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Lawyer points to latest canal breach

RENO — A lawyer for flood victims said Friday that this week’s failure of another canal provides more ammunition in the legal battle to slow water flows in a century-old Northern Nevada irrigation system because it shows “these ancient embankments are not as strong as they appear.”

The break in the V Line Canal alongside a concrete spillway on the west edge of Fallon late Wednesday night tore out an access road and bridge, but didn’t flood any homes. No one was injured.

In January, the Truckee Canal burst, flooding nearly 600 homes in Fernley, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage and leading to disaster declarations.

Robert Hager, a lawyer representing more than 100 of the Fernley flood victims, said the V Line Canal’s earthen embankment had been constructed with the same type of materials and at about the same time as when the Truckee Canal was built in 1903.

“The water was running at a height of 32 inches below the top of the embankment, which shows that these ancient embankments are not as strong as they appear,” he said. “The embankment that failed has numerous roots and rodent holes, the same condition that exists in the canal in Fernley.”

Hager is trying to persuade U.S. District Judge Lloyd George to grant a preliminary injunction to force the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Truckee-Carson Irrigation District to restrict flows in the Truckee Canal.

A third day of testimony in the federal case concluded Wednesday but the judge has not scheduled a teleconference for closing arguments.

Hager said he intends to file more court documents with photos of the Fallon breach and an affidavit from an expert who inspected the site Thursday.

Lynette Wirth, a Reclamation Bureau spokeswoman, said agency engineers were assessing the latest canal failure, but she would not comment on pending litigation.

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