John Barrette: Man bites dog! Water hazard bites man! Want to comment?

Garth Richards gave this reporter/columnist a man-bites-dog moment Friday.

Man bites dog is journalese for actual news, meaning something out of the ordinary. It’s mundanely ordinary and non-news, of course, when dog bites man.

Garth Richards needs no introduction to many in Carson City. He is the voluble, irascible, mercurial and thoroughly delightful developer who has Silver Oak Golf Course, plus memorabilia and horseless carriages from days of yore. That’s when life was simpler and what you saw was what you got — most of the time.

You may be puzzled about this man-bites-dog stuff, but folks who know Richards won’t be perplexed upon learning he had no comment Friday when asked about water and his golf course.

Richards rarely passes up an opportunity to comment on the city’s Eagle Valley Golf Course complex, leased to another operator, though he sometimes asks a reporter afterward not to print all his views. But this time it was little but “no comment.”

Of course, reporters must honor that; when it comes to columnists, even though rules still apply, the speculative realm gets to rear its subjective head. And the reporter/columnist ruminating here has played this water hazard-infested golf course hole before.

It featured a different twist earlier this year, but as pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus said long ago, “You can never step in the same water hazard twice.” Actually, he said river, but a loose translation will suffice. If you’ve plunked in one water hazard, it feels like you’ve dunked in them all. So, tee it up and drive:

What Richards didn’t say was that both his city-owned competition and his course get free effluent wastewater after it is treated by the city.

What Richards didn’t say was that when a lease was renegotiated between the city and his competitor running the 36-hole Eagle Valley complex, justification for continuation of the public links was — you guessed it — the water issue.

City Manager Larry Werner said early in that debate, rather pointedly, that if Eagle Valley went away it would cause the city a half-million-dollar problem because reclaimed water must be used. Now, due to drought and related problems, there is insufficient reuse water available for golf courses and other reclaimed water users.

Though Richards still gets free water, when it turns out to be insufficient to his course’s needs it leaves him in the lurch. And that competitor gets it free, too, pays no property tax, has a cushy lease arrangement and keeps on going. What a water hazard.

Is it any wonder man bites dog amazes? Wouldn’t you comment? Would your comment be printable?

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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