UICN to county: Please don’t intervene in Willow Creek permit

TONOPAH — Numerous dockets are before the Nevada Public Utilities Commission in which Nye County may want to intervene, but the request for a permit to rehabilitate the ponds at the Willow Creek golf course isn’t one of them, Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada President Wendy Barnett urged county commissioners Tuesday.

Barnett, in a statement read by UICN Water Conservation Coordinator Judy Gilmore, acknowledged they encouraged Nye County to file for intervener status in the docket filing on their integrated resource plan, a three-year capital improvement plan.

But she added, “given the importance to this community of completing the necessary remediation at Willow Creek, UICN asks that you work cooperatively with us through any concerns that you might have and identify them up front to avoid unnecessary delay.”

UICN has asked for a Utility Environmental Protection Act permit to rehabilitate and enlarge an existing receiving pond at the Willow Creek property, add a second overflow pond, rehabilitate two pump houses and install two rapid infiltration basins. UICN will also replace and relocate 810 feet of pump house discharge pipe and 190 feet of Lakeview Golf Course pump house discharge pipe.

Barnett said the company is asking to build improvements Nye County testified they wanted. It is part of the remediation of environmental issues and health threats created by past owners of the golf course, which Barnett said went neglected by Jim Scott, president of the former owner Caldera P and G. She said the Fifth Judicial District Court declared the storage pond was a clear and present danger to the Pahrump community.

“As the commission is well aware, this project has been needlessly delayed multiple times and we are finally at a point where not only could the environmental hazards be remediated, we could start to turn this property into something beneficial to the community,” Barnett said. “UICN asks for your help in supporting this very needed and overdue remediation so it can happen as quickly as possible, without legal intervention which will only cause further delays and legal fees.”

Utilities Inc. said the plans for the Willow Creek remediation have already been approved by the PUC and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the UEPA permit will allow the company to construct the improvements and ensure they don’t harm the environment.

Barnett’s request went unheeded as county commissioners voted to intervene in the docket and appointed Nye County Planning Director Darrell Lacy to represent them.

Lacy said county staff recommended intervening in the permit request instead of just submitting comments to have a seat at the table. It’s a docket that will be looking at the Willow Creek golf course sewer plant, receiving ponds for the recycled effluent and rapid infiltration ponds, he said.

UICN will have to get a permit from Nye County for the land improvements and the county will have to approve their request for a Nevada Division of Environmental Protection permit, Lacy said.

“This is really the opportunity to make it known if you have any expectations for a different way of addressing the problem at the Willow Creek Golf Course. As everyone is well aware, there’s a lot of land sitting there in various states of disrepair. If they’re going to be the owners, with owners come responsibility and I feel it’s the board’s priority to make their opinions known on this,” Lacy said.

Commissioner Dan Schinhofen noted Scott was thrown in jail for disregarding a court order on the Willow Creek clean-up. He wanted to know the holdup in the clean-up. UICN was given ownership of 15 of the 16 parcels during a bankruptcy proceeding last summer but has yet to take possession.

District Attorney Brian Kunzi said there’s been no documents recorded yet with the county transferring ownership from the bankruptcy estate. He said the county has to be careful as it proceeds.

“What the commission has to understand, any wastewater treatment facility is ultimately your responsibility. If the utility goes under, you have to assume responsibilities for that system. So I think it’s very important for you to be an intervener and have a seat at the table,” Kunzi said.

Pahrump Town Board Vice-chairman Bill Dolan complained the county already spent thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting UICN. Kunzi disputed claims the county was causing a war with UICN and said the intervention was only to allow Nye County to have a seat at the table and understand the plans.

“To act like this is a contracted legal battle misunderstands the whole function of these types of dockets and intervention. I’m not even suggesting there’s not going to be cooperation,” Kunzi said.