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On The Water FrontSouthern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)UncategorizedVirgin RiverVirgin River Water District

BBM Reporter Misleads on Water Price History (part 5 of 6)

Mesquite, NV.: Last Thursday Barbara Ellestad, for Battle Born Media (BBM), published another article stating her opinion on the legal status of the case between the owners of the Wolf Creek Golf course and the Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB).

In part 5 of here proposed 6-part attack on the owners of Wolf Creek, she again attempts to convince her readers that the VVWB has an absolute right to set the price of public water used for irrigation on Wolf Creek. That seems to be her theme: elected officials have an “absolute right” to do whatever they want and whenever they want.

In part five, Ellestad introduces the actions of other who are leasing or have leased water shares from the water district at $250 per share. Then she interjects that the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been leasing irrigation water from the district for $1,246 per share.

She turns to a deposition taken by the water district attorney Jedediah (Bo)

Bo Bingham

Bingham with Cory Clemetson, a co-owner in Paradise Canyon LLC, the company that operates the Wolf Creek Golf Course. She quotes Bingham as saying: “Do you feel it’s fair that the ratepayers are essentially subsidizing Wolf Creek because every dollar that is not collected under the lease to Wolf Creek at $250 is a dollar that’s going to have to be made up for by the culinary ratepayers?”Clemetson said, “I mean, first of all, I disagree with your assumption. First of all, we’re not being subsidized by anybody, frankly. That’s been a real false narrative that’s been advanced by your board.” He goes on to discuss the amount of money his golf course is paying to the water district.

Clemetson is correct in questioning the subsidizing argument. Nonetheless, to further both her “absolute right,” and “subsidizing” point Ellestad reports that Bunker Farms agreed on Aug. 6 to begin paying $1,357 each for the 37 Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC) shares it leases.

In an earlier article (profiteering suppresses the public trust) I pointed out that Brian D. Haviland, and Robert Bunker, dba Bunker Farms agreed to pay the increase rate since doing so allows them to sustain higher values for the historical BIC shares they individually hold or for those they manage as managers of BIC.

Looking at SNWA leasing and purchasing practices and saying they are driving the market is disingenuous. Historically, it is the purchasing practices of the shareholders on the VVWB purchasing shareholders water rights that have driven lease and purchase prices of Virgin River irrigation water.

In 1991, the same year the SNWA was legally established, Mesquite-Bunkerville residents John Lee, Cresent Hardy, J.L. Bowler, Todd Leavitt, and Sam Reber held shares in publicly owned Virgin River irrigation water. They were also officers of the Farmstead Water Users Association. As officers of they purchased 26 stock shares in the Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC) from “Hildrith and Tonks,” for $52,000 ($2,000 per share or $220.75 per Acre Foot Annually (AFA)).

On June 9, 1993, Lee, Hardy, Bowler, Leavitt, and Raber established themselves as the first Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) board members. Reber, not the SNWA, set a share of irrigation water at about $3,000 ($331 per AFA). Lee, Hardy, Bowler, and Leavitt agreed.

Between 1993, and 2010 the membership of the board changed slightly. Nonetheless, shareholders dominated and drove the price of irrigation water to outrageous levels.

Reber remained on the board until 1999. Hardy and Joe Bowler until 1995. One or two Leavitt’s would remain on the board well past the 2010 year. Other contributors to VVWB price increases include: Michael Waite, 1998, Charlene Hughes, 1999, and 2000. Kraig Hafen 2000 to 2002. Theron Jensen 2003-2004, and Mark McEwen.

Date Per shareCost per AFA

Whether the VVWB historical actions on water leasing and purchasing reach the legal definition of state or federal anti-trust violations or self-dealing is a legal question for others to decide.

Be sure to click on bottom of attachment to continue to page 2


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Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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