Senate Democrats

Reid, Ensign Secure Money For Walker River Basin

Congress passes $95 million to protect Walker Lake, local farm and ranchland

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly $100 million is headed to Nevada for ongoing efforts to save Walker Lake while protecting farm and ranchland in the Walker River basin. The funding will be used for agricultural and water projects in Lyon and Mineral counties, with the bulk of the money going to Nevada’s university system to conduct research and carry out restoration activities. There is also funding to eradicate invasive species, make fishery improvements and offer a voluntary water leasing program.

“Nevada’s sportsmen, farmers, ranchers, and Tribes are among the best stewards of our land and wildlife,” Senator Reid said. “With this funding, we are creating a way for everyone to work together and partner with our university experts to solve some of the toughest natural resource challenges in the country. This is a balanced and comprehensive approach to managing land and water in the Walker River basin. It will also mean the beginning of real efforts to save Walker Lake and protect one of our states most valuable natural resources.”

“This project will tap into the expertise of the University of Nevada, Reno as we bolster our water conservation efforts, especially as they pertain to Walker Lake,” Senator Ensign said. “This is proof that we can implement meaningful conservation measures while protecting Nevada’s farmers and ranchers.”

The amendment provides:

  • $ 70 million to the University of Nevada to establish and administer an agricultural and natural resources center to work on research, restoration and educational activities in the Walker River basin. (Land, water, and facilities to work on Walker River basin conservation projects will be purchased only from willing sellers.)
  • $10 million for a water lease and purchase program for the Walker River Tribe
  • $10 million for tamarisk eradication and riparian area and channel restoration
  • $5 million for fishery improvements and the Western Inland Trout Initiative

The funding was originally included in the Farm Bill which passed Congress in 2002. At that time, Sen. Reid included $200 million in funding for conservation projects at places like Walker Lake. The provision that passed today will release the funds and designate how the money is to be spent. The legislation passed the Senate today as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The legislation has already passed the House of Representatives and now goes to the White House for President Bush’s signature.