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COMMENTARY: Learn all the facts on SB81

This is in response to Mr. Hafen’s piece in the Times on Wednesday (Help pass SB81…).

His piece does not portray the true facts of the proposed SB81 and the Assembly amendment SB 485. Tim Hafen did not tell you about Section 4 (3) that establishes a fund to retire water rights by assessment fees on appropriators or record of groundwater rights, owners of parcels and owners of domestic wells; and receive money from any other sources.

Section 4 (3) will allow the State Engineer to assess fees on the owners of parcels and owners of domestic wells to buy back the 60,000 over-allocated water rights which were fraudulently issued by the State Engineer’s Office.

Section 4 (4) will protect the unperfected water rights that have not been put to beneficial use for requesting extensions to avoid cancellation or forfeiture until they can be sold for a profit. This water banking will give these unperfected water rights superior title over the certified water rights with senior priority.

SB 81 amends Section 7 in subsection (4), “The State Engineer shall supervise all underground water and wells, including, without limitation, those wells for domestic purposes for which a permit is not required.”

Wells for domestic purposes (domestic wells) are real property of the landowner. The domestic well pumps the percolating water which is part of the soil. Percolating groundwater is “Filtrating or percolating water oozing through the soil beneath the surface in undefined and unknown channels, and therefore a component part of the earth, has no characteristic of ownership distinct from the land itself, and therefore is not subject of appropriation by another, but belongs to the owner of the soil.” [Mosier v. Caldwell, 7 Nev. 363 (1872)]

Sec. 4. In considering a groundwater management plan pursuant to NRS 534.037 for a basin or portion therein designated as an active management area pursuant to section 3 of this act and in addition to any other power granted by law, the State Engineer may approve a plan to:

1. Limit the quantity of water that may be withdrawn under any permit or certificate to conform to priority rights.

3. Establish a fund to retire water rights or implement conservation practices. For purposes of the fund, the State Engineer may:

(a) Assess fees on appropriators of record of groundwater rights, owners of parcels and owners of domestic wells; and

(b) Receive money from any other source.

4. Authorize the voluntary relinquishment to the groundwater source of a portion of a groundwater right in exchange for granting an exemption on the unrelinquished portion of the groundwater right from any provision that requires the filing and approval of extensions to avoid the cancellation or forfeiture of the groundwater right during the period that the plan is in effect. Any right that is not voluntarily relinquished is not exempt from regulation by priority.

Frank Maurizio is president of the Private Well Owners Cooperative.

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