Photo: Patrick Wilkes
The Pyramid Lake Department of Water Resources was founded in 1990 with the intention of implementing PL 101-618. Over the past 27 years the Tribe has been involved with various state and federal agencies, negotiating a reasonable water rights settlement. The Settlement Act, as it is sometimes called, will help stablize lake levels, provide sufficient flows to maintain the fisheries program, and provide the tribe with an Economic Development Fund for the future needs of the Pyramid Lake Reservation.
The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Department of Water Resources works directly with many of the upstream Truckee
River water users, as well as many local, States and Federal governmental entities and agencies with oversight for
regulatory enforcement and compliance. Water Resources has been actively involved for many years with
regional water issues for the protection and implementation of many water related agreements addressing
water quality, Truckee River flow regime, and many more for the protection, restoration and recovery of
the endangered and threatened species in Pyramid Lake. Importantly, Water Resources is actively
involved with regional participation of water issues off the Pyramid Lake Reservation, which may have
an impact on the Tribe’s water resources.
The Water Quality Settlement Agreement was executed in 1996 with the United States Department of
the Interior, United States Department of Justice, United States Environmental Protection Agency, State
of Nevada, Washoe County, the cities of Reno/Sparks, and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. The program
was continued with the Water Rights Acquisitions Program funded by the Desert Terminus Lakes
Funding through the Bureau of Reclamation.
Over the life of the Water Rights Acquisitions Program a total of 11, 577.47 acre feet of water rights
have been acquired of which 7,905.05 acre-feet has been acquired by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe
and 3,308.15 acre-feet was acquired by the Local Governments(Reno, Sparks and Washoe County).
In addition, the Tribe has acquired 12,790.45 acres of land within and/or contiguous to the
The TROA –Memorandum of Agreement was signed in 1999 by the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau
of Indian Affairs, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. TROA-MOA is an agreement that provides
the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe authority to administer and
manage steam flows of the Lower Truckee River for
the benefit of the Pyramid Lake Fish. Water
Resources beganmanagement of the Lower
Truckee River in 2008 and continues such
The Tribe contracted for technical work required
to support the Tribes claims in the Smoke Creek
Desert Basin adjudication by the State of Nevada. The
technical work was to prepare documents to substantiate
the Tribe’s present and future water right needs for both
ground and surface water from the Smoke Creek Basin.The
Tribe’s petition was filed in October, 2011, and we are still
awaiting the hearing to be set by the Nevada State
The Tribal Water Team was instrumental in the successful appealto the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of the decision of the federal
district court regarding the proper amount of recoupment owed to the Tribe and United States in United States and Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe v. Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (the Recoupment Case). In that litigation, which is authorized by Public Law 2102-618, the United States and Tribe seek the recoupment of water illegally diverted from the Truckee River ty the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. The 9th Circuit’s July 2013 opinion awarded an additional and significant amount of water to the Recoupment Judgment against TCID. In the first quarter of 2015, the Tribe continued to pursue the Recoupment case by meeting and discussing with federal attorneys regarding the entry of a final judgment for the proper amount of recoupment water to be awarded to the Tribe for 1985 and 1986 as ordered by the district court after the remand from the 9th Circuit. TCID disputes the amount of recoupment that should be awarded for 1985 and 1986, and the district court ordered the parties to submit written briefing on this issue. TCID, the Tribe and the United States provided different and separate briefs detailing their calculations and reasoning in 2015. In January 2016, the district court denied the Tribe and US voluntarily dismissed its appeal, leaving the Tribe to prosecute its appeal by itself.
Also in the Recoupment case the Tribe objected to TCID selling its Donner Lake water rights to Truckee Meadows Water Authority on the ground that those were the only water rights TCID owned that it could use to repay the Recoupment judgment. The United States is decided to not oppose the sale but the Tribe filed to make sure the only asset of TCID remains for the fulfillment of the recoupment judgement to benefit the Tribe. The district court granted TCID’s req2uest to sell Donner Lake. This decision was not included in the Tribe’s 9th Circuit appeal.
TCID reported all the recoupment water was paid back and presented the itemized account of the water they claimed satisfied recoupment. The Bureau of Reclamation, Tribe, Stetson Engineers, BIA and the Department of Justice have been review the claims and determined the amount of water forgone from diversion during planned maintenance was +/- 22,000 acre feet. The recoupment water must be planned so the Tribe has the opportunity to manage the water. A brief was submitted to the court jointly from the US and the Tribe.