Officials get update on North County water pipeline
Principals in the complex agreement between Douglas County, Carson City, Indian Hills, Minden and the Carson Water Subconservancy District met Monday to review progress on a long-awaited regional water pipeline.
The $21 million project is viewed as the answer to protecting Minden’s 12,000 acre-feet of water rights and supply safe drinking water to north Douglas County and Carson City.
Minden officials sought assurance that there was enough money to finance engineering costs to keep the $21 million project moving along and that participants’ agreements were near completion.
“Any of you who just try to organize a family dinner or a reunion know what it took to get this group together,” said David Sheets, Minden Town Board chairman.
“This was an unbelievable undertaking. We talked about it for years and it was not an easy task to make happen.”
Town board member Robert Hadfield wanted to make sure the system in place would be able to handle any water demand or emergency.
“We have to keep the promise we made to deliver water that meets all federal standards,” Hadfield said. “It’s quite an undertaking. We’re saying, ‘You can rely on us.'”
Town engineer Bruce Scott said the town’s $10 million investment in its infrastructure would provide redundancy capability.
He reiterated that the money would go into the town’s system and not be used to pay for the pipeline. That cost is to be borne by the users of the system.
Town board member Ross Chichester, saying Minden invested $70,000 on design costs for the project so far, indicated the town couldn’t afford to keep spending on plans.
“The town doesn’t have that kind of money right now because we’ve put so much money in so far. We can’t continue with engineering costs until more money becomes available,” Chichester said.
Ed James, general manager of the Carson Water Subconservancy District, said the agency had up to $100,000 available in funding for its acquisition and construction fund.
“It’s something you can apply for to keep this moving,” James said. “We’ve been promoting a regional water system since I got here in 1998. It makes sense for the community.”
He said the funding, which does not have to be repaid, comes with virtually no strings.
“We don’t have a lot of ties attached to it. Our goal is to promote a regional water system. You don’t have to pay the money back. You have to prove there has to be a regional benefit,” James said.
He said the subconservancy district would have to approve the design, but wasn’t interested in ownership of system.
Even abandonment of the multi-entity project by Vidler Water Co. – to supply $10 million to Minden in water rights purchases – failed to dampen participants’ enthusiasm.
Carson City stepped up by buying 1,000 acre-feet of water by issuing bonds, said Carson City Public Works Director Andy Burnham.
“We certainly felt obligated to continue on,” Burnham said. “When Vidler dropped out, we jumped in and looked at purchasing water rights.”
He said if Carson City had abandoned the project, officials were looking at $32 million for uranium and arsenic treatment in its water, plus building water lines.
He said the city’s agreement with Douglas County was “99 percent there.”
Minden board member Steve Thaler asked for a timeline.
“I’ve been to meeting after meeting where nothing gets done,” he said. “What’s our timeline?”
Project engineer Tim Russell said the agreements should be ready for review by all parties in mid-December. After that, Douglas County and Carson City can move ahead with bonding which takes a few months.
County Engineer Carl Ruschmeyer said he hoped to have a biddable project in March for the pipeline segment to Indian Hills.
“We have extraordinarily good prices right now,” Hadfield said. “I don’t want to get to the point where the bonding funding is available in June, and the design is another 18 months out. When the cost of money goes up, everything changes in a hurry.”
Scott said staff was “working as fast as possible to capture that window.”
“Everybody is relying on everyone else to capture that window,” Scott said.
Hadfield also asked for guarantees that funds earmarked for the pipeline, operation and maintenance don’t get spent elsewhere.
“I’ve seen political entities move funding and I don’t mean Douglas County,” he said. “All parties want to make sure if their part of any agreement that there’s absolutely no way those funds can be utilized for any other purpose. We want to make sure there’s real money, real restrictions.”
County Manager T. Michael Brown said he shared Hadfield’s concerns.
He said unless the mechanism was established by Nevada Revised Statute, it could be challenged.
But Brown said Douglas County commissioners have procedures in place to protect funding.
“You’d have to violate pretty strong policy to do that,” he said. “Our current board has taken a lot of heat as they deal with these issues, but they’re doing it in a very methodical way to come up with a long-term solution.”