Update 4:30 p.m.: Attorney for family with Tahoe water rights asks for continuance
A potential offer to Douglas County from a Lake Tahoe family trust that owns basin water rights will be revisited in the coming weeks, leaders agreed today.
The attorney for Lake Tahoe water rights holders William and Elizabeth Rabe Trust told Douglas County commissioners that the family is interested in a deal but isn’t prepared to list the terms of an agreement for sale of the water rights.
Douglas County wants to buy the rights for $750,000 which would give 56.6 acre feet of water to augment the county’s Lake Tahoe water supplies. The money would be paid over a six-year period.
“No pun intended but water rights value is a fluid thing,” Jason Woodbury, attorney for the Rabe family, told commissioners at their meeting today in Stateline.
If a deal is eventually penned, another 8.4 acre-feet would be donated to the county after the final payment, in 2013, according to those close to the deal.
In four of the last seven years, Douglas County has pumped more water than permitted from Lake Tahoe. Legislation passed during the last session could mean fines of up to $10,000 per day for overpumpage, which has ranged between 3 and 34.5 acre feet.
Water usage dropped in 2005 and 2006, leaving a surplus of 82.5 and 67 acre feet respectively, but future needs and growth are expected to increase consumption to between 56 and 73 acre feet at build-out, according to county figures.
The current annual allotment for the Douglas County portion of Lake Tahoe is 759.8 acre feet.
“Sometimes we’re over and sometimes we’re under, so we’re looking at what we may need for ultimate buildout,” said Douglas County Engineer Carl Ruschmeyer.
These are surface water rights and can’t be transferred out of the Lake Tahoe basin, Ruschmeyer said.
Estimates put the cost of an acre-foot at about $13,250, said one-time county commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen, who now represents Terra Firma Associates LLC. He and his son, Dominic, an attorney, were both present at today’s meeting.
The water rights, which date from January 1861, are owned by the William and Elizabeth Rabe Trust and are located on Burke Creek and Folsom Springs.
Any transaction would, of course, be contingent upon successful transfer of the point of diversion, place and manner of use of this water by the Nevada State Engineer to the county, Etchegoyhen said. He deferred comments at the board meeting to attorney Woodbury.
County commissioners appeared eager to negotiate a deal, which would keep the county out of legal troubles as water usuage in the basin continues to grow.
In comparison with water systems in Minden and Gardnerville, “$13,250 an-acre foot is a reasonable price” said Commissioner Kelly Kite.
In other business, commissioners gave the first reading on an amendment to the Lake Tahoe vacation rental ordinance, defining on-site parking spaces and limiting overnight parking to on-site assigned parking spaces.
” Susie Vasquez of The Record-Courier contributed to this story.