On March 10th, an opinion piece by Burton Weast was printed in the Mesquite Local News (MLN). That article falsely portrayed my position on the Virgin Valley Water Board Directors in regards to infrastructure spending and board composition.
Weast writes for Barbara Ellestad, in her role as the editor of the MLN. She is also an elected director on the VVWB. On many issues Ellestad sides with Bunkerville board members Rich Bowler and Nephi Julien thus leaving myself and VVWB director Robert (Bubba) Smith as the minority members of the board. In simple terms, it is two for Mesquite and three for Bunkerville.
The views of the majority prevail in a democratically elected board, but that assumes a democracy equally divided per capita. And that is not the case.
In the March 10th article, Weast incorrectly said that “Ramaker and Smith have been consistent in saying that they only want to spend money on infrastructure on the Mesquite side of the river and prioritize repairs, not new lines.” Let me be clear, I have never said or voted to only spend money on the Mesquite side of the river and not spend any money on infrastructure in Bunkerville.
Weast, as expected, wants the public to believe that his boss Ellestad along with Bowler and Julien wanted a redundant line under the Virgin River and myself and Smith were against that proposal. That is not true. The discussion was about maintenance and operating cost priorities, not about the need for a redundant line.
Smith and I did vote for an engineering study on the line development. However, I do not think a redundant line be our first priority and have questioned the reason that the line was not correctly installed in the first place. I want to see the engineering study before making a final. The infrastructure, as any water users know is in sad shape, and the VVWB has limited funds. . .
I have stated that if water is the important issue on the Mesquite side of the river why not put in another well so we always have it and not rely on the well from the opposite side of the river.
In the opinion piece, Weast supported the historical allocation of board membership. Two from Bunkerville and three from Mesquite. He argues that the directorship was based upon historical 60/40 split of water rights and should continue that way. In fact, that represents a continuation of the current Ellestad-Bowler-Julian majority.
I support a reorganization of the water board membership following the spirit and intent of section 6 of the VVWD act. That Act says “the Board may establish, and adjust various election areas within the district. Election areas must be established to ensure as nearly as practicable, equal representation up the board for all residents.”
Bunkerville has a population of about 1,300. The state of Nevada estimates the population of Mesquite at 18,262. That means that Bunkerville has about 7.12% of the total per capita usage. Clearly, Mesquite pays the lions to share for the ability to distribute water to the 1,300 residents of Bunkerville. I suggested dividing his community into five areas according to census distribution
Weast seemed to suggest that if the Board was reorganized, Bunkerville would take their water away. That is absolute nonsense. In Nevada, the people own the water, not a city, town or even the water district. The water district holds permits that were transferred to the VVWD in the Virgin Valley Water Act.
In the final analysis, the Board of Directors is the caretaker of the people’s water and part of that challenge is to ensure that the population served is represented according to their water requirements.