Humboldt River Basin Counties Eye
Regional Water Plan as Counterweight

by Mark Waite
Elko Daily Free Press

Members of the five-county Humboldt River Basin Water Authority are planning to take the idea of drafting a regional water plan back to their respective county commissions.
Meanwhile, the authority is pushing a bill before the Nevada Legislature that would require officials to consider such plans when developing a state water plan to ensure that rural areas have their say in the process.
A state advisory board on water resource planning and development that is drawing up guidelines for a state water plan is dominated by urban interests, consultant Mike Baughman told the authority board at its meeting Friday in Lovelock.
Authority Chairman Paul Miller, a Winnemucca city councilman, agreed the board is dominated by Reno and Las Vegas interests.
"They have to look at us more as a region," Miller said.
A regional water plan would have more weight than water plans filed by individual counties, he said. The five counties are Elko, Eureka, Lander, Humboldt and Pershing.
Board member Hugh Montrose of Pershing County agreed local water plans aren't the way to go, and Dick McDougal of Lovelock also endorsed the idea of a Humboldt Basin approach to water planning.
Eureka County Commissioner Pete Goicoechea said the Humboldt River Basin Water Authority needs to participate in drawing up a water plan.



The changing face of Nevada water usage was seen as a major issue in the plan.
"I don't think agriculture and mining are the top priorities anymore,"
said Gary Woodbury, Elko County district attorney. Referring to the Las Vegas Valley, he said, "the problem with water is a result of this huge population explosion."
Among people elsewhere in the state, there is a belief that "whether Elko County produces another cow or not really doesn't matter in the scheme of things," he said.
Former Lander County Commissioner Gerry LaMiaux said counties should stick to their right to grow and develop communities.
Elko County Commissioner Tony Lesperance indicated urban population growth isn't just a Las Vegas phenomenon. He referred to the five-year Spring Creek/Lamoille master plan, which is addressing growth in that area.
Baughman, president of Intertech Services Corp., suggested members decide whether to approve the concept of a regional water plan. He said his company could come back at the next quarterly meeting with the scope of the project.


 
Members may then want to hire consultants, said Baughman, who serves as the authority's executive director.
Lesperance said counties need to be aware of the public relations side of water use. The state has the impression that Pershing County has enough water to sell to a mine, while Lander County has enough water to create a marsh, he said.
Baughman said he's worried there might not be a chance to respond to the water plan guidelines until after the Nevada Legislature adjourns. If the guidelines turn out to be not in favor of the rural areas, Baughman said he'd like the legislature to adopt Senate Bills 55 and 56.
Baughman said state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, reported both bills have stalled until legislators see what happens on the state water plan.
SB 56 asks that changes in water policy be as consistent as possible with plans developed by cities and counties relating to the conservation of water or underground water. SB 55 includes language that the state water plan be designed to protect the identified needs for water and future development in the rural areas.
Both bills are opposed by the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Department Director Pete Morros testified at a Senate committee meeting March 5 that both bills would discourage the planning process, close the door on innovative solutions and




encourage litigation and uncertainty.
Morros said coordination with local government is already established under state law and his agency hasn't received any complaints over a lack of coordination with local governments.
At a Feb. 14 meeting, a state advisory board on water resources claimed the bills provide no incentives for coordination among local governments where water resources cross boundaries; that local governments don't have the ability or expertise to develop their own water plans; and the bills would make the state plan meaningless, simply an endorsement of local plans.
"They were adamant that water planning was the purview of the state,"
Baughman said.
The advisory board suggested some language be toned down in Senate Bill 55 asking the state coordinate with local governments, "to the extent possible," the plan's development. If either bill moves forward, language should be modified to focus on coordination between counties and the state, according to the board motion.
"We recommend the committee withdraw from further consideration of these bills and that the Humboldt River Water Authority commit to working with us on developing a truly excellent state plan," the advisory board concluded.


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