With a full complement of capital construction projects slated in the coming year, the Virgin Valley Water District Board of Directors moved forward by authorizing Sunrise Engineering of Washington, UT, to provide engineering and construction oversight for a new water storage tank at the Flat Top tank site. The Board voted 5-0 to approve $87,000 for contract services including design, bidding, permitting and construction administration.

The $1.8 million tank project will replace the current tank that is deteriorating at an unexpected rate. The new tank will help correct water pressure issues that plague neighborhoods at higher elevations in Mesquite. The Flat Top tank, built about 10 years ago using fused panel construction, has developed cracks and decaying gaskets, as well as cracks and leaks in its foundation. The replacement tank, which will hold two million gallons of water, will be constructed of welded steel.

The new tank will be re-situated to correct a two-foot discrepancy in elevation between the base of the Flat Top tank and the Airport tank. The 11.5 foot difference in the height of the tanks reduces the fill capacity of the Airport tank by about 600,000 gallons. The lowered capacity causes a loss of five pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure in the district’s pressure zone 2 north of I-15. The current Flat Top tank will be taken offline in the fall with the replacement set for completion by March 1, 2018.

Also related to correcting the existing low water pressure in zone 2, the Board previously approved a design fix for the Bella Horizon area. This involves running a transmission line to Bella Horizon subdivision to connect it to higher water pressure from pressure zone 4 and installing valves to isolate the area from the lower pressure zone 2. Eight contractors showed interest in bidding the project when it was opened on May 16. Mesquite General Contractors submitted the lowest bid at $274,000. Director Rich Bowler moved to accept the bid with the motion unanimously approved 5-0.

Aaron Anderson, of Bowen Collins & Associates, presented a study on system development charges. The VVWD Board requested the study subsequent to the update of the District Master Plan that was recently completed. Anderson’s presentation was intended to assist the Board in understanding fair allocation of water system cost for new development. The Master Plan update is based on research showing the district’s population growing at an average rate of 2.75 percent a year, requiring greater capacity in water production, transmission, storage and distribution capacity.

The challenge to the district is not only to provide water to the estimated 4479 new development units, but to fairly balance infrastructure cost for both current and new users. Average actual water consumption shown in historic data is 410 gallons per EDU (equivalent dwelling unit) per day, and 810 gallons on peak days. The system must be built to meet peak day consumption.

Anderson pointed out that VVWD’s current “impact fee,” the charge developers pay for adding a new unit to the system, is $2,120. That fee has not changed in 20 years. Developers also pay VVWD’s Ordinance II fee of $3,300, a $250 meter installation fee, and $100 transfer charge, for a total of $5,770 to connect a new unit to the water system. Using calculations in the Master Plan update and the FY2018 budget, Anderson’s study concludes that projected cost of system development per EDU over the next 10 years points to a total charge of $7,165.

The $1,395 difference in projected system cost and current development charges is the issue that VVWD must reconcile. District Manager Kevin Brown assured the audience that no action would be taken by the Board at Tuesday’s meeting to alter fees. In discussion among Board members, along with questions and comments from developers and users in the audience, there was a consensus that a change in the impact fee, now termed System Development Charge (SDC), may be needed to meet increased costs.

Board members directed District Finance Officer Wes Smith to model several stepped SDC increases using the District’s new financial software, WaterWorth, to compare District cash positions that occur at various fee increments. Smith will provide those findings to the Board at the next meeting for further discussion. Any proposed rate or fee increase must be publicly noticed and open to public discussion prior to Board action.

In its final action of the evening, the Board followed up on its request for staff to submit comments to the BLM regarding a review of the Gold Butte National Monument designation. Staff had asked the Board for possible direction in writing those comments that will be submitted before July 10.

Opening the discussion, Director Barbara Ellestad stated that she doesn’t care about the politics of the designation issue. Her concern is the preservation of VVWD access to its water resources that are now located within the boundaries of the monument. She proposed the simplest means of assuring permanent VVWD access would be to exclude all of its water resources from the monument by moving the monument boundary about 5 miles southward. “There are no cultural sites in the area where our resources are located,” she asserted.

Ellestad referenced VVWD’s letter sent to then-Senator Reid in May 2016, which outlined specific requests regarding protection of water rights the District needed in the formation of a national monument. She noted that those requests were revised in the final version of the December 2016 monument proclamation, making protections of VVWD water resources less clear. She asked that the upcoming comment input to the BLM request an official return to the VVWD language on protection of its water resources.

Director Rich Bowler and Board President Nephi Julien stated their concern about contents of the implementation plan that will guide monument operations. Future administrators might vary in their interpretation of guidelines while current officials have been “good to work with” in protecting VVWD’s interests. Board and staff members agreed the yet-to-be-formulated monument resource management/implementation plan must not interfere with VVWD access to its water rights. Staff will write the comment letter and bring back to the Board for approval and submission to the BLM.