Editorial: Nevada water law needs to be more flexible

Humboldt River (John Lane photo)

Nevada is the driest state in the union and lawmakers are grappling with how water law in the state could be changed to cope with that fact.

The Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Study Water — chaired by state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, a Diamond Valley rancher whose district covers all of Elko, Eureka, Lincoln and White Pine counties and parts of Clark and Nye counties — met in Las Vegas this past week to hear seven hours of testimony on this topic. Other meetings are being scheduled around the state.

The first Nevada water law was passed in 1866 and recognized the vital role of mining in Nevada. The current law recognizes the basic principles of prior appropriation and beneficial use: First in time is first in right, but the water must be put to a beneficial use or the right is forfeited.

Jason King, the state engineer whose office determines water rights within the state, suggested several changes in the law, including “conjunctive management” of surface and ground water.

“We do not have anything in statute that allows us to conjunctively manage the surface water and ground water. …” King told the panel. “At a minimum we’d like to see some acknowledgment that our office has the ability to deal with surface water and ground water together.”

In prepared comments for the meeting, King’s office noted that the early history of water development in Nevada focused on surface water, and it was not until 1907 that issues regarding the use of groundwater began to emerge. Wells drilled in Las Vegas, for example, resulted in declines of spring flows and a drop in the water table. Not until 1913 did the Legislature enact a law that provided all water, surface and groundwater, is subject to appropriation.

King pointed out that the drought has caused conflicts between the holders of water permits for surface water and groundwater, and, if his office can’t mitigate those conflicts, the courts may rule the senior surface rights take precedent over the junior rights of water well owners and those wells could be ordered shut down to protect stream flows.

King also told the committee the law needs to be changed to allow flexibility in water management, including recognizing water banking as a beneficial use, suspending the use-it-or-lose it aspect of the law and changing the law’s priority structure under which domestic household water wells would have to be curtailed if they impacted senior surface water rights, calling that an obvious health and safety issue. King noted that 98 percent of domestic wells in Nevada have junior rights.

“It’s not anything our office gets any satisfaction out of, but I tell you we stand prepared to curtail by priority if we need to. …” the state engineer explained the requirement under current law. “Obviously, we don’t want to do that, but we’re ready to do that and that is our hammer in the water law.”

He said an example of cooperative water planning and mitigation occurred when Ely agreed to allow a copper mine to essentially dry up a stream in exchange for the jobs and economic benefits of the mine, and said his office needs that kind of flexibility.

King also called for metering of the vast majority of water used in the state, surface and groundwater, saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

One presenter at the water law meeting noted that a recent study found that in the Colorado River Basin the period of 2000 to 2015 was the driest 16-year period in the 101-year historical record for the basin and there are forecasts that suggest the region may be due for a three-decade-long megadrought.

On the other hand, a study of tree rings along the banks of the Colorado River by researchers from the University of Arizona found that the 20th century was the wettest of any century going back to the 4th century B.C.

So, what Nevada is experiencing now may well be normal and the wet 20th century was the anomaly — making it more urgent than ever to enact equitable changes to water law and experiment with allowing water to be bought and sold on the free market, the best way to allocate any commodity.

A version of this editorial appears this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Subcommittee of energy task force agrees rooftop solar panel rates should be grandfathered

Perhaps there is hope for rooftop solar panel owners yet to save their investments.

According to an article posted on the Las Vegas Sun’s website Thursday afternoon, but not deemed worthy of being printed today, the Governor’s New Energy Industry Task Force Technical Advisory Committee on Distributed Generation and Storage agreed in principle to allow current residential solar panel owners’ rates to be grandfathered until 2035.

The agenda for the meeting of that panel Thursday included a presentation by solar panel installer SolarCity and discussion of the value of distributed solar generation, as well as a review of alternatives to the net metering rates passed by the Public Utilities Commission at the beginning of the year.

The PUC voted to “transition” to new net metering rates over 12 years and eventually increase the connection fee for solar panel customers from $12.75 to $38.51 a month and cut the credit for power uploaded to the grid from 11 cents per kWh to 2.6 cents — to the point some solar panels owners could be paying more for power than neighbors without solar panels.

The PUC swallowed NV Energy’s bogus argument that it is paying rooftop solar power generators 11 cents per kWh for excess energy, which is more than twice the 4.4 cents per kWh the utility company pays for energy on the open market. But that 4.4 cents is the 24-hour average. Solar panels generate extra power during the peak period when rates can easily exceed 30 cents per kWh.

The Sun article said Thursday’s agreement is a first step toward possible legislation repeal of the PUC action, so any change probably won’t come until June 2017 at the close of the legislative session in Carson City.

SolarCity told the panel that it plans to release a report in the coming weeks showing that solar panel owners are not being subsidized by non-panel owners to the tune of $52 a month, as NV Energy contends, but rather benefit all ratepayers by at least two cents per kWh.

In February, The Alliance for Solar Choice told the PUC that each residential solar panel owner provides a net benefit of $12.08 per month to NV Energy customers.

The technical panel is to continue discussion of the topic at a May 18 meeting.

 

Newspaper column: A little GOP schooling: Do the math, read the history

Trump and Cruz (Getty Images)

Donald Trump keeps throwing temper tantrums like a spoiled school boy, complaining the system is rigged and crooked and he is being robbed of votes.

“You’re going to have a very, very angry and upset group of people at the convention,” Trump said at an event in Staten Island, N.Y., after Ted Cruz swept the Republican caucuses in Colorado and Wyoming by having the audacity to actually campaign there, unlike Trump. “I hope it doesn’t involve violence, and I’m not suggesting that. I hope it doesn’t involve violence and I don’t think it will. But I will say this: it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system, it’s 100 percent crooked.”

After the Colorado outcome was announced a petulant Trump tweeted, “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

Want to know what’s rigged? It is the winner-take-all primaries and caucuses.

As of the beginning of this week, Trump had won about 40 percent of the GOP votes cast, but had collected 49 percent of the delegates committed to the top four Republican presidential candidates — Trump, Cruz, John Katich and Marco Rubio.

In New York, Trump got 60 percent of the votes cast, but 94 percent of the delegates.

In Missouri, Trump beat Cruz by just 0.2 percentage points — 40.9 percent to 40.7, — but Trump gets 37 of the delegates to Cruz’s 15.

One person, one vote? But them’s the rules and no one else is mewling like Trump.

After New York, Cruz was mathematically eliminated from having any chance of reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to win on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Trump has a chance to reach that number but the odds are long.

As if all his other whining weren’t unseemly enough, Trump is taking umbrage with the party rules that set that magic number of 1,237. He told CNN several weeks ago, “I think we’ll win before getting to the convention, but if we didn’t and we’re 20 votes short, or we’re, you know, a hundred short, and we’re at 1,100 and somebody else is at 500 or 400, ’cause we’re way ahead of everybody, I don’t think you can say we don’t get it automatically. I think you’d have riots.”

 Scottie Nell Hughes, a part of Trump’s campaign, told CNN: “The majority, the plurality, the people, the majority of the population have voted for Mr. Trump. … So you know, riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing if it means we’re fighting the fact that our establishment Republican party has gone corrupt and decided to ignore the voice of the people and ignore the process.”

Oh? If you can’t do the math, can you read the history?

Return with us now to the thrilling days of the second Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1860.

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” sets the scene: “The convention finally settled down and the balloting began. Two hundred thirty-three votes would decide the Republican presidential nomination. The roll call opened with the New England states, which had been considered solidly for (William) Seward. In fact, a surprising number of votes went for (Abraham) Lincoln, as well as a scattering for (Salmon) Chase.”

At the end of the first ballot, the delegate vote tally stood at Seward 173 1/2; Lincoln 102; Chase 49; Edwin Bates 48.

That meant Seward had almost 47 percent of the delegates to Lincoln’s mere 27 percent and Chase and Bates stood at 13 points each.

As it stood at the beginning of the week for just the four top candidates, Trump has 49 percent of delegates chosen so far to Cruz’s 32 percent, while Rubio has 10 percent and Kasich 9 percent. Cruz had more backers than Lincoln did.

In Chicago in 1860 on the second ballot a number of Chase and Bates supporters switched to Lincoln, but Seward still led by three-and-a-half votes, but still shy of 233. Only on the third ballot did Lincoln muster a majority.

That, according to history, is how a convention works. No riots.

As for the inevitability of Trump, thus far only 6 percent of all the registered voters in the United States have cast a ballot for Trump — hardly a mandate.

A version of this column appears this week many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Update: After five states voting Tuesday Donald Trump has 954 delegates, while everyone else has 959.

John L. Smith: The tweets heard ’round the newsroom

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While the management of the Las Vegas newspaper wimps out and refuses to acknowledge to its readers that its 30-year star columnist, John L. Smith, has resigned, the Las Vegas Sun insert in that paper today broke the news with a story in print that it had first posted online on Tuesday evening. A little slow on the uptake over at the Sun.

That Sun story relates:

On Saturday, editor Keith Moyer (editor of the Review-Journal) told a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists at UNLV that Smith would no longer be allowed to write about Adelson “as long as I’m editor,” according to an R-J reporter who tweeted details of the event. Smith had written numerous times about Adelson, including in a December 2015 R-J column following the revelation that the billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate and his family had purchased the paper.

In that column, Smith called Adelson “precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper.”

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According to a Politico source, Smith was first told not to write about Adelson on Jan. 28, the same day that Craig Moon was named publisher of the paper, but that did not become public until Saturday, when Moyer used the excuse of the lawsuit as a conflict of interest, even though the suit was thrown out and Smith had written about Adelson many times over the years since then.

Apparently Moyer was not aware that Smith had also been sued unsuccessfully by casino owner Steve Wynn, because the reporter tweeted:

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This series of exchanges prompted a retweet by Smith and some additional commentary of the 140-character variety:

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Reportedly Smith and the reporter were chewed out for embarrassing the paper with their Twitter comments, though it was the editor who publicly embarrassed the paper. Smith was also told he could not write about Wynn, though he had recently been writing about the legal power struggle between Wynn and his ex-wife.

Smith resigned on Tuesday and the paper has since been silent on the matter.

“If I can’t do my job, if I can’t hold the heavyweights in the community to account, then I’m just treading water,” Smith told NPR in an interview. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but there was no other decision to make — at least in my mind.”

Adelson sued Smith in 2005 over a passage in a book called “Sharks in the Desert” that Adelson’s attorneys said were false implications that Adelson “was associated with unsavory characters and unsavory activities.”

The case was dismissed in 2008 when Smith’s attorney obtained access to confidential Gaming Control Board records relating to Adelson’s gaming license. Had the case gone to trial, that could have become evidence. But with the dismissal it remains sealed.

In an affidavit filed in the case, attorney Don Campbell wrote that the “most compelling reason for Adelson’s dramatic desire to dismiss was unquestionably the fact that Smith was about to acquire evidence from the Gaming Control Board which would, by any reasonable analysis, lend itself to thoroughly impeaching critical portions of Mr. Adelson’s sworn testimony as it related to his personal and business history. …

“In short, Adelson’s claims were about to be exposed for what they were … false and vindictive.”

Moyer wrote in an email to NPR, “I was sorry to see him resign and I wish him the very best. I decided that the strongest measure was best for the Review-Journal. John had thousands of other people, things and news events from which to choose to write about.”

According to NPR, then-interim managing editor Glenn Cook had told Smith he could not write about Adelson, to which Smith replied, “He’s the one who sued me, he lost, and I’m conflicted?”

Smith says Cook told him: “You can’t do it or you’ll be fired.”

Moyer told NPR, “I never suggested or believed John would use his column to settle a personal score, but if his writing on Adelson and Wynn created even a perception of score settling in the minds of readers, then it would have reflected on the credibility of the institution. Invoking ‘conflict of interest’ restrictions might not be common in Nevada, but they are elsewhere.”

Moyer took the opportunity to lecture those who might deign to criticize the paper’s management and/or ownership: “The real question reporters should be asking is: ‘Did Sheldon Adelson order the ban?’ But I suspect they’re not asking that because they’ve already made up their minds that he did. Shame on them.”

Shame?

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Don’t let the door hit you in the behind on the way out, Mr. Smith

Just as I suspected.

John L. Smith

The management of the Las Vegas newspaper is treating the departure of 30-plus-year columnist John L. Smith as if he were an anonymous copyeditor. There is no mention in the paper today, a scheduled column day, of Smith’s Tuesday resignation over being told he could not write about two of the most prominent casino owners in Las Vegas because they had unsuccessfully and frivolously sued him for libel years ago.

They could not even inform their readers that Smith had left the paper to “pursue other opportunities” — the old, frayed, hackneyed standby for departing employees.

This simply shows a total disregard for the paper’s readers. Smith is arguably the most recognized writer in Nevada not named Twain or Laxalt, but the newspaper managers wad him up and toss him out.

The newspaper’s subscribers are just left to speculate and ruminate, while management chews its cud.

our gang

A 1991 photo of R-J editorial board, from left, Thomas Mitchell, managing editor; John L. Smith, general columnist; John Kerr, editorial writer; Rafael Tammariello, editorial page editor; Jon Ralston, political columnist; and seated Sherman Frederick, editor. Kerr had left the paper several years ago but recently returned as editorial page editor. All others are now departed in one manner or another.

 

Mirror, mirror? Who is reflected in this diagnosis?

From The Wall Street Journal’s “Notable and Quotable” comes this clip. Can anyone think of anyone who this describes?:

 

From the Mayo Clinic’s online entry on narcissistic personality disorder:

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement—and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything—for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection. . . .

[The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5] . . . criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate . . .

Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner.