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PUC approves most of UICN’s plans

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission Wednesday gave its approval to a list of projects planned by Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada in the next three years in its integrated resource plan — including a Willow Creek golf course master plan, looping a pipeline to Desert View Hospital, Ishani Ridge subdivision and Firebird Circle. But a plan to extend 7,000 feet of water pipe down Highway 372 to the Mountain View Estates subdivision generated the most discussion.

A number of proposed projects were approved after the stipulated agreement by UICN filed with the Public Utilities Commission. They include:

• A 3,700-foot extension to provide a secondary water supply to Desert View Hospital, expected to cost $339,764;

• A 900-foot pipe connection from Wilson Road to a fire hydrant at the entrance to Ishani Ridge subdivision for a secondary water source, a $102,367 project;

• Constructing 3,000 feet of water line to a main just west of Dandelion Street on Firebird Circle, providing fire protection to the west side of Highway 160, a $309,965 project;

• Connecting high and low zones where water will be cycled automatically, $91,926;

• An interactive GIS mapping system to better track individual consumption and water rights allocation, $240,000;

• A permanent emergency generator for the Country View Estates water facility, $80,837;

• A $50,000 Willow Creek master plan;

• Upgrades to the dewatering system at the Willow Creek sewer plant, $701,311;

• A permanent emergency generator at lift station No. 3, $155,245.

UICN withdrew a number of projects. They include:

• A 500-foot extension of water line from Pahrump Valley Boulevard to Mountain View Casino, 61,085;

• An updated, comprehensive, hydraulic model of the entire UICN system, $150,000;

• A program to inspect each active well in the system, $300,000;

• Replacing sand filters at Willow Creek sewer plant, $569,614;

• A vactor truck at sewer plant F, $191,500;

• A spare, submersible aerator mixer at the Mountain Falls sewer plant, $75,000.

UICN President Wendy Barnett said though some of the projects were withdrawn from the plan, the company could bring them back but would have to argue they were prudent, in filing a future rate case. If all the capital improvement projects went through, UICN estimated it would require a 12.7 percent hike in residential water rates and a 3.5 percent increase in sewer rates.

“We don’t have the intention to do those projects at this time. If something changed in Pahrump and we needed them, the utility would still have the ability to go do them,” Barnett said.

Barnett couldn’t say what the approved projects would require in terms of a future rate increase. She said a rate increase depends on factors like how much water is used, the amount of growth and depreciation among other things.

While the extension of water line to Mountain View Casino, providing a loop system with more fire protection, was deleted from the integrated resource plan, Barnett said, “since we filed the IRP there’s been renewed interest in development out there. So whatever the development is might solve the problem.”

A sign remains at the entrance to the Mountain View Casino announcing a Terrible’s Casino is coming soon.

The main discussion at the PUC meeting was over a 7,000-foot extension of water line running down Blagg Road to the Mountain View Estates subdivision, which would serve only 27 customers with fire protection and more reliable domestic service. The project is estimated to cost $643,621 and scheduled to begin in 2016. A gas station and two propane filling companies nearby are on wells.

UICN said Pahrump is over-appropriated and over-pumped. Water use is unfettered in an over-appropriated basin with limited water resources. UICN said 85 percent of the wells in Pahrump had diminishing water levels and wells were failing.

UICN said the project will encourage future water connections and minimize the proliferation of individual wells. It adds a medical marijuana facility proposed at 800 S. Margaret St. will need central water and sewer service. The water line will also diminish the island of service by UICN, as 100 lots adjacent to the line extension are within 360 feet of the required distance to connect to the pipeline.

PUC staff had recommended denying the Mountain View Estates extension. They said the pipeline would be vulnerable to dig-in, installation failure and flood water damage. PUC staff said it would provide redundant service to 27 existing residential meter connections with a high cost of providing the benefit.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection said it would equate to spending $25,000 per customer.

UICN replied the project would benefit the Pahrump Fire Department and help the state engineer’s goal of protecting the Pahrump water resource. It would provide a way to get reliable utility service and “stop punching so many holes in our basin,” UICN said.

The PUC in its draft order, said “the proposed project will install infrastructure that will curb the over-appropriation of the utility’s main water supply source, the Pahrump basin, by discouraging the proliferation of wells that, if left unencumbered and based on the record provided by this docket, would undoubtedly deplete the utility’s water supply by further reducing the amount of available water in the Pahrump basin.”

The commission acknowledged the project was cost prohibitive but would improve the stand alone Mountain View Estates water system, which is unlikely to meet fire flow standards.

The PUC said a secondary benefit would be providing backbone infrastructure for Pahrump Valley that may spur residential and commercial growth. The PUC said Central Nevada Utilities Corporation led to issues UICN faced today with a checkerboard service territory 30 years later.

“Given all of the issues in the Pahrump Valley associated with the over-appropriated basin, the lack of fire protection in certain areas, the necessity of trying to find some way to deal with the over-large service territory of UICN, if this order is accepted it would allow UICN to build the interconnect to Mountain View Estates,” PUC Chairman Alaina Burtenshaw said.

“I struggle with this but in going with your big picture I just want to confirm the compelling reason for you has been the issue of water in general and the proliferation of individual wells on a piecemeal basis over a long period of time has contributed to this problem,” Commissioner Rebecca Wagner said. “In the bigger public interest effort we are trying to address this. This might be a small drop in the bucket, maybe a bad analogy.”

Burtenshaw said approval of the Mountain View Estates project was a departure from their normal policy she didn’t want to be viewed as a precedent. She said they don’t regulate any other utility with such a large service territory with the challenges UICN faces. She said it’s a project going along Highway 372, a major traffic corridor.

Burtenshaw said it wasn’t just that UICN didn’t own the well or water rights, questions over service liability, fire protection, service islands or assisting the state engineer in approving domestic wells but all of the above.

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