"I had an extraordinarily good conversation with the County and Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and I'm very encouraged by their willingness to participate and help us resolve the situation," Warren Hardy reported to the Virgin Valley Water District (VVWD) Board of Directors at its meeting, Aug. 7.
He was referring to discussions about the possibility of having the Water District participate in the Clark County Multi Species Habitat Conservation Plan rather than continue developing a separate conservation plan with the City of Mesquite. Hardy is a governmental affair lobbyist the Board and the City of Mesquite, hired at the end of July.
"I got a commitment from them to help us move forward. The easiest and most risk-free thing is to continue to do our own study. However there are other options we ought to consider," Hardy continued as he described his meeting with Marci Henson, Director of the Desert Conservation Program for Clark County, and John Entsminger, Legal Counsel for SNWA.
"At this point, I think we need to bring the General Manager and our Legal Counsel into the conversation so we can bring back those options for the Board to consider. They do want to resolve this issue in a manner that's fair to the people in the Virgin Valley. I'd like to come back within 60 days with a resolution."
Hardy mentioned that the County's preference was to resolve the issue of Mesquite having two separate conservation plans and three separate development fees when the rest of Clark County is covered under one plan and one fee, both administered by Henson's office.
He also told the Directors that the County preferred that the Water District and the City of Mesquite collectively work on the issue.
"The County is willing to address that," Hardy replied to a question from Dave Ballweg, local resident, who asked if "this is more or less going towards one plan and one fee."
The Mesquite City Manager, who attended at the meeting, addressed the Board saying "We are interested in moving along as quickly as we can. Warren has done some good work and we will be meeting with the County people in a couple weeks to discuss one plan, one fee. Our time schedule is faster than you might think."
Rich Bowler, Board representative from Bunkerville ended the discussion by remarking that, "We need to have Warren move forward on this. I appreciate the work he is doing on this. I would like to put our other consultant on notice that this is what I expect from them."
Ken Rock, VVWD General Manager, implored the Board to approve a trip for him and "two or three Board members" to Washington D.C. to meet with legislators about a water basin study he wants to complete in conjunction with the U.S. Geologic Survey (USGS) and to discuss permanent access to the District's water rights in the Virgin Mountains.
Rock said the best time to make the visit was the end of September before the legislators break for the national elections and to avoid the lame duck session of Congress after the elections.
"It depends on the elections. There will be a legislative push from Senator Reid's office and the Gold Butte people. We just heard a few days ago that a committee has submitted a letter to the President asking for the Gold Butte area to become a national monument. Particularly, if President Obama is not re-elected, that might be a final stroke that he would push through," Rock informed the Board.
The Water District has the rights to approximately 2,300 acre feet of water a year in the Virgin Mountains. Any type of Federal land designation, whether it's a monument or National Conservation Area (NCA) with Wilderness, could severely restrict the District's access to that water.
Nevada Senate Candidate Shelley Berkley, along with others, recently sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he designate the Gold Butte area as a national monument. (corrected at 7:45, Aug 8) Other groups have been pushing for the NCA with Wilderness designation.
"We have good map designations of the area that we need in order to maintain access and establish our rights-of-way," Rock added. "It's moving very fast now."
Karl Gustaveson, Board President, favored making the trip. "If it becomes a monument, it could be even more difficult to maintain those rights. There's too big of a gamble not to address this now."
"It will be impossible to get our water rights added in after it’s designated a monument," Rock advised.
Kenyon Leavitt, speaking by teleconference agreed, saying "before the monument designation came up, I was against making the trip. But now with monument possibility, I think we need to go back there now."
Bowler and Miller disagreed with Rock and other Board members about the trip and it showed in their final vote against the idea. Gustaveson, Sandra Ramaker, and Leavitt voted in favor of the trip.
A proposal to change the process for filling Board seats was ultimately tabled pending action by other government entities. Currently, one of three Board members representing Mesquite is appointed by the Mesquite City Council. The other two are elected. One of two Bunkerville Board members is appointed by their Town Board with the other one elected.
The proposal calls for all Board members to be elected by citizens.
Bowler, the appointed Bunkerville representative, requested he be given time to take the issue to the Town Board and seek their recommendation.
Gustaveson, the Mesquite Councilman appointed to the Board, advised the others that the issue is coming up on a future Council meeting agenda. "We also need to have more public input before we do this," he added.
Hardy, who will be asked to work on the issue during the upcoming State Legislative Session in 2013, asked that he be given firmer direction by early September so he can have a bill scheduled through an elected representative. Any changes to the Board's charter must be approved by the Legislature.
The Board discussed a possible change to the process of adding items to meeting agendas. VVWD Administrative Policy states that "any Board member shall have the right to place any matter on the agenda if a reasonable notice of seven days is given. The meeting shall follow the agenda unless otherwise agreed."
Gustaveson wanted agenda items submitted through the General Manager who would accumulate them and put the agenda together. Currently, items are submitted directly to the Administrative Assistant who compiles the agenda.
"I am sympathetic to the concept of obstructing things from getting on the agenda," Rock said. "However, the structure is a little loose. Board members should be able to put things on the agenda without someone trash canning them. Also, oversight by our Legal Counsel is appropriate."
"I have a problem with the General Manager dictating what does and does not go on the agenda," Bowler stated. "If any Board member want to put an item on the agenda, it should go on the agenda. If it’s a stupid item, it will reflect on them and they will face it later in the next election."
Gustaveson clarified his concerns saying, "I wasn't inferring he would have the final decision."
"I know what it's like if someone can control the agenda. An item gets on there and your feet are held to the fire and you have to make a decision at that meeting," Miller commented. "The more complicated you make it, the more that happens. I don't see anything wrong with our rules right now. If the public wants to put something on the agenda they should have to go through a Board member."
"We should have to give a reason why we want an item on the agenda," Ramaker added during the discussion.
Bowler and Leavitt agreed with Miller with both of them saying some agenda items the Staff adds don't have any background material.
"If I put an item on the agenda, then I should give the background material," Leavitt said. "Keep it the way it is."
Gustaveson asked, "What if we have 30 people come to the Board and all want something on the agenda? It will be difficult to get everything done."
"We've never had that. But we have had Board members want something on the agenda and were denied," Leavitt said.
Bowler made a motion to leave the policy as it is. He, Leavitt, and Miller voted in favor of that motion. Gustaveson and Ramaker voted no.
"I don't think that solves any of our problems," Gustaveson complained after the vote. "We’re right back where we were."
"I don't think we have a problem," Miller retorted.
"I think we have a problem when the General Manager doesn't know an item was placed on the agenda," Gustaveson replied.
"That's an administrative problem," Bowler said.
The Board voted unanimously to approve two asphalt road repairs necessary because of recent water line breaks. Trade West received a contract award worth $5,250 for repairs on White Rock Road. Mesquite General Contracting received a contract to repair Sunset Road that tops out at $1,911.
An annual agreement with Water Quality & Treatment Solutions, Inc., worth a maximum of $10,000, was approved. The company provides technical support to VVWD staff for groundwater treatment plants.