In his re-election campaign, Nevada Sen. Pete Goicoechea put a heavy emphasis on water issues in his spacious District 19.
“The biggest issue I think facing the state of Nevada today is our water resources, and we are going to have to deal with that,” he said.
The Republican Eureka rancher, who represents Nevada District 19, said a domestic well is not “a transferable right.”
“I continue to argue with the state engineer that a domestic well is a property right and is tied only to that property and is not a permitted right like most water rights in the state,” he said.
Nevada has approximately 55,000 domestic wells, which is equivalent to 110,000 acre-feet of water rights. Nevada State Engineer Jason King previously said that he supports metering of domestic wells across the state. However, Goicoechea spoke against curtailment of domestic wells, wanting to focus on conservation.
“Just hammering on the domestics isn’t going to balance this water budget,” said Goicoechea, who chaired the recent Legislative Commission Subcommittee to Study Water. “We need to move well beyond that.”
Banked water rights are another issue that the state currently has, Goicoechea said.
“Under the existing law, it’s illegal; it’s ‘use it or lose it,’” he said. “And yet, we’ve got people through the extension process that are holding water rights for years without using them.”
Water rights for future growth should be held by local governments or local jurisdictions, he said.
At the legislative subcommittee’s final meeting in August, officials recommended the state limit new domestic wells to a half-acre foot annually in severely overappropriated basins and designated critical management areas along with other bill draft requests.
The proposed bill draft requests will be forwarded to the Nevada Legislature. In the initial round, Goicoechea said officials will do smaller tweaks, change definitions and clarify information.
“And then, I also think there would be the ability to move toward some water conservation measures that technically are not allowable today under the law,” he said.
“I think we will probably see part of the recommendations out of the committee come forward that maybe a few are in a severely-overappropriated basin or critical management area, then the state engineer will have the ability to make some concessions for conservation,” he said.
During the last legislative session, Goicoechea broke ranks with the GOP and voted against Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.1 billion package for the governor’s education initiatives.
“Revenue is going to continue to be the major issue,” he said. “I really believe and my position on taxes is we just need to do a better job at spending what we’ve got and we also need to do a better job with collecting the taxes that are on the books.”
Goicoechea said he opposes Nevada ballot Questions 1 and 2, which would expand background checks for private firearm sales and legalize recreational marijuana respectively.
“I’ve always been a proponent of the Second Amendment, and I wouldn’t support that in any way, shape or form,” he said about Question 1. “Unfortunately, I hate to say it, but it’s going to make criminals out of a lot of good, average people. They are not going to give their guns up.”
Goicoechea, who supports medical marijuana, said recreational pot presents different concerns.
“There’s gotta be some big money in it, because everybody wants to get into the marijuana whether it be dispensary or grow, and anytime you’ve got that kind of money floating around,” he said. “There’s going to be as much money under the table as there is on top of it. So, I’m afraid we will end up with more illegal activity.”
He added that he believes marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to other problems.
Goicoechea was a Eureka County commissioner for 16 years. He was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2002. He is currently a minority leader in the outgoing Nevada Senate.
District 19 in the Nevada Senate includes Elko, Eureka, Lincoln, and White Pine counties. It also includes most of Nye County and part of Clark County.
Goicoechea is being challenged by Janine Hansen, who is running on the Independent American Party. Hansen lost to Goicoechea in 2012 in a three-way race that saw her finish third with 19.5 percent of the vote. Hansen ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014, finishing a distant third.
Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77