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Unresolved Protests Hinder Water Board Development Claims

Editors Note: On April 25, 2018, Barbara Ellestad, a former member of the Virgin Valley Water Board (VVWB), wrote an article in the Mesquite Local News. In the article, she talked about an amendment to an agreement between the VVWB and the Conestoga Golf Course. It said:

“Also included in the amendment is a provision allowing the district to develop alternative water sources that it could make available to the golf course instead of the irrigation water it now supplies. VVWD General Manager Kevin Brown said the district is considering developing seasonal water resources it has available in the Half Way Wash located downriver from Mesquite.”

The development of Half-Way Wash has been contested. Here are the facts.

Overview

On September 18, 2017, Kevin Brown, Manager for the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) sent a letter to Timber Weiss, a water resource specialist for the Nevada department Division of conservation and Natural Resources, Division of Water Resources. Brown told Weiss that the VVWD wished to develop 15 applications equal to 65,158.65 Acre Feet Annually (AFA) of underground water on file with the Division. On October 3, 2017, Brown presented his response to Weiss to the VVWB. The Board agreed to the letter.

The current established perennial yield for the local basin (222) is 3,600 AFA. VVWB is pumping 6,608 AFA. Therefore, they are pumping 3,008 AFA more ground water from the Basin than the yield allows. The developed wells have a reliable yield of 13,742.82 AFA. That is 10,142.82 AFA more than the underground yield. If the VVWD had the financial resources to develop the 15 additional underground wells near Halfway-Wash, it would exceed the perennial yield by 75,301.47 AFA (10,142.82+65,158.65). That is about 21 times the 3,600 AFA perennial yield.

Unresolved protests

On October 17, 1989, the Las Vegas Water District (LVWD), applied for the same 15 applications currently listed by Brown. Like the VVWB, the LVWD planned to drill for water near Halfway-Wash and place into beneficial use within the LVVWD and potentially serve other users within Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine counties. On or about October 17, 1989, all the applications were protested.

Dane O. Leavitt, for the Bunkerville Irrigation Company (BIC) and the Bunkerville Water Users Association and J.L. Bowler for the Mesquite Farmstead Water Association and V. Ann Beaumont for the Mesquite Irrigation Company (MIC), commented on the LVWD proposal. They said that the withdrawals would hurt flows of the Virgin River and reduce flows of the Virgin River interfere with existing water rights.

John, Jr., and Eunice I. Lonetti, and Keith Whipple for Lincoln County argued that granting or approving of the applications in the absence of comprehensive planning, environmental impact considerations, cost considerations, socioeconomic impact considerations, and water resource planning is detrimental to the public welfare and interest.

Robert K. Oser for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that the “underground source” of the water intercepts numerous springs, seeps, marshes, streams, and riparian and mesquite habitats that support the wildlife and plant sources including endangered and threatened species in the State of Nevada.

Colin R. Christensen, for the U.S. Department of Interior, said that the quantity applied for is twice the average discharge of water recorded at Littlefield.

Dan L. Papez, for The County of White Pine and the City of Ely, Nevada said that the water sought when added to the other pending applications and to the already approved appropriations and dedicated uses in the Basin, will lower the static water level and adversely affect the quality of the remaining groundwater.

On August 26,1991 R. Michael Turnipseed, Nevada Water Engineer entered an “interim ruling” on the original 15 applications (including others) filed by the LVWD. He determined that: “all parties who timely protested the applications and paid the statutory fee have standing to make a full evidentiary presentation during all administrative hearings held in this matter.

On September 23, 2004, the 15 protested applications were allocated to the VVWB members: Kraig Hafen, Dave Bennett, Charlene Hughes, Kenyon Leavitt, Cecil Leavitt.

On February 10, 2010, Susan B. Lynn for the Great Basin Water Network of Reno. Protested Virgin River stream applications 79465 and 79466 on February 10, 2010. These applications, as mentioned are in the same area as the currently batch of 15 requested by the VVWB.

All those protests appear to be unresolved.

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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