As we make light of the shenanigans happening politically at the national level it saddens me to see them occurring locally as well.
In Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) board member, Sandra Ramaker’s, recent “opinion” article (which I consider to be more of a political advertisement), her remarks are so off base, misleading, and self-serving that I feel the need to set the record straight. I feel it necessary to present some factual information so the ratepayers are not misled.
First and foremost, I want to be perfectly clear. While I do serve as a VVWD board member, I am not authorized to speak and do not speak on behalf of VVWD or its board of directors. I am just a single board member with my own opinions. It is my opinion that the information Ramaker presented in her article must be clarified and corrected so the public gets a full picture of the situation and can make its own decision on these important issues.
A major point of Ramaker’s article deals with how VVWD uses its water shares. VVWD owns certain irrigation shares on the Virgin River. This is not the water we drink but irrigation water VVWD owns and can lease to farmers, golf courses, or water users in Las Vegas as a source of revenue for VVWD.
As an initial matter, all of VVWD’s water shares are currently leased out until 2019. No more shares will become available for lease until then. So, I have to ask why did Ramaker choose to make this an issue now? To me, it her way of trying to keep herself politically relevant as elections approach so her largest political benefactors will keep their wallets open for her re-election campaign? In my opinion, those benefactors are one or more of the local golf courses.
During our time on the VVWD board of directors, to my recollection, the issue of “keeping the water in the valley” has come before the board for a vote only one time. In that board meeting we voted to lease 14 of VVWD’s irrigation shares to SNWA (these were the only shares available at the time since the others had already been leased to other parties). How did Ramaker vote?
To read her recent commentary, you would think she would have voted against leasing the water to SNWA for use in Las Vegas? But, in fact, she voted in favor of the lease to SNWA. I believe we, as VVWD board members, understood this was a way to maximize revenue for VVWD. The more revenue that came into VVWD the better it would be for everyone in our valley. Water rates are less likely to be increased if the District has funds available for infrastructure, improvements, and system maintenance. One way the District can do this is by leasing its irrigation shares for market value. If SNWA is willing to pay the most for the water, then as a board member I feel it is my duty to act in the best interests of the Virgin Valley rate payers as a whole. I can only assume that Ramaker and the other board members felt the same way when we voted to lease the 14 shares to SNWA.
And, if we really want to talk about “keeping the water in the valley,” let’s discuss the estimated 60 to 90 shares of water that VVWD currently leases to local golf courses for water that is not even being used. Two of the golf courses lease more water than they actually need or use. In my opinion these golf courses leased more water than they needed because the price for the water was so minimal, far under market value. VVWD’s shares were leased to them for $250 per share while SNWA is willing to pay 5 times more. So, these golf courses are getting such a good deal on the water they can afford to lease more water than they use even though the excess water is being wasted. It ends up back in the river and eventually Lake Mead. That doesn’t benefit anyone in this valley!
I have tried numerous times to have discussions with all the parties involved to address this and come up with a win-win situation that works for everyone, but to no avail. Instead, we are losing tens of thousands of dollars annually by allowing this to continue. The excess water should come back to VVWD and leased to SNWA for market value. In fact, VVWD already has an agreement in place with SNWA whereby SNWA will lease all the shares VVWD makes available for $1,246 per share.
When this issue comes up in 2019, and if the board votes to keep the “water in the valley,” which I am NOT necessarily opposed to, it should only be done AFTER the proper public process is undertaken. Full disclosure of VVWD’s potential for revenue from these shares, which are owned by ALL of VVWD’s ratepayers, should be made so everyone understands the options involved. We all deserve to know how many millions of dollars VVWD might forgo by refusing to lease the water to entities outside of the valley. These water shares represent a huge investment by VVWD. The public deserves to know that if the VVWD board votesto “keep the water in the valley,” it will be giving up millions of dollars in lease revenue in order to lease water at a discounted rate to some local golf courses.
Take a look at this table as an example of what I am talking about:
Let’s put all the facts on the table. Let’s not use partial quotes or take comments out of context for the sake of pushing a political agenda. Ramaker quotes only part of Jason King’s comments from the Desert Valley Times article from 2015. Below is a more complete quote from the State Engineer, Jason King, as contained in the Desert Valley Times:
Jason King, Nevada state engineer, confirmed Thursday that despite the severe ongoing drought impacting states and metropolitan areas throughout the west, Mesquite is in outstanding shape and remains strong.
‘The Virgin River Basin is in very good shape,’ he said. ‘If the drought continues over the years Then maybe the drought would be more impactful on Mesquite, (but) the basin is doing fine.’
King referenced a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 1969 that found Mesquite’s
Underground aquifer can store up to an estimated 2.9 million acre feet of water.
Indeed the headline for that article from the DVT in 2015 is titled, “State confirms no drought in Mesquite” for goodness sakes! However, Ramaker portrays a doomsday scenario concerning the water in our basin. Perhaps, Ramaker’s opinion piece omitted the full quote from the State Engineer because it did not fit her political agenda.
In my opinion, it is our DUTY as VVWD’s directors to oversee and manage VVWD’s assets in the best interests of the ratepayers…all of the ratepayers.
Rich Bowler Bunkerville
P.S. I have an open door policy. My door is always open for discussion with all ratepayers.