County Manager Dave Mendiola held the final public workshops for the county’s water plan on Oct. 24-26 in Paradise Valley, Winnemucca and Orovada. Though the State Water Engineer ultimately has the final word, Mendiola said having an established water plan gave the county “a leg to stand on” in water rights cases.
The plan has six general policies, three of which require new county ordinances to “give them teeth.”
The first policy establishes the county’s support of current state water rights law, the doctrine of Prior Appropriation. The county acknowledges the right of individuals and organizations to buy, sell and own water rights.
The second policy establishes a fee of at least $10 per acre-foot for any water transferred out of the county, unless the Humboldt County Board of Commissioners (HCBC) find the transfer of benefit to the county, or executes a plan to make up for the loss.
The third policy requires a special use permit for “any water conveyance infrastructure or right-of-way” used for out-of-state water transfers. HCBC will determine if the developer meets requirements and conditions. This policy will require an ordinance.
The fourth policy supports County Code relating to depleted groundwater basins. For currently or eventually depleted groundwater basins, new parcels of less than five acres are required to relinquish two acre-feet of water rights per parcel.
To prevent groundwater contamination and improve drinking water quality, the fifth policy requires the County to set well and septic system density requirements and expand service when necessary. This policy also requires an ordinance.
To prevent the spread of noxious weeds, the sixth policy supports reserving water temporarily in order to reclaim land abandoned due to water transfers using native vegetation. This policy requires an ordinance as well.
According to Mendiola’s presentation, the county began the water plan process to address water quality and availability issues, especially regarding water transfers out of county.
A digital copy of the complete draft water plan can be found on the Board of Commissioners page of the Humboldt County website, www.hcnv.us.