Caudle claims groundwater board a sham

Nye County Commission District 5 candidate Dave Caudle resigned from the new Pahrump Groundwater Management Plan Advisory Committee last week, issuing a scathing statement suggesting the board was merely a rubber stamp. He also complained of plans for a valleywide utility company.

“After the fiasco surrounding the acquisition of the water and sewer utility at Spring Mountain raceway, with the sewer plant being located on the proposed Nye County Fairgrounds, I think this board is simply being used for legitimacy for a management plan that I strongly believe is already written,” Caudle said.

Spring Mountain Motor Sports owners need to build a water and sewer plant to serve a proposed 77-lot subdivision, a commercial strip, recreational vehicle park and other improvements. They want the county to take over the system, or in the alternative, will donate it to Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada. A development agreement up for consideration by county commissioners May 19 would grant a waiver from a prohibition in county code on artificial lakes.

Caudle’s statement continued: “The Pahrump Regional Planning Commission continues to permit high density development, which is diametrically opposed to the reason for forming this committee. Currently 100 houses and a lake are planned for the raceway, although the state engineer says the basin groundwater is barely in balance.”

Caudle said a questionable utility acquisition, a work plan submitted to the committee and statements made to individual commissioners convinced him the adoption of their management plan will cancel out the 10 years allowed by state law to write and implement a plan to manage the Pahrump groundwater basin under Assembly Bill 419.

“This plan could be put in immediately. A valleywide utility managed by the water district is imminent and this committee is expected to make it a reality. Domestic well owners will be required to relinquish three acres of their groundwater for the common good. That means a reduction from two acres to a half a foot in the name of conservation. I think that eventually sewer lines will be extended all over the valley and every parcel will be forced to connect, even if they have an adequate septic system.Vacant lots will also be assessed,” Caudle said.

Since the county’s water district does not have to answer to the Public Utilities Commission, he said, property owners would be required to pay for the cost of construction when those lines are constructed, or the district attorney could place a lien on every parcel at the time of connection.

“I volunteered for this committee with the naive assumption that we would write an equitable management plan. Now I don’t believe this to be possible and I refuse to have my name associated with any document produced by this committee,” Caudle said.

When asked about Caudle’s accusations about being used as legitimacy for a water plan that’s already written, groundwater advisory board chairman Greg Hafen II said, “I really have no idea what he’s talking about. I talked to staff and a couple of the county commissioners. There’s no plans that’s written that I’m aware of.”

When it comes to talk of a valleywide utility, Hafen referred to a county commission meeting last June where commissioners didn’t even come up with a motion on a plan to acquire Pahrump Utilities Inc. from his family, after considerable study. But unlike the Spring Mountain proposal, which is a donation, the Hafen family asked the county to purchase their system for $5.5 million and a $514,500 annual operating fee for the first few years to ensure a smooth transition. At the time, Kristian Bentzen, a Nye County Republican Party Central Committee member who now serves on the groundwater committee, blasted the utility takeover as socialism.

The groundwater committee was appointed in January to come up with a management plan to prevent listing Pahrump as a critical management area, such a designation when in place for 10 years would allow the state engineer to designate water rights by priority date.

With Caudle’s resignation, the board passed Bentzen’s motion to appoint Kenny Bent, one of three alternates, to sit as a regular member. Bent’s resume lists 20 years of experience excavating and installing mechanical equipment for various public works projects. He was the only alternate in attendance at the time, the others are local contractor Mike Floyd and Judith Holmgren, who formerly worked for Grumman Aerospace.

The committee asked county staff to come up with a recommendation on replacing Caudle. The committee didn’t want county commissioners enacting its bylaws, but Hafen said in this case that would help spell out how to replace vacancies.

The next meeting of the Basin 162 Groundwater Management Advisory Committee is at 2 p.m., May 22 in the county commission chambers. They have also set a workshop from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. June 4 in which State Engineer Jason King will be present.