Editorial: State agency orders feds to return stream to church retreat property

Erosion on church retreat property.

Over a tiny tract of land — nestled in the middle of the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Pahrump that a church uses for a retreat — a state agency has pierced the dark bureaucratic clouds with a ray of sunshine.

In 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rerouted a stream that had run through the Ministero Roca Solida (Solid Rock) church’s 40-acre parcel of private land since at least the 1880s. The church purchased the land in 2006 and used the stream for traditional baptisms. The federal agency claimed it needed to reroute the stream so it could reintroduce speckled dace, an endangered minnow.

The rerouted spring-fed stream promptly overflowed its poorly engineered banks during a rain storm in 2010, presumably washing away the dace as well. Flooding occurred again in 2015 and twice this year, extensively damaging buildings and creating massive gullies.

But in an order dated Nov. 4 the state Division of Water Resources, arbiter of water rights in Nevada, demanded that Fish and Wildlife within 90 days return the stream to its original banks transversing the church retreat property or face a fine of $10,000 per day.

The state water agency concluded that the contention by Fish and Wildlife that it was reestablishing a historic natural drainage course is clearly wrong and the Carson Slough historically traversed the church land and the church has vested rights to the water, as well as the evidence to prove it, dating as far back as 1887.

The Solid Rock church, pastored by Victor Fuentes, a Cuban immigrant, has been fighting the federal land agency in court for several years with the aid of Nevada Policy Research Institute’s legal arm, the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation. The court case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

“Getting the water returned would be a major first step in making the Ministry whole, after years of suffering litigation and egregious constitutional violations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Joe Becker, director of NPRI’s legal unit. “However, the Ministry still suffered significant harm in the interim from the federal government’s actions — including repeated flooding and five years of flood damage resulting from the illegal water diversion project.”

The first flooding caused $86,000 in damages, but subsequent floods have created so much damage the church is seeking $3 million or complete restoration of the property to its original status. Becker said, “A mini-grand-canyon now cuts through what was once lush wetlands, and the significant improvements made to structures and the land for the benefit of young campers are being undone with each recurring flood.”

The state’s action is a step in the right direction toward restoring the church’s property and water rights, but the federal government needs to repair or pay for the damage it has caused.

A version of this editorial appeared this 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.

12 comments on “Editorial: State agency orders feds to return stream to church retreat property

  1. Rincon says:

    Although this sounds like a typical governmental clusterfarkel, the lion’s share of the blame for the EPA’s enforcement of the Endangered Species Act lies with Congress failing to modify the wording of said act. Should be coming soon with a Republican controlled Congress though. They will probably try to add something like, “No species will be listed as endangered.”

  2. One can only hope…

  3. Rincon says:

    Do you have a better way or are all for just letting ’em go extinct when their time comes?

  4. Steve says:

    Over 90% of all the species ever discovered to have existed are, or have gone, extinct.

    Nature is cruel. Trying to keep a species in existence longer than nature allows is even crueler.

  5. Rincon says:

    I also am not big on trying to save every species. That is trying to treat the symptom rather than the root causes. Extinctions are canaries in a coal mine, although the extinction of say, the honeybee will be expensive indeed if it occurs. People who take care of themselves live longer and healthier lives. The same applies to the planet. As with their health, people often don’t believe in preventive measures, but then belatedly get religion when it’s too late. The degradation of our American southwest comes to mind. It might be just natural ups and downs, but, as with subsaharan Africa, by the time we can be sure of the cause, the situation may be uncorrectable. Not our problem in the Midwest though. Plenty of rainfall, soil and forest cover.

  6. Steve says:

    Slate….a crazy fake news, one sided, right wing conspiracy site, right? (Check the article right after this one for more right wing fun!)


    I know this is a little over a year old but….

    OK, time to move on now. Many more important things to “protest” out there. In fact, just wait a while, I’m sure the left will find something Trump does soon enough!

  7. […] However, the dace never had a chance after the government’s diversion. As Thomas Mitchell explains, the rains “presumably washing away the dace as well. Flooding occurred again in 2015 and […]

  8. deleted says:


    Couple of things about bees.

    They are disappearng (between 2015 and 2016, 44% of colonies in the US collapsed) Monsanto is killing them, and Monsanto runs the USDA (the agency responsible for counting bees) and the FDA (one agency responsible for regulating the pesticides used to produce food which of course Monsanto makes).


    Course, this is just one species right? The right and their allies in business are working hard to destroy not only the government, but us.

  9. Rincon says:

    From your article, Steve:

    “The reasons for this apparently miraculous departure from the fast-track toward extinction are not hard to understand, now that research has borne out the causes. First, both the U.S. and several European countries have passed regulations that restricts the use of pesticides and fungicides that are suspected to have played a role in CCD to begin with.”

    Thanks for the good news story. It’s nice to see that Conservatives haven’t blocked every worthwhile cause.

  10. Steve says:

    Figured you would home in on that.
    Picking cherries. Taken as a whole both articles really don’t have any real explanation for the population growth other than bee’s have huge reproductive cycles. Again, nature seems to be the winner. But if you like, give humans all the credit….after all,,,you guys claim humans cause all the harm that ever happens. It’s about time you admit something good happened from human activity.

  11. Rincon says:

    “The reasons…are not hard to understand.” Somehow, that statement seems incompatible with your assertion that there’s “no real explanation”. I guess we all look at the world through a different lens.

  12. Steve says:

    Guess you insist picking cherries is the best way to view events.


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