As promised, following the Nye County Commission’s 3-2 decision to forego pursuit of legal action to halt Nevada State Engineer Order #1293, a group of Pahrump Valley residents and business owners have banded together to file an appeal on their own.
Pahrump Fair Water LLC was formed on Jan. 9 with managing members Lisa Bond of Lisa Bond Real Estate and Norma Jean Opatik of Realty Executives, along with a host of others.
The association, which was reportedly founded specifically to battle Order #1293, filed a petition for judicial review and a notice of appeal with the Fifth Judicial District Court on Jan. 18, just making the 60-day deadline for appeals.
Representing Pahrump Fair Water LLC are Paul Taggart and Dave Rigdon of Taggart and Taggart, LTD, the same law firm whose offer of consultation in the matter of Order #1293 was refused by the Nye County Commission. The case will be heard by Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Lane.
“PFW is a Nevada limited-liability company whose members include owners of parcels in the Pahrump basin who are directly affected by Order #1293, real-estate brokers doing business in the Pahrump area and owners of well drilling companies. The members of PFW are, therefore, ‘person[s] feeling aggrieved’ by the state engineer’s issuance of Order #1293…” the appeal reads.
Order #1293 was issued on Dec. 19, 2017 by the state engineer’s office, at the request of the Nye County Water District. Nye County Water District General Manager Oz Wichman had presented the seven-member water board with the proposal to require all new domestic wells to first have water rights relinquished in support of them.
He remarked that he believed the water resources in Pahrump Basin #162 could not withstand the continued drilling of domestic wells, something that Nevada State Engineer Jason King had stated in the past as well.
A majority of the water board evidently agreed and that body voted 5-2 to send a letter requesting the state engineer issue an order to that effect. Water board members Joe Westerlund and Richard Carver were the only two voices against the action.
One week after the request was approved by the water board, King issued Order #1293, requiring property owners to relinquish two acre-feet of water rights in order to receive approval to drill a new domestic well. Existing domestic wells in need of replacement, reconditioning or rehabilitation are exempt from the order, as are undeveloped properties for which water rights have already been dedicated or relinquished.
The move sparked a storm of anxiety and frustration among many local residents, businesses and property owners. In spite of the public demand for legal recourse, the Nye County Commission, sitting as the governing board for the town of Pahrump, opted to take no action.
At the Jan. 10 meeting in which that decision was made, resident Walt Turner vowed that the citizens would take action themselves. Just seven days later, that promise was borne out with the filing of Case Number CV38972.
Pahrump Fair Water LLC outlined its stance in the appeal filing, lamenting the fact that there had been no public meetings held to discuss the order before its issuance and the absolute lack of advance notice to the affected property owners.
“In a further affront to due process, property owners who had provided the state engineer with a notice of intent to drill a domestic well, and who had placed deposits with well drillers prior to the issuance of the order, were informed by the state engineer that Order #1293 would be applied retroactively and thereby bar them from proceeding with the development of their property,” the association asserts.
The appeal requests that the court reverse Order #1293 in its entirety. However, in the event the court does not prove willing to reverse the order, petitioners have posed a second option for the court’s consideration.
“In the alternative, petitioner respectfully requests the court issue a stay of Order #1293 and remand the case to the state engineer with direction to provide specific notice of and hold an evidentiary hearing where petitioners and other affected property owners will be provided an opportunity to present evidence and testimony in opposition to the proposed action,” the document states.
When reached for comment on the matter, Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Public Information Manager Jo Ann Kittrell responded, “The Division of Water Resources will await the Fifth Judicial District Court briefing schedule.” She also informed that the appeal filed by Pahrump Fair Water is the only one received by the state engineer thus far but offered no further comment.
As of press time, no briefing schedule has been filed in the appeal.
Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at email@example.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes
- Nye County Commission Chairman John Koenig inaccurately reported that an agenda item for possible direction to the Nye County Water District Governing Board in regard to Order #1293, which had resulted in a split 2-2 vote at the commission’s Jan. 10 meeting, would need to be readdressed per Nevada Revised Statute.
- However, after review of the situation, Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello informed Koenig that the item is not in fact required to be reagendized.