River Fork Ranch seeks Question 1 funds | TahoeDailyTribune.com

River Fork Ranch seeks Question 1 funds

Susie Vasquez

STATELINE – Douglas County commissioners agreed to support The Nature Conservancy in its efforts to acquire funding for the River Fork Ranch project, a 788-acre swath of land near Genoa.

The 4-1 vote recommends Question 1 funding for wetland restoration and trails on the ranch, contingent on a proposed conservation easement from the Bureau of Land Management.

The move was opposed by Commission Chairman Kelly Kite.

Located along the western side of the Carson Valley, the project skirts Foothill Road between Genoa and Walley’s Hot Springs.

Plans include tripling the size of the existing wetlands, in line with the historic landscape.

Two miles of loop trails will include boardwalks and observation decks overlooking the working ranch, said Laura Crane, Carson River project director for the Nature Conservancy.

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“We’re designing the trails so our system connects Genoa and Walley’s,” Crane said.

Owned jointly by the Timken-Sturgis Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, the project has focused on the agricultural portion of the project since the ranch was acquired in 2000.

In addition to providing open space and restored wetlands, the theme of this project includes the synergy between agriculture and wildlife, Crane said.

“It’s also a tremendous educational opportunity,” she said. “We’re working to let people know ranching and the environment go together. We want to get school classrooms out there, and the University of Nevada is interested in using the area for an outdoor lab.”

Kite said one of the major challenges when it comes to preservation of riparian habitat and flood zones is acquiring the setbacks to protect the river. Along other Carson Valley waterways, the need for Question 1 funding is more critical.

He urged commissioners to delay approval of this project until those areas have been defined.

“The River Fork Ranch is not under pressure for development,” Kite said. “But once a house is built on a property, we’ll never get those easements. We need to start getting setbacks to protect floodways and flood management in areas more at risk.”

Conservancy officials could apply Question 1 funding to complete River Fork at a later date without hurting the project, he said.

“I support this project, but I don’t support making it a priority until we’ve identified Carson Valley’s floodways,” he said. At its Aug. 4 meeting, commissioners decided to prioritize potential projects for the Question 1 funding source, the project to be presented to the Carson Water Subconservancy District.

In a letter dated July 19, the Subconservancy District named a restoration project on the East Fork from Muller to Genoa lanes, but they had no firm commitment from owners of the property, the Park Cattle Company.

Numerous other sites, including the Willow Bend subdivision, Genoa Lake Golf Course and the Adams’ property were also named, but the property owners have not yet been contacted, Edwin James, general manager of the District wrote in the letter.