Virgin Valley Water District Manager Kevin Brown is confident with the district’s current relationship with the Bureau of Land Management that the district be able to get all the water it needs from its resources in Gold Butte.
“We have all the right of ways we need,” Brown said.
Brown is referring to six different springs located in what is now the Gold Butte National Monument as proclaimed on Dec. 28 by President Barack Obama. The monument encompasses 296,937 acres south of Mesquite and includes two smaller areas designated as Wilderness Areas, Lime Canyon and Jumbo Springs.
Management of the area will be taken on by Gayle Marrs-Smith, a field manager at the Las Vegas Headquarters for the BLM. Marrs-Smith said eventually there will be a monument manager, park ranger and other law enforcement officials as the implementation of a Resource Management Plan is carried out. That plan, however, will not be completed for some time as it still needs to be created with the help of public input.
“We look forward to working with everyone on this,” she said. “We plan on making sure everyone is heard and the plan meets the needs of the people.”
While the preferred language wasn’t used, Brown is pleased there were provisions included for the water district. “It is what it is, and we’ll deal with it. Even though they didn’t use the exact wording we wanted in the proclamation, they did include language that I feel, based on our relationship, we’ll be able to do what we need to do,” he said.
Marrs-Smith confirmed that nothing will change for the water district. “It is clearly stated in the proclamation that they will keep what they have. The only way that would change is if they gave it up.”
Brown said while the development of the six springs the VVWD owns rights to in the monument may not be for another 25 to 30 years, change in management for the BLM, higher government and the VVWD is almost certain. Because of the verbiage in the proclamation, nothing will be changed regardless of who is in charge.
While the management plan will take some time to develop, Marrs-Smith insists meetings with the shareholders, or people and organizations with direct ties to the monument, should begin close to the end of January or into February. Notices should be published through the County Commissioner’s office and other media entities to ensure that everyone is able to have an equal chance of putting in their two cents on the management plan. She also said the time table for completion of the plan is slated for three years.
The plan will lay out rules and regulations that will be imposed, enforced and the improvements and conservation to several vital areas in the perimeter. Marrs-Smith said her office will seek funding for the projects planned and to maintain management.
Other concerns that have been expressed in previous discussions with the BLM include road closures. Some have noticed on a map that there have been about 15 roads closed. Marrs-Smith said these roads were actually closed back in 2007, and some visitors to the area had used them anyway. She reiterated there will be no additional road closures, and the management team will be placing new signage to mark those roads better. “I’m very pleased,” she said, “that those who have used the roads have done minimal amounts of incursions.”
Other local entities, such as Overton Power District and the City of Mesquite shared in Brown’s satisfaction that the VVWD will be able to maintain its rights to the resources in Gold Butte, but do not have a direct or immediate conflict with the designation of the monument.
“Our closest line is two miles from the area,” said OPD General Manager Mendis Cooper. “It doesn’t directly affect us, as there aren’t any customers in that area.”
While Mesquite continues to grow, moving towards the west along Interstate 15, Bunkerville will be unable to expand southward once they reach the area closest to the border of the designated monument.
Mesquite Mayor Al Litman said he was disappointed with the way that the designation was obtained, stating that “it would have been better had it gone through legislation (instead of the Antiquities Act).”