By Mark Waite
A plan to remediate the ponds at the former Willow Creek Golf Course was filed last week with the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, owner Jim Scott told a senior court judge on Thursday.
NDEP is expected to expedite the permit, meaning construction could begin in as soon as two weeks, Scott told Senior Judge Bob Rose. But representatives of Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada and Lakeview Golf Association testified they weren’t kept in the loop on his plans.
Rose had threatened to jail Scott for 30 days if he didn’t comply with a February order to clean up the ponds. But Rose felt Scott was moving forward on the repairs, though he ordered warning signs to keep people away from the ponds.
UICN attorney Laura Granier said, “we understand that there has been some action taken. We do have continuing concerns however with the good faith efforts to actually remediate the ponds and do so in a timely manner.”
Lakeview and UICN officials will be permitted to inspect the construction. Rose set an Oct. 30 hearing in Reno to ensure Scott makes progress on the cleanup.
Scott said the plans to remediate the ponds were filed by the Kevin Tucker Design Group; he is affiliated with ONJ Contracting, which is licensed in several western states to do golf course construction. As soon as NDEP approves the permit, they will start reconstructing the ponds, he said, beginning with pond No. 9 near the sewer plant. The work will include draining the pond, removing sediment and replacing the liners, Scott said.
“The plan that we had been working on was to retain or construct a temporary pond or use steel Baker tanks to control the water flow out of wastewater treatment plan No. 3 and utilize the overflow ponds,” Scott testified. “One of the things that has already been purchased is all the additional valves and pipelines, the actual new pipe work that will divert the flow from pond nine, reserve it in the overflow ponds and then deliver that water back to Lakeview Golf Course.”
But Granier said the plans weren’t submitted to UICN to ensure they won’t interfere with the operation of the sewer plant. Scott said they would be furnished a copy of the plans once NDEP approves them.
Tucker Design Group has designed the golf course rehabilitation to ensure the use of up to 1.5 million gallons of recycled effluent from the sewer plant as specified in the permit, he said.
“This will be considered the first phase in order to comply with the court’s orders and then overall the entire water management plan will be implemented over a period of time for the golf course,” Scott testified.
David O’Mara, representing Lakeview Golf Course, said his owners were never notified Scott had retained Floyd’s Construction, which submitted a proposal July 29. Scott told O’Mara he was awaiting approval of the plans from NDEP.
A tripartite agreement requires Lakeview Golf Course be furnished 425,000 gallons of recycled effluent per day from the sewer plant. Scott said on some days the sewer plant doesn’t process that much effluent, he said it’s required on a 30-day average.
“All the meters are broken so we don’t have an exact metering, but there’s been times here in the last month that the gross has only been about 380,000 gallons ,” Scott said.
Utilities Inc. Regional Director Wendy Barnett disagreed, she said the flows from the sewer plant to pond No. 9 have been steadily on average 600,000 gallons per day, the only fluctuation would have been during heavy rains in December 2010.
Scott said Mike Floyd agreed to meet with Lakeview Golf Course personnel about diverting flows from overflow ponds back to the pump that delivers water to that golf course. He added Floyd was an approved contractor for UICN and was well aware of the sewer plant operations.
O’Mara said a court judgment July 20 required the approval of the Lakeview Golf Association before any rehabilitation work on the ponds.
“The initial and most critical issue that we’ve been trying to comply with is the court’s order to begin and to get the permit to do the reclamation on pond nine,” Scott said.
O’Mara questioned if the pumps had enough to pump the overflow if Lakeview wasn’t irrigating. Scott said the flows would be diverted to a pump house that supplies Willow Creek golf course as well. Scott assured O’Mara the plan includes sufficient flows to meet the Lakeview usage.
Scott said there will be new filters for the pumps and monitoring equipment installed.
Scott told the UICN attorney the submittal to NDEP includes remediating all nine ponds on the former golf course. That could take place within 30 days, he testified.
“This is a phased process because we cannot take all the ponds out of service,” Scott said. “I’m certain that Utilities Inc. doesn’t want to begin work on all nine ponds at one time because that would take us to a point where we couldn’t receive effluent efficiently.”
The remediation of the ponds doesn’t require rehabilitation or redesign of the golf course, Scott said.
Upon further questioning, Scott said his company that bought the golf course in 2011 Caldera P and G, has applied for a loan from Baltimore Finance for the $1.5 million to $2.2 million it would cost to remediate all nine ponds. Financing is easier to obtain now that a lis pendens was lifted, he said, a notice the property was in litigation.
Barnett said she was having trouble following Scott’s plans and said she hoped the three parties would work together more during the planning stages.
“What’s happening here is engineering and I would like to hear from Mr. Scott’s, Caldera’s engineer, talking with my engineer about exactly what’s happening to ensure, one, we’re doing this expeditiously; two, my 1.5 million gallons is not at risk; three, the ability to discharge is not at risk and four, as quickly as we can remediate this health threat to the community,” Barnett said.
Barnett said there’s actually 11 ponds at the golf course, nine of them have bad, stagnant water that exceed healthy fecal coliform levels. Two unused ponds would be used during the repairs.
The sewer plant treats flows from almost 2,500 connections including downtown and the hospitals, so it’s imperative what goes in can be treated and leave, she said.
An integrated resource plan prepared by UICN suggested installing a transmission main and sending flows directly to Lakeview Golf Course as an alternative, which Barnett said wouldn’t have been necessary if the Willow Creek ponds had been maintained properly. She told O’Mara UICN had discussions with Lakeview Golf Course officials about perhaps building rapid infiltration basins to accept all of the 1.5 million gallons of recycled effluent.
Barnett said the improper upkeep of the ponds resulted in UICN now fighting a class action lawsuit that alleges raw sewage from the plant was dumped in the ponds, which she said is physically impossible to do. She testified investigations by NDEP, Nye County and the Public Utilities Commission found, “the effluent being released from UICN is not the problem with the ponds.”
Granier said Scott was supposed to begin remediating the ponds way back in 2009. She worried about more delays.
“We also have grave concerns that somehow the remediation of those ponds will be tied to a grander scheme to reconstruct, redesign, rehabilitate the golf course, which may be necessary for Mr. Scott’s purposes, it certainly is not necessary for the public health purposes to remediate the nuisance or comply with this court’s order,” she said. “It sounds like more delay, and in fact is creates the potential for more delay. And every single day of that delay harms this community and harms UICN and Lakeview.”
O’Mara told the court Scott was outsourcing work without understanding what’s going on. He said Lakeview Golf Course may be affected, if NDEP outlines a different discharge requirement.
Scott’s attorney Tim Post said Scott isn’t an architect or an engineer. He said the other parties could ask for these reports over the phone, not wait until they come to court.