It was a tale of two governing bodies Tuesday night, February 2, as the Virgin Valley Water District Board (VVWD) and its employees joined with the Mesquite City Council to present their information to the public in an effort to educate and project future plans of growth. All members of both bodies were present, with the exception of Mayor Al Litman, who had a prior commitment. Mayor Pro-Tem Geno Withelder filled in and directed the meeting.
First to present was VVWD Manager Kevin Brown, who reviewed how the district was formed and when the first pipes were laid in the Virgin Valley. He went on to discuss the structure of the district and how things proceed.
In light of recent news from Flint, Mich., Brown stated that the VVWD has a lead monitoring program and according to those studies, “We do not have a lead problem here.”
Brown also discussed the district’s ongoing struggles with existing “will-serves” or commitments for water availability. “We have a tremendous amount of undeveloped lots in Mesquite… roughly 7000. Our staff is going through every record to identify the owners of those lots,” he said. Thanks to a recent piece of legislation, SB271, the VVWD can now work on obtaining commitments from those developers on water usage or reclaim those will-serves to have more water available for other usage. At this point, they hope to have that process finished sometime this summer.
Another major concern of the public when it comes to the VVWD is the issue of repair on broken lines and the time that it takes to repair those areas and replace the asphalt to allow the area to return to normal. “The hardest part is getting it repaved through our bidding process,” Brown said. “It’s a long process and we ask for the public’s patience in this.” In recent months, the VVWD Board has taken steps to shorten the length of time for repair processes as it relates to the cost for a project. Most times, the bidding process involves contractors who fail to fill out all information on their bid properly, causing a project to have to go out for another round of bidding until the proper paperwork is filed and a bid is awarded, regardless if the amount was the lowest or not.
Mesquite resident Gary Elgort stepped up to the microphone at the end of Brown’s presentation to educate the public on the unique word of “redundancy” that has been discussed with the VVWD many times over the past year as they prepare to create a redundant line to supply water to the valley. Elgort stated that redundancy isn’t as it seems when it comes to the water issues, but is instead a necessity to ensure that water is constantly available in the event of the failure to the existing lines.
“The redundancy is crucial,” said Councilman George Rapson. “I applaud Kevin, this to me is a top priority that needs to be taken care of today, not tomorrow.”
Among the VVWD’s future plans is the redundancy line that will run across the Virgin River. Other plans include a new storage tank to Sun City to improve water pressure issues they have there; replacing failing pipe throughout the city; rehabilitate and replace existing wells; and to develop future water availability as growth dictates with wells north of the city, springs on the Virgin Mountains and even usage of the water from the actual Virgin River.
VVWD Hydrologist Aaron Bunker made a shorter presentation showing where the water from the Virgin River comes from and the multiple agencies that have a hand in those water shares. The point was made in relation to a study that was proposed on Basin 222, which provides water to parts of Southern Utah, Northwest Arizona and Southeast Nevada. The issue of finding out just how much water the Valley has access to has been a hot topic for several months. VVWD Vice-Chair Barbara Ellestad pointed out that all parties involved were “more than willing for the VVWD to spend $500,000 of our own money” to do the study while the state-level entities would not contribute any money or change their processes based on what results the study produced. The study was never done. Ultimately, Councilman Kraig Hafen, who used to serve on the VVWD, pointed out that the valley used to have senior water rights in Basin 221 which lies mostly in Lincoln County. “The past administration failed to fill out the proper applications in a timely manner and lost the rights,” said Rapson. Ellestad went on to elaborate that “Our previous general manager and previous hydrologist failed to file the appropriate applications on time with the State of Nevada Water Engineer.” At the time, that would have been general manager Michael Winters and Hydrologist Michael “Boomer” Johnson. The result was that the VVWD lost seniority to those rights and access to the water.
With the VVWD reports done, the City wasted little time informing the community on where they’re at with infrastructure and growth plans.
City Manager Andy Barton cited a study from July 2015 that estimated the population of Mesquite to be 19,061. “We believe that this number includes full-time and some part-time residents,” he said. Based on the current housing trends, if all dwellings were occupied at the same time, the city would have approximately 23,000 residents.
With the 2010 Census declaring population at 15, 276, the future growth of Mesquite is estimated to hit between 31,958 and 45,095. “Staff believes that the most realistic estimate of the 2035 population is about 36,000,” he said.
As for that future growth, Barton stated that the City’s Transportation Capital Improvement Plan identified a new traffic signal at Hafen Lane and Riverside Road in the next three to five years. “That’s all that’s there,” said Barton. “There is a ten-year plan that connects Hafen Lane with West Pioneer Boulevard, just south of the Do It Best Warehouse.” That extension, however, would not have any freeway access and would be an underpass. As for other traffic signals and improvements to Mesquite’s intersections, current studies claim that there is no justification or warrants to place traffic lights at spots such as Turtleback Road at Pioneer Boulevard or at Grapevine Road and Pioneer Boulevard. Public Works Director Bill Tanner spoke to the audience stating that there have to be three warrants to justify implementation of a traffic signal. At this point, those trouble spots do not meet the criteria.
Regular meetings resume next Tuesday, February 9, with the City Council in their chambers at 5 p.m. with the agenda including Mayor Al Litman’s State of the City Address. Tentatively, the next VVWD meeting will be February 16 in their conference room at 500 Riverside Road at 5 p.m. Both are always open to the public.