Lyon County rejects water protest funding agreement | NevadaAppeal.com

Lyon County rejects water protest funding agreement

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Lyon County will not enter into any contract with developers affected by protests of water change applications to arrange payment for legal and consulting work.

The commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday not to facilitate payments or invoice firms that are aiding the county and at least three developers in fighting protests of water rights changes filed by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Churchill County.

“We just don’t want to be a part of that funding,” said Chairman Phyllis Hunewill. “I can see us having put forth quite a bit of resource.”

Lyon County Utilities Director Mike Workman asked the commissioners to consider a process that would have invoices from the various consultants routed through the county for payment proportionate to the amounts each water rights owner held jointly with Lyon County.

Workman said the agreements would aid in processing payments for legal work that has been done to answer protests of water change applications involving the utility and several Dayton developers. The developers, along with some private property owners, have banked water rights with the county, with the county named as co-holder of the rights, to speed up the process for connecting to the Dayton system when they are ready.

Workman proposed a draft plan that would provide for a unit cost for the value of the water rights at $243 and holders would pay the county an amount in proportion to the number of water rights they had that were being protested. The county would then pay the bills.

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It has cost $692,355 in fees to the law firm of Robertson and Benevetto, and the consulting firm TEC Engineering just to get to the motion to dismiss the water rights protests, which the county has filed. Churchill County and the Paiute Tribe have filed responses to that motion, Workman said.

“It wasn’t something I was recommending, it was something I wanted to discuss with them (commissioners),” he said. “We need to sort through the current process and identify what our role is.”

Developer Joe Wade, who with the county owns 75 percent of the water rights under protest, said that since all water rights holders would benefit if the county and those funding the fight should be reimbursed by future connection fee increases.

Leroy Goodman, who voted against rejecting an agreement, said the protests could very easily shut down the utility.

County Comptroller Josh Foli said the county has put infrastructure in advance of development and needed 200 to 250 connections per year to pay the bond issue.

“If protests stop development, we have a two-year cushion,” he said. “If we get 100 to 200 per year, we can continue, but at some point development has to sustain itself.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.

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