Board hears Wolf Creek water lease proposal

After months-long exchange of letters, Jeff Sylvester, attorney for Wolf Creek Golf Course,

attended the January 16 meeting of Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) to present the golf course’s counter offer to VVWD’s request for return of unused water shares that are under lease agreement with VVWD until 2019.

In 2011 VVWD agreed to extend an agreement allowing Wolf Creek to lease 150 water shares from VVWD at $250 per share per year.  A VVWD irrigation water share equals 7.18 acre feet of water, or 2,339,000 gallons of water.  Subsequently, VVWD determined that Wolf Creek  actually uses only about 100 of those shares, while declining use of City of Mesquite effluent water.  By City contract and VVWD contract, Wolf Creek is required to use effluent, costing $608 for equivalent amount of water, for golf course irrigation before using VVWD irrigation water.   Since 2014, VVWD has twice requested renegotiation of the lease contract to return the unused water shares so the District could lease that water to Southern Nevada Water Authority for $1256 per share, which it pays VVWD for other leased water.

Sylvester, asserting Wolf Creek’s goal is to be a good community partner, stated that the

golf course does not disagree with return of the unused shares, but asserts that local Mesquite businesses should not be charged a rate equal to SNWA.   He proposed that Wolf Creek would renegotiate its contract to return unused shares if it were allowed to claw back needed shares in case of business expansion, and VVWD would agree to lock the Wolf Creek rate for water shares at $450 per share per year for 20 years.

The Board declined further discussion of the issue following Sylvester’s comments, since this

was not an agendized item, and no board action could be taken during this meeting.  In its Dec. 19 meeting, the board proposed a tentative agreement with Conestoga Golf Course to reduce its number of leased water shares, but that proposal did not broach a long term rate ceiling.  No final agreement has come out of that proposal, which would allow Conestoga to assign its leased shares to another party in case of sale of the golf course and “reel back” any of the conceded shares if needed to maintain course condition (see MLN 12/21/2017).

VVWD defers responsibility for pipeline repairs to Falcon Ridge owners

The board then turned to a discussion of responsibility for the pipes and water-related infrastructure within properties in Falcon Ridge Community Association.  Terra West

Property Management Company raised this issue when asked for comments on pending VVWD metered rate increases in October, 2017.  The management company replied that it

could not support a rate increase when its clients in Falcon Ridge area were being charged to repair waterline problems that occurred before VVWD water reached their water meters.

In many Nevada water districts, the customer is liable only for cost of repairs past the water meter.

Elgin Karklins, president of Falcon Ridge Community Association, represent the association’s interests to the board.  He maintains that the current position of VVWD affects future development in the Falcon Ridge complex, because line breaks have cost individual owners thousands of dollars, often repairing lines that run under, but do not serve their own property.  He maintains that Nevada state law requires VVWD to bear responsibility of the water line to the business’s water meter.  He says current owners of the individual businesses in the area were not told of the VVWD responsibility policy put in place for Gonzo Mesa Development in 2002-3.  The district approved placement of water meters inside property lines when the now-defunct Calais Village complex was mapped out.  Current owners bought parcels lost in the recession.

VVWD addressed these issues in a letter sent to Falcon Ridge Community Association Dec. 18, 2017.  That letter, written by VVWD attorney Bo Bingham, countered the Association’s claims, quoting VVWD rules and regulations that say “district responsibility ends at the point closest to the (VVWD) distribution line serving the property whether that be at the property line, backflow device, or meter.”  Bingham referred to previous correspondence with Terra West in 2016, and minutes of the VVWD meeting on March 2, 2010 in which the subject of pipeline responsibility was discussed.  VVWD maintains that the original developer had requested water meters be placed on individual businesses inside private property lines.  VVWD complied with that request while disclaiming responsibility for all infrastructure behind the backflow devices placed at the property lines, and VVWD does not repair lines on private property.

Board member Travis Anderson reiterated that VVWD and the City have been consistent in applying this standard to business developments in that area of town since 2000, and that practice is supported by state statute.  He cited Walmart and the Redd Hills complex as using the same standard of street-side backflow valves on Pioneer Blvd, and business owners taking responsibility of water lines under parking lots to individual buildings or businesses.

Mr. Karklins insisted that the 2007 layout map of the business complex formerly known as Calais Village showed easements for VVWD line maintenance on plot maps, an indication that VVWD took responsibility for those pipes and infrastructure.  Anderson denied that assertion.

Audience member Dave Ballweg, speaking as a businessman who owns property in the area, commiserated with costs assigned to owners, but recommended that the Falcon Ridge business owners should have a reserve fund that covers water and sewer maintenance.  Karklins stated their reserve fund covers parking lots and streets, not water and sewer infrastructure, because they feel VVWD is responsible for pipelines up to the water meters.

The discussion concluded with no action by the board after the airing of customer grievance and VVWD declining responsibility within private property lines.

In other business, VVWD general manager Kevin Brown brought the board a draft memorandum of agreement with the Southern Nevada BLM preserving VVWD water rights and access to those rights located within the Gold Butte National Monument.  VVWD requested Monument boundaries be moved to exclude its historic water rights when the monument proclamation did not specifically protect development access to those water sources.  Interior Secretary Zinke placed that request in his recommendations to President Trump.

An application for infrastructure development for Nickel Springs has been pending with BLM since 2012, and monument designation has changed federal rules for such applications.  This agreement, if signed, provides that the BLM agrees that VVWD will have “unhindered access, development, and use of water and water rights” held in the area.  The memorandum was drafted to protect VVWD interests in the event that monument lines remain intact as declared in 2016.  The board unanimously approved the draft agreement, 5-0, and it will be sent to BLM for approval.

The board elected its officers for 2018, with director Rich Bowler moving to maintain the current leadership: Nephi Julien, board president: Ben Davis, VP, and staff member Mary Johnson, secretary.  Rich Bowler, Travis Anderson, and Barb Ellestad round out the publicly elected five-member board of directors.

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