The county will continue to back a bill that seeks to abolish the Nye County Water District after a split vote on Tuesday.
Commissioner Butch Borasky said the intent with his vote during the Nye County Commission meeting was to send an acknowledgment to the Nevada Legislature to proceed with the Senate Bill 21 as written, “so somebody doesn’t get their fingers into it and start manipulating it.”
Commissioners Borasky, Donna Cox, and John Koenig voted to take no action on the item Tuesday, which had the effect of allowing the county to continue its support.
The two other possible motions on the item were submitting a request to the committee chair to withdraw the bill and submitting a request to the Legislative Counsel Bureau to request assistance to amend the bill.
Borasky said he didn’t intend to have the two other options included in the motion.
“I supported the water district. I knew how important it was, but now I have hindsight and hindsight outweighs any foresight that you could ever have,” Borasky said.
Schinhofen, who has been a liaison to the board for the past year and voted against continuing support of the bill, said he was not supportive of “taking one of the tools out of our toolbox.”
“The Water District Governing Board is considered a separate political subdivision. By having it in place and the county commission in place, we get two voices on this issue. Any decision made by the water board can be appealed to us,” he said.
Members of the public packed Nye County Commission chambers and public comment continued for almost an hour with people making their case for and against the proposed bill.
Former Nevada Assembly candidate Tina Trenner said the proposed bill “is wanted by the people.”
“What you are doing to make sure that this happens and to remove this board is the best thing you can do because unanimously, just about a 100 percent of the people are scared about their water, they don’t know what’s happening and they really want it protected,” Trenner said.
Dave Hall, chair of the Nye County Water District Governing Board said the board’s position at the moment and his focus is to give officials “all the valid information to determine where Pahrump is going to go in the future.”
“I think there’s been a lot of work done. We spent a lot of money, that’s true. A lot of this money came from Yucca Mountain projects, when all those people went away and all the money went away. We saved some money, we spent those monies as appropriately as we can. We carry money forward, we don’t overspend.”
The board had been recently tasked with filling out a water table for the Basin 162 Groundwater Management Plan, and is currently working with state officials on reviewing the overallocated water in the basin. It also has two groundwater modeling plans prepared by separate entities.
“I think we ought to continue forward,” Hall said.
Some suggested transferring duties of Nye County commissioners similarly to the Northern Nye County Hospital District. The Nye County Board of Commissioners sits as the trustees for the district.
Tim Hafen, owner of Pahrump Utility Company, Inc., encouraged commissioners to oppose the bill. He said the water levels in parts of the valley will continue to drop without the district’s ability to finance and redistribute water in the areas of falling water levels where the majority of domestic wells are located.
“I don’t believe that Nye County commissioners have the time to spend to do the engineering studies, the cost benefits that it’s going to take. And I think that you have plenty on your plates without getting into that,” Hafen said.
In August 2016, county commissioners approved the bill draft request that aimed to do away with the Nye County Water District. That later turned into bill SB 21.
The current Nye County Water District Act was enacted in 2007. The original intent of the bill that enacted it was to give Pahrump local control over its water, providing a governmental entity for interactions with the Nevada State Engineers Office and Southern Nevada Water Authority, officials said.
The first hearing on the bill was supposed to be held last Friday, but the bill got stalled, Cox said.
“We need to get rid of the board as it now stands,” Cox said.
Contact reporter Daria Sokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77