Operating Criteria and Procedures for the Newlands Reclamation Project, Nevada (OCAP)


The Newlands Project, one of the first projects built by the Bureau of Reclamation, is currently operated by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID) through a contract with Reclamation. The Project has approximately 60,000 irrigated acres and two divisions:

  • The Truckee Division is located primarily in and around Fernley, Nevada, a rapidly growing city in Lyon County, about 30 miles east of Reno. It also includes the Hazen and Swingle Bench areas to the east, which are in Churchill County. The Truckee Division contains about 5,000 acres of irrigated lands, which is less than 10 percent of the Project acreage, and is supplied exclusively by water diverted at Derby Dam from the Truckee River into the Truckee Canal.
  • The Carson Division contains the bulk of project lands, located in and around the City of Fallon, Nevada, about 65 miles east of Reno. Water users include farmers, the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, and wetlands. Irrigation water for the division is released from Lahontan Reservoir. The reservoir is located on the Carson River and, under specified conditions, receives supplementary water from the Truckee River via the Truckee Canal. Under the currently-used OCAP, once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Water Rights Acquisition Program is complete, approximately 22% (long-term average) of the total Newlands Project water supply is expected to come from the Truckee River, which will supply 100% of the Truckee Division and an average of 13% of the Carson Division.
What is OCAP?

The OCAP is a federal rule that lays out how Reclamation’s Newlands Project is operated. Its main purposes are:

  • To ensure legitimate Newlands Project water rights are served
  • To regulate the timing and amount of water that can be diverted out of the Truckee River to serve Newlands Project water rights
  • To minimize the use of the Truckee River and maximize the use of the Carson River

See the expanded list of what the OCAP does.

Who Administers the OCAP?

The Lahontan Basin Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation administers the OCAP, in consultation with TCID, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Federal Water Master

Why are Operating Criteria (OCAP) Needed?

Newlands Project operating criteria are needed so the Secretary of the Interior can meet responsibilities to various entities on the Carson and Truckee rivers including irrigators, tribes, wetlands, and fish and wildlife. Nevada is the driest state in the country and there is competition for the limited supply of Truckee River water. Truckee River water is a supplemental supply for irrigation on the Newlands Project, which receives most of its water from the Carson River. The significant decline in Pyramid Lake, a terminal lake at the mouth of the Truckee River, due partly to diversions for Newlands Project purposes, made it necessary for Reclamation to institute operating criteria for the Newlands Project. The OCAP limit Truckee River diversions to only the amount needed to serve Project water rights.

Other OCAPs

Prior to 1967, diversions out of the Truckee River into the Truckee Canal were limited only by the capacity of the canal, which can carry a flow of about 950 cubic feet per second. At times, diversions were made for the sole purpose of generating power at Lahontan Dam. These unlimited diversions contributed to the approximately 80-foot decline in the level of Pyramid Lake between 1900 and 1967. The first operating criteria, which placed restrictions on Truckee River diversions to the Newlands Project, were put in place in October 1967 and reinstituted annually through the 1972 water year. In response to court actions, various operating criteria were implemented until the 1988 OCAP were put in place. They were the first operating criteria to allow water credits or impose water penalties on the irrigation district, depending on the efficiency of their water conveyance. These operating criteria remained in place until the current OCAP were implemented in December 1997.

What Effect Have the OCAP Had?

The OCAP have placed limits on diversions from the Truckee River and contributed to the increase in Pyramid Lake level. The lake was at an elevation of about 3,807 feet in October 2007, 23 feet higher than its 1967 low point of 3,783.9 feet. The Newlands Project has exceeded the efficiency target every year between 2000 and 2005 (the last year for which figures are available). Even with a reduced supply from the Truckee River, irrigators have had a 100 percent water supply available since 1995, in spite of some dry years between 2000 and 2004, and 2007.

1997 OCAP; CFR Part 418

Operating Criteria and Procedures for the Newlands Reclamation Project, Nevada 

For additional information or assistance please contact:

Dan Lahde or Laurie Nicholas
Bureau of Reclamation
705 North Plaza St., Suite 320
Carson City, NV 89701
775-884-8357 (office)
775-882-7592 (fax)

Expanded List of What the Newlands Project Operating Criteria and Procedures (OCAP) Do

The Newlands Project OCAP
  • Limit diversions to Lahontan Reservoir from the Truckee River through the Truckee Canal, in order to maximize flows to Pyramid Lake. The lake is the river's terminus and is located on the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation. The lake is home to two fish species listed under the Endangered Species Act: a large sucker fish, the cui-ui (commonly pronounced “cwee-wee”) that is listed as endangered, and the Lahontan cutthroat trout that is listed as threatened.
  • Provide criteria specifying whether Truckee River diversions to Lahontan Reservoir are allowed in a given month, and the allowable diversion quantity.
  • Set criteria for determining an annual maximum amount of water that can be released to serve Newlands Project purposes. Water is released from the Truckee Canal to serve the Truckee Division, located in and around the City of Fernley, Nevada. Most water to serve the Carson Division, is released from Lahontan Reservoir. The reservoir is located on the Carson River; the Carson Division is located in and around the City of Fallon, Nevada.
  • Specify a procedure under which Truckee River water that is allowed to be diverted to Lahontan Reservoir, is instead credit-stored in Stampede Reservoir for later release to the Project, if needed. The purpose is to prevent water from being diverted to Lahontan Reservoir and then spilled when unanticipated flood or large runoff events occur. The diversion is delayed, and if no unexpectedly large flow events occur, the water can be brought over to Lahontan Reservoir.
  • Protect fish in the Truckee River below Derby Dam, when the river flows there are less than 100 cubic feet per second, by prohibiting increased diversions into the Truckee Canal diversion that would significantly change those flows. The purpose is to avoid sudden flow decreases that could strand fish
  • Set a target Newlands Project conveyance system efficiency in non-drought, non-spill years to encourage good management of Project water.
  • Penalize the irrigation district (with water) for failing to meet the target efficiency; reward the irrigation district (with water) for exceeding the target efficiency.
  • Annually adjust LahontanReservoir storage targets, which affect the allowable amount of water diverted from the Truckee River to the reservoir via the Truckee Canal, based on the anticipated irrigated project acreage, and other factors.
  • Allow Reclamation to develop criteria under which Lahontan Reservoir precautionary drawdowns can occur to limit potential flood damage along the Carson River.
  • Prohibit Newlands Project water deliveries to ineligible lands or in excess of established water duties.
  • Direct the Project operator, the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, to maintain records of water-righted lands and water deliveries.


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Last Updated: 10/6/20