Update: At 10:30 a.m. October 16th, Judge Timothy C. Williams will hold a mandatory rule 16 pre-trial conference in the Eighth Judicial Court, Las Vegas. The Judge will hear the Virgin Valley Water District’s answers to the complaint filed against them by Paradise Canyon dba Wolf creek Golf Course.
Authors note: Clark County (NV.) Golf’s top officials identified scarce and expensive water as their biggest threat. Lease rates are only part of what golf course owners pay to water their courses. There are pumps, pipes, and various other devices and products required to water golf courses. The golf industry in Clark County depends on the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Board of Directors and the Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB) to serve the Las Vegas Metropolitan area and the smaller communities of Mesquite and Bunkerville respectively.
Not long ago, the five members of the Mesquite City Council George Rapson, Geno Withelder, Richard Green, Brian Wursten, and Dave Ballweg voted to join the Virgin Valley Water Districts (VVWD) defense against a law suit brought against the district by Paradise Canyon dba Wolf Creek Golf Course.
Wursten, who manages competing golf courses should have, but did not recuse himself. Mayor Al Litman said he could do nothing against the 5 to 0 vote.
On May 15th the owners of Paradise Canyon filed a civil suit against the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) seeking to halt the Boards restrictive pricing practices on water shares that the board had purchased from Virgin River water shareholders.
The city council moved against the owners of the golf course by adding to the defense an allegation that Paradise Canyon had defaulted on the 2011 effluent agreement with the city.
On Aug 29, 2018, Judge Timothy C. Williams, of the Eighth Judicial Court, Las Vegas, heard two motions to dismiss. The first dismissal motion came from Jedediah (Bo) Bingham asking the court to dismiss the civil action against the water district. The motion was denied. The second motion from Jeffrey Sylvester, attorney for Paradise Canyon asking the court to dismiss the cities action against his client was likewise denied. Thus, the two actions will proceed.
The real story
The Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB) Richard Bowler, Ben Davis, Randy Laub, Travis Anderson, and Nephi Julien want to take away water shares they allocated to Wolf Creek for irrigation at an irrigation market rate. They then want to lease the shares at a higher non-irrigation market rate to the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA). In part, they are trying to cover the original boards overpaying for water shares. Further, it appears that they are running the public water district as a profit-making business as opposed to public water service, as required by their authorizing statute.
To accomplish their goals, the water board is pushing the prices of irrigation water shares to meet those paid by the SNWA. However, those shares are used for two entirely different purposes. The SNWA can trade those shares for higher valued underground water. Whereas, the golf courses use those shares strictly for irrigation. Those are not the same markets, and they should not be priced the same.
To further justify their defense, the VVWB has recruited the five-members of the city council to argue that Wolf Creek should have met their irrigation water burden in part with city effluent. Thus, the Water Board could recover more shares from Wolf Creek and thereby lease more shares to SNWA.
The effluent issue
Seven years ago, city officials attempted to pass on the costs of an effluent pumping station to Wolf Creek. More importantly, they did not have the effluent to deliver to the golf course to meet a previous contract agreement. Therefore, it was the city, not Wolf Creek who defaulted on the contract. Note: According to sources familiar with the issue, the city still lacks enough effluent to add Wolf Creek to their current effluent customers.
Having not heard from the city for seven years, the owners of Wolf Creek were surprised when the effluent issue was added by the city council to the VVWB defense against Wolf Creek’s civil suit.
It was also a surprise since Councilmen Ballweg, Rapson and Wursten had all taken the position to not involve themselves in Water district policy. In May 2016, when they were running for City Council, Ballweg said when
asked about water policy: “The first thing I want the public to understand is that the city council has no impact or say in district water policy.” “The council is not the water district.” Councilman Rapson, running
For re-election said. Candidate Brian Wursten, “I agree with George (Rapson).”
Unfortunately, the members of the City Council and the Virgin Valley Water Board (some of whom have or are related to those holding water shares) want to keep enriching shareholders of irrigation water, and they are not afraid to price golf courses out of business to accomplish that task.
The action by the owners of Wolf Creek deserves credit for going to the expense of fighting against arbitrary and capricious rate increases by the VVWB. Further, because of the law suites the public will learn, through Paradise Canyon attorney depositions the full story behind water purchases, pricing and rate increases that impact all of their customers.