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Proposed water law changes on the slate for legislative session

PAHRUMP — Nye County is gearing up for the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session that could bring changes in water laws across the state.

The Central Nevada Regional Water Authority, a unit of local government established by agreement of eight member counties, recently held a meeting in Fallon where its members discussed proposed bills for the 2017 Legislative Session.

Steve Bradhurst, executive director of the water authority, said the Legislature is expected “to address a number of important water bills.”

Nevada State Engineer Jason King has already submitted four Senate bills for the 2017 session. In addition to these bills, there will be five bills from the Nevada Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Study Water, and bills from individual legislators and legislative committees, Bradhurst said.

“It will be important to not only monitor water bills in the 2017 session but also to let legislators know what you think about the bills, including testifying on the bills, if necessary,” he said.

Bradhurst said the water authority is concerned about a recommendation from King that state law be amended to allow the state engineer to approve an application to appropriate water that conflicts with an existing water right and/or domestic well, as long as there is a mitigation plan to address the conflict.

The water authority has three position statements in the document entitled “Summary of Recommendations, Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Study Water.”

“The authority has recommended these position statements for at least the last five years, and the authority is pleased they will appear in the subcommittee’s report to the 2017 Nevada Legislature,” Bradhurst said. “The difficult task at hand is to implement the position statements.”

One of the position statements asks to “acknowledge surface water and groundwater connectivity and the need for the Office of the State Engineer to utilize conjunctive management of surface and groundwater resources where connected.”

The second position statement recommends a statewide discussion on water and encouraging various parties including the executive branch of the state government to develop a future water strategy.

The third position statement calls for local government land use plans to be based on identified sustainable water resources.

Nevada legislators will also consider the Nye County bill that proposes to repeal the Water District Act of 2007 as part of the legislation.

In August, Nye County commissioners voted to use its lone bill draft request to try to eliminate the state law that set up the Nye County Water District.

The current Nye County Water District Act that was enacted in 2007 “is not being applied as it is written,” according to documents provided by the county.

“The protection of the environment of Nye County could best be served by the creation of a single governmental entity, the purpose of which is to secure and develop sustainable sources of water,” the documents said.

The act also provides for the acquisition, storage, sale and distribution of water by the district; authorizes the board to levy and collect certain taxes, and exempts the district from regulation by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

Four Senate bills and the Nye County bill will go to the Senate Committee on Government Affairs, according to the documents.

The approved bills will be among hundreds of others bills that will be considered by the 2017 Nevada Legislature.

More than 1,000 bills are typically introduced during a session. However, not all of them make it to committees or are voted upon.

The session will start on Feb. 6 and end on June 5.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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