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Volunteers chip in to clean up Willow Creek property

The Red Rock Audubon Society has applied for a Toyota Together Green grant to provide irrigation to about 20 acres at the former Willow Creek Golf Course, but if it isn’t approved, the Red Rock Audubon Society chapter will provide funding themselves, member Richard Cantino told county commissioners Tuesday.

Volunteers from groups, including the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, Great Basin Nature Club, Pahrump Valley Aviator Club and others have agreed to pitch in and help, he said.

While Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada is primarily concerned about being able to continue recycling effluent from its sewer plant at the golf course and meet an agreement to also provide 425,000 gallons per day to Lakeview Executive Golf Course, UICN President Wendy Barnett said she is in discussions with the Nye County School District to provide them recycled effluent for irrigation.

“Our priority is to protect the operations of our waste water treatment plant. The immediate goal is to remove potential hazards on the property and then third, we hope to refocus the Willow Creek property to the benefit of the community, in weed control, dust control and removal of dead trees,” Barnett said. She added the pump houses are falling down near the treatment ponds and will be replaced with metal structures.

Barnett said there will be a contest to rename Willow Creek. UICN and Home Depot will give away a high-efficiency washer to the winner. Contestants can apply at bewatersmart@uiwater.com. UICN scheduled an “open mic night” at 6 p.m., Oct. 1 at Mountain Falls to gather ideas for the water education park planned at the old golf course.

UICN was awarded 15 of the 16 parcels at the former Willow Creek Golf Course totaling 160 acres in the Caldera P and G bankruptcy case last summer but didn’t get title to the property until last week. Barnett said the utility company will be leasing the property from property owner UICN Real Estate Holdings Inc.

Nye County Planning Director Darrell Lacy queried Barnett about the real estate holdings company.

“There are several business reasons to structure it that way but the real benefit I see is UICN Real Estate Holdings is not a utility and not regulated and it allows us more flexibility as a community in how we want to develop the property,” Barnett said.

County Commissioner Butch Borasky, who has been a longtime critic of UICN, asked, “so you could bypass the regulations and not have to deal with them?”

“No sir, I have a lot of regulators, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bypass them,” Barnett replied.

While the real estate holdings company will provide greater flexibility with regulators, Barnett said because UICN will be footing the bill they will still have to meet with numerous regulators. She will meet with the Nye County Planning Department this week to see what requirements the county has. The company will also have to go before the Public Utilities Commission and because they’re using recycled water NDEP will have to grant approval, Barnett said.

UICN plans to construct a second receiving pond for recycled effluent from sewer plant three at the former golf course, which isn’t for additional storage but for an alternative so they can clean up the existing receiving pond. It was already approved by the Public Utilities Commission, Barnett said, anticipating that will take five months.

The utility company will do weed control for areas of the former golf course that are still green and dust control for those parts that have turned to desert, she said.

Another docket will be filed with the PUC over a request to use rapid infiltration basins where the overflow ponds are now, Barnett said. That will be an amendment to the company’s 2014 integrated resource plan, she said.

“While we’ve been awaiting ownership we’ve been allowed to do some work by the trustee out there and have been able to do some studies of the soil, the irrigation system, the metes and bounds and the soil is such that the rapid infiltration basins will work very well on recharge to basin 162,” Barnett said.

Pahrump Valley is in state hydrographic basin 162. She read from scientific journals that said, “water recycling has proven to be effective and sustainable in creating new water supplies without compromising public health.”

The report added, “no documented cases of human health problems due to contact with recycled water that has been treated to standards has ever been reported.”

County Commission Chairman Dan Schinhofen wanted read into the record the statement, “reclaimed water is highly engineered for safety and reliability so the quality of the reclaimed water is more predictable than many existing surface and groundwater sources.”

But Borasky had concerns about the safety of the recycled effluent.

“Just for clarity’s sake, I hear you say the treated effluent water that comes out of the plant could be used for irrigation in a place where children would play soccer or something like that? And it wouldn’t kill them or maim them or anything like that?” Borasky asked.

Barnett said the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, which monitors the recycled effluent, is absolutely satisfied with their method of treatment. She told Borasky NDEP will monitor the RIBs.

Barnett said UICN will have to renew a discharge permit to include Lakeview Golf Course.

Commissioner Frank Carbone inquired about monitoring wells for the RIBs. Barnett said that’s required, adding they already have monitoring wells on the golf course property and at the sewer treatment plant now.

County Commissioner Lorinda Wichman said UICN could receive credit for infiltration into the Pahrump hydrographic basin with the Nevada Division of Water Resources. Barnett said UICN has more water rights than they need. She said applying for credits for the RIBs gives the company more flexibility with how water rights are managed when the commitee drawing up a Pahrump groundwater management plan compiles its report.

The amendment to the integrated resource plan will be specific to the RIBs but also other odds and ends that will show what it will cost to maintain the property, Barnett said. The PUC has already approved the remediation work but not the park plans.

“The Lakeview contract we’ve rewritten and it’s attached to it because what I want to try to do to the best of my ability as a regulated utility is to make sure that the water remains free to Lakeview and if the Public Utilities Commission accepts my argument about why it should be free and the benefits of using recycled water then that opens the door for me to be able to do that for the school district,” Barnett said.

She said a project manager has been selected for the Willow Creek work, bid packages are ready for the pond remediation and land remediation.

On Monday, the company turned on a well that resumed water flows in a creek that hadn’t flowed in five years, Barnett said. Residents around the creek volunteered to clean up the old creek bed, she said, calling it a good sign things are looking up at the former golf course property.

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