Consultants from Abbey, Stubbs & Ford will present an update on their recent work to secure water rights and access in the Virgin Mountains south of Mesquite and Bunkerville at tonight's Virgin Valley Water District Board of Directors' meeting.
The District owns the rights to over 2,200 acre feet per year of water in the Gold Butte Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) to which access could be restricted or prevented if the region is declared a National Conservation Area with Wilderness or a National Monument as some have suggested.
The VVWD General Manager Ken Rock and Chief Hydrologist Aaron Bunker have been working with the consultants and Friends of Gold Butte Director Nancy Hall to ensure the District maintains future access to the water.
The consultants will also provide an update on the likelihood of receiving additional federal funding for a proposed U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study of Basin 222 that could help determine the amount of water in the aquifer that supplies Mesquite's main source of culinary water. Rock has been pursuing the study for almost a year but has not been able to secure close to half a million dollars the District needs to fund its half share of the project. The USGS says it will fund the other half of the study if the District finds the money it needs.
Rock will also present a fire hydrant painting project to the Directors for their consideration that will involve the Mesquite Fire Department and local Boy Scout troops.
In his background memo to the Board, Rock says there are approximately 600 fire hydrants in Mesquite and 50 in Bunkerville that require maintenance and painting on the Water District's part. He proposes changing the hydrants' primary color from red, that fades easily in the desert sun, to yellow.
"Chief Higley (Mesquite Fire Chief) suggested a possible contest and allowing for sponsors for hydrants. The District could still provide approved exterior durable paints in many colors, which the artists could then use and blend to create new colors. In searching for options, Wes (Smith) came up with the idea of painting hydrants in some areas the Bulldog colors of green, white, and black trim," Rock said in his memo. Smith is the District's accountant and is working with local Boy Scout leaders on the project.
Higley agrees with the idea of using different colors for the fire hydrants "as long as the art is not a camouflage, the hydrants are clearly visible, and the art work is not offensive," Rock added.
Also on the agenda for tonight's meeting is a consideration to renew the District's annual $72,000 contract with the Furman Group and Link Browder, the District's federal lobbyists. The current contract expires on Nov. 5.
"Until this issue of water rights has been clearly settled for us, having a lobbyist in Washington watching and speaking in our favor is valuable. So long as they are still providing significant value to the District exceeding the annual cost of $72,000, we recommend continuing the services of the Furman Group," Rock advises the Board in his background material.
At the Board's last meeting, Theron Jensen requested the Directors consider allowing the local Mesquite Amateur Radio Club to install equipment on radio towers in the Bunkerville area that will help increase broadcast transmissions in the valley. The item is on tonight's agenda.
Rock suggests the Directors approve the request "with no assumption of District liability or length of use guarantee."
A revised alcohol and substance abuse policy will be discussed by the Board for possible adoption. The Directors asked Rock and Bo Bingham, the District's legal counsel, to update the policy that would require all employees to submit to drug testing.
"Having a policy of random drug and alcohol testing for non-safety employees, specifically those without a commercial driver's license (CDL), is regarded as legally problematic in Nevada," Rock says in his memo to the Board.
"The Board may wish to discuss and possibly change the way we have written this policy, but our opinion is to not have random testing for all employees. Notwithstanding that limitation, the re-crafted policy is stronger and clearer than the previous one," Rock added.
The VVWD Board of Directors meeting begins at 5:00 pm at the District headquarters at 500 Riverside Road. The meeting is open to the public.