Nye County approves newest version of Pahrump water plan

Despite avid protests on the part of many of those attending the Nye County Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 17, commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of approving the newest version of the Pahrump Basin #162 Groundwater Management Plan.

The GMP, which has been a source of controversy since its very beginning, was the product of 21 months of meetings by an advisory committee. That committee then passed the document along to the Nye County Water District Governing Board, which handed it off to the Nye County Commission. The commission approved the first version of the plan in 2015 and now, almost three years later, a new version has been produced.

The 2018 version zeros in on a series of priority items, including population limits, water conservation, Rapid Infiltration Basins, water rights attrition, over-dedication of water rights, improving the Desert Research Institute’s groundwater model, redistribution of pumping and Nevada State Engineer Order #1293. It was this order that sparked much of the criticism by audience members, many of whom lambasted the GMP for incorporating an order that they believed was pushed through based on false information.

Vocal protests

Debra Strickland, a local well driller and candidate for the Nye County Commission in the 2018 primary, asserted that the numbers used by Nye County Water District General Manager Oz Wichman when requesting the state engineer issue Order #1293 were not accurate. “There is a 55 percent discrepancy in these figures that were presented by Oz Wichman in his letter… With that big a discrepancy, you have to ask yourself how much more (discrepancy) do we have within this GMP?”

Walt Turner, another who is seeking a commission seat this year, threw his voice behind this concept as well, remarking, “8,500 lots were said to be responsible to solve the over-allocation of water rights. After four months of #1293, we found out from Levi Kryder of DWR that 4,700 of them were already allocated water rights… It was incorrect by 55 percent so moving forward with any other plan based on those numbers would be ill-advised.” Turner recommended reverse parceling to reduce water usage, stating, “That’s a solution!”

Dawn Murphy was a third residents to assert that Wichman’s numbers were wrong and she demanded the commission dissolve the water board and start fresh.

Amargosa resident John Bosta has been one of the most vocal people in the matter of water and he again reiterated his belief that restricting the ability to use or drill a domestic well constitutes a taking of real property.

Kenny Bent, another who has continuously inserted himself into the debate over water, declared that the GMP was nothing more than a plan created by local utilities and developers and did not fairly represent the interests of domestic well owners.

“Mr. chairman (John Koenig), the majority of the people in your district that supported your election have domestic wells. Voting to adopt this GMP in its current form is throwing every one of them under the bus. It also establishes your support for Order #1293 as it was requested by the creators of this GMP,” Bent said.

Dwight Lilly, who is also pursuing a seat on the commission, cited a Protestant minister from Nazi Germany. “He came out and said, first they came for the socialists and I didn’t speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unions, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t one. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak out. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me… What we have here is the same. First they came for the real estate agents, then they came for the parcel owners, then they came for the well drillers, then they came for the domestic well owners… I am speaking out for all…”

It was not all opposition, however. Dave Hall, chairman of the water board, appeared to urge the commission to approve the plan. “I believe the best data and science have been utilized to complete an accurate profile of water availability and corresponding potential growth limitations,” he stated.

Greg Hafen Senior and his son, Greg Hafen II, whose family is deeply involved in development and runs a utility company, both asserted their support for the GMP. Hafen II noted that he understands water can be an emotional issue but he feels the GMP is necessary to bring the water problem in hand. Since the adoption of one portion of the GMP, the water conservation plan, he said his family’s utility company has seen a 21 percent reduction in water use, evidencing the progress accomplished through the document.

When the motion to approve came to a vote, the commission was split 3-2 with commissioners Koenig, Dan Schinhofen and Lorinda Wichman in favor and Donna Cox and Butch Borasky against.

Water district reaction

Oz Wichman reached out to the Pahrump Valley Times following the meeting to explain that he felt Turner, Strickland and others citing a 55 percent inaccuracy in his report were not viewing the situation correctly.

“They are taking those numbers out of context of what they actually mean,” Oz lamented. “8,500 is the estimate of lots an acre or larger, those that are large enough to have both a domestic well and a septic system. That estimate came from planning… They are talking about all of these lots that DWR has counted up that have water rights previously relinquished, but there are a whole bunch of those lots that are significantly less than an acre and therefore, may not be able to have a domestic well drilled anyway.”

Wichman continued, “The GMP is only a projection and as such, it is a living document. Like I have said many times before, it is a document that needs to be revisited at least every five years or whenever new information arises that positively or negatively effects the bottom line.”

To view the full version of the 2018 GMP visit www.nyecounty.net and click on the Meeting Center link. The document is contained in the backup information for the April 17 commission meeting.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com.

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