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UICN restraining order against county dissolved

Fifth District Judge Robert Lane Wednesday didn’t buy Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada’s argument that Pahrump Valley’s groundwater was in imminent and immediate danger if Nye County started drilling a well at the Calvada Eye.

Lane dismissed a motion for a restraining order filed by UICN on Friday to prevent Nye County from drilling the well to irrigate grass and shrubs at the Calvada Eye. Instead he saw it as more of a contractual dispute that could be settled later. UICN’s attorneys say Nye County has failed to turn over 17.64 acre feet of water rights for servicing the Calvada Eye, which includes landscaping and the administration buildings.

The restraining order issued Friday stated that a temporary restraining order was necessary to prevent the county from violating its service agreement with UICN and to protect the public “from having another unnecessary well drilled that would negatively impact the community’s water source.”

Lane sided with District Attorney Brian Kunzi that UICN failed to present evidence the well would cause any damage to the water source for Pahrump. The judge described it as a philosophical argument.

“Is she going to submit evidence if we drill one more well the valley is going to sink into a giant sinkhole?” Lane asked. “That’s incredulous.”

Lane said Nye County won’t be using any more water, but will simply be using water from their well instead of the UICN system. “They’re not going to be taking 1,000 acre feet a day, they’re just going to be using water you’re not taking,” he said.

UICN attorney Laura Granier, with Lionel Sawyer &Collins in Las Vegas, said Nye County misrepresented the situation in applying for a permit for the well. Nye County was in a hurry to hold its first county commission meeting at the new administration building on the Calvada Eye in July 2010 and told UICN they would surrender the water rights later, she said. Granier said the county repeatedly said they would turn over those water rights.

The amount of water that could be pumped with the Calvada well amounted to 5,750,000 gallons per year, Granier said. Once a well is drilled, she said the damage to the aquifer can’t be undone.

Ironically, UICN Regional Director Wendy Barnett was recently appointed as one of three utility company representatives on a Pahrump groundwater basin management committee.

Kunzi countered the arguments weren’t appropriate for a temporary restraining order.

“The county is very clear they have yet to provide any specificity for what they’re talking about,” Kunzi said. “This is not an evidentiary hearing.”

The county’s backup legal counsel, Severin Carlson, from the law firm of Kaempfer, Renshaw, Grounauer and Fiorentino, said before the drilling permit was issued the state engineer examined the situation. He noted UICN didn’t protest the county permit to drill the well.

“The appropriateness of a well should be left to the state engineer’s jurisdiction,” he said. “To come in here and say the sky is falling because the state engineer approved this well is inappropriate.”

A work crew was spotted at the Calvada Eye Thursday roping off an area where the well will reportedly be drilled.

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