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UICN presents Willow Creek plan

<p>Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada has put up signage and other barriers to discourage people from wandering onto polluted ponds at the former Willow Creek Golf Course. Local members of the Red Rock Audubon Society are hoping for a bird sanctuary around some ponds at the former Willow Creek Golf Course.</p>

Horace Langford Jr. / Pahrump Valley Times - Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada has put up signage and other barriers to discourage people from wandering onto polluted ponds at the former Willow Creek Golf Course. Local members of the Red Rock Audubon Society are hoping for a bird sanctuary around some ponds at the former Willow Creek Golf Course.

Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada has scheduled a consumer session at 6 p.m. next Wednesday at county commissioner’s chambers to detail their plans to clean up the former Willow Creek Golf Course, but UICN Regional Director Wendy Barnett also wants to hear visions local residents may have for the property.

UICN anticipates approval of the improvements will cause monthly sewer rates for most residential consumers to go up from $46.26 to $55.95 when the company files its next rate increase at the end of 2014.

UICN ended up with 15 of the 16 parcels for the 190-acre golf course, which closed down in October 2008, after a hearing last August in U.S. bankruptcy court concerning former owner Caldera P &G Corporation. The original plan was for Nye County to assume permanent park easements on six parcels, about 80 acres, but the county couldn’t agree on terms of a settlement agreement with UICN.

“The receiving pond and the two overflow ponds for years have been deemed a risk to this community by the Fifth District court. They are that way because of the past owner’s failure to maintain them,” Barnett said.

The first phase of the amendment to their integrated resource plan, which is a guide to operations for the next five years, is to remediate those ponds and stabilize the land, which has environmental and safety hazards, she said.

But Barnett said, “I’m hoping I’ll hear from the community about their dreams for the land. I’ve had numerous conversations with numerous different people about their vision for the property. Utilities Inc. has always envisioned it to be some sort of park or benefit to the community. We can’t design that yet until the commission approves the plan, then we can go in and evaluate the property.”

She said the company is pondering different issues. What needs to be done with the irrigation system? Is there a possibility of putting in rapid infiltration basins to recharge the groundwater? Is the irrigation system too broken in certain areas that should be left a desert? If there is water for irrigation what can Utilities Inc. do for community parks?

“First we have to evaluate the land and then we can put a master plan together,” Barnett said.

Utilities Inc. plans to finance the remediation through traditional debt/equity financing by Utilities Inc., the parent company of UICN. But the company states, “approval of this first amendment will allow UICN to make this significant investment in the waste water system with greater assurance that it will have a reasonable opportunity to recover that investment in a future rate case.”

UICN states due to the short time frame the company didn’t consider a State of Nevada revolving funds program, furthermore their Spring Creek utility was unable to get that funding for an arsenic remediation program. Since it is repair of an existing system, not new growth, the company said it wouldn’t be feasible to impose surcharges, capacity fees or hookup fees, only to use internal funds from the parent company, Utilities Inc., as long as investors and shareholders are allowed a reasonable rate of return on their investments.

The preferred option one includes constructing a new five-acre receiving pond and remediating the existing lined ponds, which will be equipped with floating aerators, rehabilitating the pump stations and cleaning up the property. Irrigation of currently irrigated areas will continue. Use of emergency overflow ponds will be discontinued.

Repairs to the irrigation system will be minimal until the system can be inspected. Initial landscaping work will be to stabilize the site including the removal of 143 dead trees; removing and burning debris piles; protecting three trees that have active bird nesting; weed abatements for the back nine and mowing the front nine to reduce weed seed production and encourage healthy turf growth; removing salt cedar trees; providing a dust control palliative application for the back nine and part of the front nine. The estimated cost is $1.27 million.

UICN states: “This alternative was selected because it consolidates the receiving/overflow ponds while at the same time remediating them in a simple, cost-effective manner which allows the existing receiving ponds to remain in service while the new second receiving pond is installed. With the addition of aerators, capable operations staff and regular maintenance, the lined effluent ponds will not pose an aesthetic nuisance. Through fencing the ponds will be secured and this potential safety hazard to the public will be minimized.”

Option two differs in that it includes construction of a new eight acre below grade concrete reservoir adjacent to the existing receiving pond. After that construction UICN will remediate the existing receiving pond and overflow ponds. This option will cost $3.06 million.

Option three includes remediation of the effluent receiving pond and overflow ponds one pond at a time, which would still provide two ponds still in service. A temporary 12-inch line would be installed from the discharge pipe to the overflow reservoir. A temporary suction line to the pump stations will be installed. This option is estimated to cost $1.28 million.

An executive summary of the amended plan notes most of the trees and landscaping have died due to the unhealthy condition of the ponds. Multiple fires have occurred. A tree has fallen onto a house. The ponds remained unfenced, with no warning signs the torn condition of liners pose an added danger to any person or animal entering the ponds as it would be extremely difficult to get out.

The sewer plant discharges to a pond which will have to be improved with things like aeration, it flows by gravity into two other ponds that will also have to be repaired. A pump house that moves water onto Willow Creek and another that pumps effluent to Lakeview are seriously deteriorated and unsafe, UICN states.

“The irrigation system needs to be evaluated. However it is known that much of the irrigation system has not been used for years. The likelihood of broken pipe is high. It is also known that there are broken valves and electrical components. However UICN will not be able to fully evaluate the irrigation system needs until UICN operates them,” the company states.

Much of the landscaping is dead or dying, UICN said there is an abundance of weeds, some of which are listed as noxious weeds by the state of Nevada. The amended plan only addresses clean up of the land, not potential development.

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