Tuesday’s Virgin Valley Water District meeting was full of discussion as the board members decided to move forward with exploration of the amount of water the district holds on the Virgin Mountain.
Initially, Franson Civil Engineers was supposed to present to staff their estimates for a 10-year study of water resources so that when needed, the district would know exactly what was available from the area.
Initially, board member Robert “Bubba” Smith questioned if this was a good use of the public’s money, citing that the location wasn’t ideal for easy access and should be directed towards other studies, such as that on Basin 222 or 223.
“We have an obligation to the public to develop water resources… how are we going to actually utilize this water in the future,” said Smith. He was also skeptical at the length of the agreement, and how much good it would actually do for the future of the water district.
VVWD Board Vice President Barbara Ellestad also spoke her opposition, pointing towards the potential National Monument designation that is appearing to be likely in January 2017. “If that happens, we’ve got a whole other problem with the water up there other than knowing how much is there. There is actual situations in other national monuments, where even though water rights were certificated, and the water districts had legal rights, they were unable to go back in there for that water… We’ve had those water rights since 1993, for 22 years, I don’t have a problem waiting 15 more months because we have a whole different ballgame.”
Water District Manager Kevin Brown, as well as board members Rich Bowler and Sandra Ramaker, that the bottom line is that this study needs to get done regardless. “The best way to lose water is to not take care of it, not do anything with it. If we take the time and spend some money to do the study, we should have a stronger claim if this happens,” said Bowler. Board President Nephi Julien agreed, stating that the district needs to do something, and this would be a good start.
Ellestad’s view changed slightly once Lincoln County Water District General Manager Wade Poulson spoke of the situation his district is facing since Basin & Range National Monument was established this past year.
“When they tried to make that an NCA a little over four years ago, we had applications out on two locations, and we made a decision to begin a monitoring program. That became our saving grace to all of our water applications because it became ‘historical use’,” he said. Poulson continued to share that once the historical use is established, that it can typically be continued in most cases, depending on the language of the bill when it is passed by the governing body. Because they had the monitoring program in place, they can be continued and they can still utilize the right of ways they have because they were in the works prior to the establishment of the declaration of the area.
“They have up to three years to create the Monument Management Plan. How they write that plan is up to the stakeholders. By having a historical use status, you become a stakeholder and can have a say in how the language is written.”
“We didn’t acquire any land out there,” Poulson continued. “We tried to… but were unable to. We can still develop our water resources through the right of ways and transfer that water out, according to the BLM now. However, that could change.”
With Poulson’s statements in mind, the board approved the proposal for Franson to prepare and begin their studies, not to exceed $34,000 for the first year, although construction costs were not a part of the motion. The construction costs will appear on the October 20 agenda for board approval.
Other business for the night included discussion on water pressure issues that are currently a problem for several areas in Mesquite including the Bella Horizon subdivision on the Northeast side of town as well as portions of Sun City to the Northwest. Manager Kevin Brown presented several options, of ways to resolve the low water pressure for current and future developments in the area, all of them having a fiscal impact on the VVWD’s budget. The board voted to direct staff to set up meetings with developers to discuss possible resolutions directly with them before moving on to possible larger impact projects.
The next meeting will be held in the VVWD conference room, 500 Riverside Road, at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 14, 2015.