The Virgin Valley Water Board approved two major contracts during its November 21 meeting.  Trade West was awarded a $2.1 million contract to bring well 1A online, completing a project begun in 2015.  The well was dug that year in the first phase of a replacement project, but stalled out in the approval stage for the final outfitting for the well. With BLM approval now secured, the phase 2 construction bid won by Trade West calls for outfitting the well with submersible pump and motor, construction of an arsenic treatment plant building, installation of a proprietary arsenic filtration system, construction of a perimeter fence, landscaping, and installation of a new water transmission line and waste line to connect the well to the VVWD system.

Delay caused the original cost estimate to increase from a budgeted $1.85 million to the bid price of $2.1 million.  Materials and labor have risen significantly with the flurry of building projects in Clark County.  Trade West, a Mesquite-based company, came in almost $1 million lower than the only other bidder out of Las Vegas.   The board voted unanimously, five-zero, to approve the phase 2 contract.  Also approved was an $85,000 construction management contract to Bowen Collins and Associates to oversee completion of the well outfitting.

Mesquite General Contractors was the winner in a four-way bid to replace the ductible iron distribution pipes on Marilyn Parkway, Mesa Boulevard, and Aztec Way and remove and replace about 43,000 square feet of asphalt.  Their bid of $779,000 edged out a competitor by only $4000.  It was noted in public comment that MGA included a very high price for traffic control in their bid.  Board member Travis Anderson responded that the experience MGA had recently gained in a project on Riverside Road may have prompted them to build in higher  pricing to avoid later change orders.  Anderson voiced satisfaction with their bid, and the lowest-bid contract was approved with a unanimous five-zero vote.

In general discussion among the board, staff, and audience members, the problem of rising construction costs in this heated building market was identified as a concern.  Board president Nephi Julien asked district finance officer Wes Smith to alert the board if budget augmentation might be needed for upcoming work.    District manager Kevin Brown and hydrologist Aaron Bunker said they are actively working to prioritize projects during this period of labor shortage and price pressure.

The final topic of the meeting was discussion of approval of a letter of cooperation to work with Lincoln County Water District in areas of shared interest.  Virgin Valley Water District owns major water rights in Basin 222, which lies partly within Lincoln County.  VVWD currently pulls water from well 32 and 33 in Lincoln County, and is planning to develop well 34 in the next two years.

The new well site is approved by BLM, but right of way for transmission lines connecting the well to the VVWD system has not been authorized.  The environmental assessment process for that project is handled by the BLM office in Caliente.  VVWD is currently working on the preliminary design and documentation required by BLM.  In consultation with them, BLM is expected to take until mid-2018 to complete the environmental process.

Lincoln County Water District, and its financial partner, Vidler Water, hold a valid environmental assessment record of decision (ROD) for that same area, due to their intent to serve the Lincoln County Land Act, a developable tract of land that sits in Lincoln County on the Clark County boundary north of Mesquite.   They are willing to allow VVWD to sign on to their permit in an effort to expedite completion of VVWD’s well 34 and share cost of a pipeline that would be upsized to handle water for both districts.  BLM has indicated that if VVWD could show cooperation in working with LCWD on their transmission line project, the well 34 environmental work could be rolled into LCWD’s existing ROD.

Lincoln County additionally holds rights to water in Tule Desert that has been tested and found to be within acceptable arsenic content.  If VVWD were to lease such water in the future, it could be brought to VVWD treatment plant and blended with water from wells 32, 33, 34 to eliminate or significantly reduce amount of treatment necessary for VVWD to meet arsenic standard.  LCWD would realize a revenue stream that would benefit themselves in case such a lease was transacted.

The board heard from LCWD manager Wade Poulsen concerning their offer of cooperation, and questioned Brown and Bunker on the impacts of approving an agreement to continue joint talks.  All stated that further talks alone would not obligate VVWD to any costs, and would not necessarily slow an alternative independent BLM environmental approval.   LCWD would ask VVWD to pay costs for the transmission line over and above LCWD needs, if and when the board consents to share a line.

The board, seeing value in the opportunity to expedite BLM approval for well 34 lines, and potential for cost savings and added future water resource leasing, voted unanimously five-zero to allow staff to co-sign a Letter of Cooperation with LCWD and send it to the BLM Caliente Office.