (DOI) will seek appropriations of an additional $12 Million for the same purpose. The water rights obtained through the funds will be used in a program to improve water quality and in-stream flows in the Truckee River from the Reno/Sparks area to Pyramid Lake.

The agreement settles a lawsuit by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe against the United States, Reno and Sparks, Nevada, that alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Protection Act, and the federal government's trust responsibility to the Tribe. As a part of the settlement, the Tribe agrees not to adopt under its own authority any water quality standards for the lower Truckee River, which is located within the tribal reservation, that would negate the value of the agreement. The agreement also creates an alternative dispute mechanism to deal with such issues.

"This settlement is a remarkable accomplishment and another example of the Clinton Administration's commitment to hammering out local, on-the-ground, common sense solutions to long-standing and contentious problems," said Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. "Through the patient hours of hard work put in by Senator Reid, in establishing a framework for settlement, and all eight of the affected parties, the Pyramid Lake Tribe can put aside their litigation and turn their attention to improving Truckee river water quality and recovering the ancient cui-ui that has been an integral part of the Tribe's history throughout the centuries."

"This agreement between the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the governmental entities provides a creative and sustainable course of action to prevent deterioration of the Truckee River and Pyramid lake, including protecting the endangered ancient cui-ui so integral to the life of the Paiutes," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This agreement demonstrates that our environmental problems can be solved through the cooperation of citizens and their representative government." "With the participation of all, we now have a solution that is win-win-win: for the environment, for Nevada's local communities, and for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe," said EPA Regional Administrator Felicia Marcus.

The settlement calls for DOI to arrange for storage of the acquired water in federal facilities. The water will be released to improve river flows during dry periods, according to a schedule and management plan to be developed by the local governments and DOI. The program is expected to solve water quality problems in the Truckee River and assist in the recovery of the endangered cui-ui fish which is found only in Pyramid Lake.

"The signing of this agreement is another milestone of cooperation among users of the Truckee River," said Ada Deer, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. "This is truly a situation where all the parties involved, including the residents of the Truckee Meadows, the Pyramid Lake Tribe, and fish and wildlife will benefit from this agreement."

"The amount of water this agreement provides to Pyramid Lake and the lower Truckee River, as well as its timing, will significantly improve the chances for the recovery of the endangered cui-ui," said Mike Spear, Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agreement also will enable the local governments to develop projects designed to create a drought-proof water supply for recreational areas through sewage effluent reuse projects. These projects will improve Truckee river water quality by substituting clean river water for effluent discharge. The treated effluent discharge will then be used for parks, an agriculture experiment station, golf courses and other uses.