Dayton church, hospital delayed by water protests
Appeal Staff Writer
All Tom Martin wants to do is build a church.
The proposed church would use Lyon County municipal water instead of the domestic well the church has a right to use, but blanket water protests by Churchill County and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe are keeping him from doing it.
The Dayton Valley Community Church of the Nazarene owns property at 407 V&T Way, off of Six Mile Canyon Road in Mark Twain, and has 2.02 acre-feet of water rights. Lyon County Utilities is running a 12-inch water line down V&T Way, and Martin said he’d rather tap into that than drill a well.
To do so, the church would give up its water rights to the county, and Lyon County Utilities Director Mike Workman said the irony is the church would use far less water than it would be giving up.
“A church is very low consumption,” he said.
Churchill County and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe representatives testified Thursday during oral arguments before State Engineer Tracy Taylor on 27 protested water change applications on the Carson River. The tribe wants a comprehensive plan that would address the overappropriation of the whole basin, said attorney Don Springmeyer.
The tribe has filed blanket protests of 1,900 water-change applications in the basin, and Churchill County has joined in on many of them.
Springmeyer, attorney for the tribe, said he wasn’t concerned with individual applications, but with how any change will negatively impact the flow downstream.
“This should be undertaken as a prudent task,” he said. “Now is the time to stop what’s going on here before there’s a disaster.”
The disaster for Martin is he can’t build his church until the protests are settled.
“I’m a very simple man,” he said. “We want to tap into the (utilities) line. We don’t want to drill a well. They (protesters) don’t want us to drill a well. The state doesn’t want us to drill a well. Lyon County doesn’t want us to drill a well.”
But hearing officer Susan Joseph-Taylor told him the position of the protesters is that no changes be allowed until water use is cut back.
The church is only one of many projects, large and small alike, that have been held up by the protests.
“They see a larger problem within the basin,” she said.
The Carson Tahoe Dayton Hospital is on hold too, because it can’t get the proper permits from Lyon County to proceed with building until the county can accept the water rights, which it can’t do because the hospital must move the point of diversion from its well to the county’s Rose Peak II well about 2,000 feet away.
Karen Peterson, attorney representing Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has been delayed because of the protests.
Peterson repeated Springmeyer’s assertion that he was interested in the big picture, not single applicants, and added that Taylor had already ruled the presentation is not the correct procedure to talk about the big picture.
Ed Epperson, CEO of CTRMC, said the hospital project has been set back at least a year.
“This is a $25 million project,” he said. “We have to be real sure about our water.”
He added he didn’t know what the added cost would be, but said “the longer it takes to build something, the price goes up.”
Joel Hightower, an employee of the Art Wilson Co. in Mound House, said the company was protested trying to correct a 25-year-old error. He said the well’s diversion point was listed incorrectly and when the company tried to correct it, the Paiute tribe filed a protest.
“How does one or two groups get so much power they can shut down a whole county’s growth?” He asked.
Workman said the entire county was affected by the protests, especially financially.
“We are without connection fees,” he said. “It’s been very harmful and in our case has brought connection fees to a grinding halt.”
He said the county has developed a water master plan and has increased connection fees, built facilities, including new wells, monitoring wells, infiltration wells and wastewater treatment facilities and tied the whole system together on a grid that can keep water flowing even in case of a disaster, such as an earthquake. Much of the work was paid for with bonds. These were to be repaid using connection fees.
Workman reiterated that changes from agricultural to domestic use means less water will be used.
“When the ranches are converted to domestic use, we can demonstrate through a fully automated water system that water use is much less,” he said. He said the county has used surface water rights to recharge the basin through infiltration wells.
“Just a blanket protest hurts everyone,” he said. “It hurts our service base. Others will have to pick up the slack on the bonds if this continues.”
Churchill County and the Paiute Tribe have until Oct. 19 to submit rebuttals to the arguments.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111 ext. 351.