A way to consolidate impact fees for the Virgin River Habitat Conservation & Recovery Plan (VRHCRP) by including them in the Clark County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CCMSHCP) is possible, according to the state lobbyist for the Virgin Valley Water District.
Although Warren Hardy II is contracted with the VVWD to work in Carson City, he has offered to represent the VVWD with Clark County, as well. He met recently with what he termed “high-level” staff with Clark County and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
He discussed those meetings Tuesday, Aug. 7, with the VVWD board.
“I had extraordinary conversations with the county on these issues and with the Southern Nevada Water Authority,” he told the board. He met with the officials as a representative of the VVWD and city of Mesquite, which also has hired him as a lobbyist..
He said he was encouraged with their cooperation to help resolve the issue. “More than anything, I got a commitment for them to help us move forward,” he added.
The issue is the method and amount to be paid into the Habitat Conservation Program for the Virgin River, which was a requirement of the Mesquite Land Act. Developers within city limits must pay a per-acre fee to mitigate their development’s environmental impact on the Virgin River riparian habitat. The VVWD also is to collect a fee for new hook-ups, as federal environmental officials believe new water users impact the water table and the river’s habitat.
In 2008, the VVWD signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to participate in the VRHCRP. The singers of the MOA agreed to “outline a framework for the development, determination of roles and responsibilities, participation in, and implementation of a multi-party Virgin River Habitat Conservation and Recovery Program. The two primary terms and conditions involving Mesquite were “1) development of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for federally listed species not covered under the Clark County (County) Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CCMSHCP), and 2) participate in a Hydrologic Monitoring Plan (HMMP).” These requirements were conditions laid out by BLM for the purchase by the City of Mesquite of lands under the Mesquite Land Act.
The VVWD, however, has never set the amount of the fees to be collected, with some board members saying it was unfair for new customers to bear the burden. Workshops were scheduled to explain the mandates to the board, and a suggestion arose that Mesquite and the water district participate in the Clark County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan. But the program manager for the Desert Conservation Program, which administers the CCMSHCP, has denied the proposal, leading to Hardy’s intervention.
Hardy said, “It’s still the easiest and most risk-free avenue for us to go ahead and do our own study (how the fee structure should be set up.”
He noted there are other options the board should consider, but details must be worked out by VVWD General Manager Ken Rock and the water district’s legal counsel Bo Bingham meeting with the county and SNWA. Then the proposal can be brought back to the board to consider.
Hardy noted that after he, Rock and Bingham meet with Clark County and SNWA officials they should be able to report something solid to the board within 60 days.
“The preference of the county is we resolve this collectively,” he added. There is willingness with the county to explore one mitigation fee being collected, but there are issues to be worked out.
Rock asked if the VVWD and city must reach an agreement before approaching the county. Hardy agreed.
Mesquite City Manager Andy Barton, who attended the meeting, said the city would gladly talk with the VVWD, but noted, “Our time schedule is faster than we like.”
VVWD President Karl Gustaveson said, “We’ll be looking for great thing is the next 60 days.”
Gustaveson also serves on the city council and is appointed to serve on the VVWD board by the city. Board member Ted Miller would change that.
Miller wants Hardy to approach the Legislature about changing how the board members are selected. He would like the five directors elected by the people they serve.
But Clark County approves the Bunkerville director on the board. Hardy noted before he approaches the Legislature, there must be a consensus about how the directors are to be selected. Time is short, however, as legislators already are submitting bill drafts for the 2013 session.
The board agreed to hold workshops and seek input about Miller’s proposal.
The board also agreed to send Rock, Gustaveson and director Kenyon Leavitt to Washington to meet with Nevada’s Congressional Delegation about the proposed USGS basin study and preserving the VVWD’s water rights and access to the Virgin Mountains.
Director Richard Bowler and Miller opposed the trip as premature and expensive. But Gustaveson, Leavitt and director Sandra Ramaker passed the measure. Gustaveson said time was crucial. President Obama has been asked to make the Gold Butte area a national monument. The VVWD must make its positions clear before any actions get taken.
A proposal to revise the policy for placing items on the agenda failed 3-2 with Miller, Leavitt and Bowler opposing it and Gustaveson and Ramaker voting yes.
Bowler, in making his motion to keep the policy as is, said it must remain easy for the directors and public to add items to the agenda. Gustaveson said there was no intention to make it harder for items to be added, simply have all agenda items cross the desk of the general manager for better organization.
In other business:
-Following a motion by Bowler with a second by Ramaker, the board unanimously approved the $10,000 annual agreement with Water Quality & Treatment Solutions (WQTS) for work, when needed, on the VVWD arsenic, water treatment plants.
-The board also unanimously approved a $5,250 contract for Trade West to repair White Rock Road after a recent main line leak. Bowler made the motion; Miller provided the second.
-A $1,911 contract for Mesquite General Contracting to repair Sunset Road after a July 28 leak damaged the roadway also received unanimous support. Before he moved to award the contract, Bowler said he was concerned that the low bid included possible contingencies, while Trade West’s higher bid did not. “I hate to approve bids with (possible) changes when the other is not.” But he did. Miller seconded the motion before the 5-0 vote.
-The board unanimously approved the sale of a home in Las Vegas that has been tied up in litigation involving the VVWD. The home will be sold for $165,000 with the proceeds being placed in an escrow account for the VVWD until the suit is settled.