Andy’s Newspaper column archive
Can you see the WHITE ELEPHANT in the room. ©
I appeared before the water board May 20th to discuss research, development and practicality as it relates to water. I know some commissioners and this board claim they want to protect our water. We need only look at other towns and cities to see how well this has worked. In California, New York and other states where utilities raised sewer and water costs to unreasonable heights and were met with angry customers.
They are considering purchasing a private water utility owned by the Hafen family, supposedly to protect our water. Not true. It is to provide water for development of additional housing. Nothing more. The owner of the utility has a housing development where growth is at a standstill and they need the taxpayers to take on their liabilities. Their utility was designed to service many more home sites than have been developed. The company claims cash flow is not an issue and yet we wonder why the company approached the board to purchase their business. Remember, development is stagnant.
Lets look around us. Las Vegas has mismanaged growth and has far outpaced their water supply. They now want to raid the water bank in White Pine County. A similar project in California almost destroyed Mono Lake. Utilities Inc, a local water utility is very close to home and continually looks to increase rates. We have had many examples of this company not being a good neighbor to Pahrump.
The current state water engineer makes proclamations about our water emergency and the need to manage Pahrump water. I remind this Board that Robert Coache who was the previous state water engineer got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and, to all reports, a million dollar bribe.
The over allocation of water rights in the Pahrump basin was a result of an earlier state water engineer/officer issuing those very water rights. Now they are penalizing the water right owners for the governments’ error. Typical.
It is also the very state law that forces water rights holders to waste water in order to keep those rights. The use it or lose it scenario. How about conserving water to keep those rights. Commissioner Wichman stated that this was not the case. It is a result of people acquiring rights they could not use. The result is still use it or lose it even if you would prefer to conserve.
There was a time when The chamber of commerce, The town board and the Realtors in Pahrump perpetuated the lie that we were on the third largest aquifer in the country. When I purchased my lot I was told that by the broker who represented me. Today that information is no longer promoted and I know because I was instrumental in having all references to it removed.
It has been stated by the owner of the utility that there are benefits to a county owned utility. No taxes to pay, access to grant money and other sources of revenue. However a private utility would pay taxes which would benefit Nye County. Are there no private suitors for this utility?
It was also stated that light industry has not come to Pahrump because we lack a water utility to guarantee a source of water. In reality there is no viable record to support the utility owners and their supporters contention that a water utility will attract industry. This is a false argument. We have heard similar arguments about rail and natural gas potentially attracting light industry. Hogwash! 85% of product is moved by truck. The nation is moving to greater dependence on clean energy in the form of electrical power. So will a county owned water
utility attract industry with better jobs. A foolish and irresponsible idea. The answer is no!
The utility should remain private and it can then continue to provide the quality service their customers have been receiving. There isn’t anything to prevent the county from providing the infrastructure which would be provided to the utility for servicing any light industry.
From a practical standpoint it is not necessary to own the water utility since government controls the conduct of utilities and their ability to expand. Government can encourage, mandate and manage water usage and conservation. They should provide oversight and an environment promoting good water management.
This water board should make recommendations to Nye county to be proactive with:
a) Promoting zero scape landscaping
b) Encouraging water conservation
c) Looking for new technologies that can extend and protect our water
d) Encouraging the county to search out light industries that are water use neutral. They do exist
e) Increasing minimum lot sizes
f) Creating public awareness of the importance of water conservation to our prosperity
g) Resisting expansion of government in excess to areas where private industry can perform
h) Demand the state water engineer remove the ridiculous rule that holders of water rights must use water for beneficial use rather than conserving it. This only promotes waste.
The purchase of a water utility will not accomplish any of these things. County finances have not yet been reconciled, and absolutely no contract to purchase should be considered at this time. The citizens of Pahrump came here for lower taxes, a less restrictive environment and better management of the tax money collected by the county. This board can set an example to establish a new and improved way of governing.
Valley Electrics co-op has a provision in its corporate documents to operate a second utility. Establishing another co-op has not been considered but this is worth exploring. Historically, throughout these united States, government expands constantly and creates a never ending need for ore taxes. Reckless spending, false arguments, consultant spending galore and poor planning and execution.
All good reasons to reject a government owned and operated utility. After all, the government is quite capable of exempting themselves from any responsibility for problems they create. IF I COULD, I WOULD VOTE NO ON THIS WHITE ELEPHANT.
Andrew Alberti Jr