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Update: Mayor ignores water crisis in city address

Update: In January the Mayor, City Council and Water Board members were requested to vote on asking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to study the local water Basin (222) as part of their updated Regional Master Plan (RMP) effort. The original deadline was February 2nd and none of the elected officials made such a request.

City Councilmen Rich Green and Dave Ballweg and VVWB members Richard Bowler, Barbara Ellestad and Ben Davis are up for re-election this year. Their failure to act to decide exactly how much water is available to support development disqualifies them from serving the public.

Watch what they do not what they say.

The RMP commend deadline has been extended to March 23, 2018. Here are the comment methods:

E-mail: sndo_rmp_revision@blm.gov
Fax: (702) 515-5023
Mail: BLM Southern Nevada District Office,
Southern Nevada District RMP Revision,
4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive,
Las Vegas, NV 89130

Original article:

Mesquite, NV. City Mayor Al Litman bragged about the growth of this small town situated in the arid south-east part of Clark County Nevada during his

Mayor Al Litman, Mesquite, NV.

annual address to the city at the local Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Feb. 14.

The city, located in the Virgin River valley next to the Virgin Mountains in the northeastern part of the Mojave Desert is home to a growing retirement community, several golf courses, and many recreational activities. Despite its Mormon history, the community has several casinos, a thriving liquor store, and a marijuana dispensary.

Between 2011 and 2016, the town that housed 800 at its 1983 incorporation grew nearly 15 percent, from about 15,200 to 17,900, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau numbers.

Nevada population experts say the city population now is close to 20,000 during the winter months when “snowbirds” from colder states take up residence in Mesquite’s warmth.

When people or businesses think of moving to the community they routinely ask about water availability. “Plenty of water,” they are told. Sufficient water for decades, Kevin Brown, Virgin Valley Water District’s General Manager recently told the Mesquite Chamber of Commerce. He added that he would put his reputation that enough water existed to last until 2050.

Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB) member, Barbara Ellestad, and author of

Barbara Ellestad

the Mayor’s address in the Mesquite Local News, once told Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison that: ‘Water was available,” to fund truck warehouses and natural gas initiatives.[i]

In fact, no one knows with any degree of scientific certainty how much water exists in the Basin that services the local populations of both Mesquite and its neighbor Bunkerville.

Not even Jason King, Nevada’s water engineer knows. In June 2015, Jason King, Nevada’s state Water Engineer told Brandon Mullens [1] a former reporter for the Mesquite Desert Valley Times (DVT), “I’m not sure how much water is in the aquifer now; I couldn’t even estimate how much is there.” King said, “If the drought continues over the years then maybe the drought would be more impactful on Mesquite. And the draught is continuing.

Nevada drought map

The perennial yield [[ii]]. of underground water from the local Basin (222) is 3,600 Acre Feet Annually (AFA). The VVWB is pumping 6,608 AFA or nearly twice (1.8) the groundwater perennial yield. They can reliably pump 13,742.82 AFA or nearly 4 times (3.8) the 3,600-perennial yield.

In September the VVWB asked the Nevada Water Engineer for some permits to develop 15 previously contested applications equal to 65,158.65 AFA, or 18 times the 3,600 AFA.

In total, the VVWB wants to take 78,901.47 AFA (65,158.65 + 13,742.83) or about 22 times the perennial yield of 3,600 AFA established by the State Water Engineer.

It is an inconvenient truth, especially for Real Estate salesmen on the City Council and the VVWB, to admit that water in the arid southwest is a limited commodity that limits growth.

In January a request was made to the Mayor, City Council and the VVWB to ask the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to study the Virgin River Basin as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) included in their update to the Resource Management Plan (RMP). Given that funds are already set aside for the effort, the cost impact on the VVWB or the City would likely be zero.

Neither the Mayor or any member of the City Council responded to the request. In response, VVWB President Nephi Julian said that the Board will study (at rate-payer expense) study the basin in 2025.

The last time the BLM updated their regional plan the Mesquite Councilman George Rapson claimed ignorance of the procedure[do_widget id=media_video-2]

Given the current administration’s propensity for fracking, it is possible that the EIS would lean towards fracking on the basin if not challenged.

In 2015, community leaders were stunned to learn that the BLM was considering opening 94 parcels of public land to oil and gas leasing in Lincoln County with some sites near Mesquite.” Lincoln County joins the north edge of Mesquite

While the status of the underground water remains uncertain, the VVWB has started clawing back irrigation water it leased to the golf courses to lease it to the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to feed the thirsty Las Vegas metropolitan area. At the same time, they want to increase the price that the golf courses pay for that river water to several times what irrigation water goes for in Nevada.  The reason golf courses go broke is often tied to increases in irrigation costs.

It is irresponsible to make growth decisions without understanding the limits of water availability in a draught affected community.  It is irresponsible to send water to the Las Vegas area when that water could be stored in a reservoir for future use.

The future of Mesquite is directly tied to water and the Mayor, City Council and members of the VVWB are intentionally ignoring this issue to enrich the few at the expense of the many.

City Councilmen Rich Green and Dave Ballweg and VVWB members Richard Bowler, Barbara Ellestad and Ben Davis are up for re-election this year. Their failure to act to decide exactly how much water is available to support development disqualifies them from serving the public.

Endnotes:

[1] Mullens no longer works for the DVT.

[i] McGreer, Mike, “Ellestad again,” at: http://letstalknevada.com/ellestad-again/

[ii] “Perennial yield is the maximum amount of groundwater that can be salvaged each year over the long-term without depleting the groundwater reservoir. ” Source: Nevada Water Law 101 http://dcnr.nv.gov/documents/documents/nevada-water-law-101/

 

About Author

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

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