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Pahrump Fairgrounds water applications protested by Great Basin Water Co.

Updated January 17, 2020 - 10:42 am

For more than a decade and a half, the town of Pahrump has been working toward development of a huge patch of land with the ultimate goal of turning 427 acres of property into a major recreation facility, the Pahrump Fairgrounds.

To that end, the town filed a series of applications, all tied to the project, that request authority from the Nevada State Engineer’s Office to relocate water rights to allow for quasi-municipal water use at the fairgrounds. However, Great Basin Water Co. is protesting against those applications, citing that the fairgrounds lie solely within the utility’s service territory.

During its Tuesday, Jan. 7 meeting, the Nye County Commission, which also serves as the governing body for the town of Pahrump, addressed an item to retain outside legal counsel for handling of the water rights protests filed by Great Basin Water Co.

The commission voted unanimously to retain Richard G. Campbell of Kaempfer Crowell Attorneys at Law, which operates law offices in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. Campbell will represent the town and county’s interests as the applications and associated protests are considered. The cost of that representation will be funded equally between the town and the county, with half to come from the Pahrump Room Tax Fairgrounds fund and the other half from the Nye County Contingency fund.

The Pahrump Fairgrounds are located on a vast swath of land near E. Dandelion Street and Highway 160, which extends south all the way to Gamebird Road. Currently, the only public amenity available at the fairgrounds is the Pahrump Fireworks Shoot Site, where residents and visitors can launch aerial fireworks legally and safely on certain specified dates throughout the year.

Vision

The vision for the Pahrump Fairgrounds includes many more features to attract community members and tourists, such as ball fields, exhibit halls and a rodeo arena. But to do so, the fairgrounds need water.

The town of Pahrump filed its applications, three in total, on Nov. 30, 2018 and roughly two months later, on Feb. 7, 2019, GBWC filed protests to each of those applications.

“These applications propose to create a water source for the proposed fairgrounds in Pahrump,” the protest application reads. “The fairgrounds property is entirely within the service area boundary of the Great Basin Water Co. (GBWC). While GBWC does not object to the drilling of a well for the purpose of irrigation and non-potable uses, GBWC strongly objects to the delivery of potable water as an independent source wholly within the service area boundary of a properly licensed and permitted public utility.”

Great Basin Water Co. explained in its protest that in 2003, the utility had begun discussions with the town about drilling a well to supply the fairground with service from Great Basin.

“At that time the utility was clear in its support for the fairgrounds in the use of a drilled well for irrigation and dust control on the property, with the clear understanding that all potable water needs would be served by the utility water system,” the utility details.

The protest application goes on to state that in 2012, Nye County drilled a monitor well on the fairgrounds and that well has apparently never been plugged.

As stated in the town of Pahrump’s water use application, that well is 704 feet deep with an 8-inch steel casing. Under its applications, the town is requesting a total of duty of 98.5 acre-feet of water annually be moved to this existing well.

“With the dramatic changes in leadership, staff and management in Pahrump and Nye County over the past 15 years, it appears that some of the historic background and understandings have been either ignored, forgotten or lost in time,” GBWC’s protest states.

The document reiterates GBWC’s willingness to serve to proposed potable water needs at the fairground, reading, “GBWC strongly objects to the development of an independent system wholly within its service area boundary when GBWC is ready, willing and able to serve the proposed development.”

When reached for comment following the Nye County Commission’s Jan. 7 meeting, Great Basin Water Co. President Wendy Barnett told the Pahrump Valley Times, “We’re working with the town of Pahrump on options for utility service at the fairgrounds and look forward to reaching an amicable resolution.”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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