Crews working to restore water to Trout Canyon residents

The Las Vegas Valley Water District has joined the effort to restore water service to Trout Canyon residents cut off by the Carpenter 1 Fire almost two months ago.

On Tuesday, a crew from the utility began repairing the almost-three-mile pipeline that feeds spring water to the small collection of homes on the western flank of Mount Charleston.

The work will go on seven days a week until the line is fixed, said Dan Tarnowski from the Nevada Rural Water Association, which is helping the repair effort.

“It looks like there could be water flowing by Labor Day,” he said. “That’s an outstanding effort.”

The above-ground metal pipe that served as the community’s water system for about 50 years was badly damaged by the 28,000-acre wildfire. One official from the Southern Nevada Health District who inspected the line said it was basically destroyed, with more than 80 ruptures or separations in the pipe, mostly made from World War II-era munitions canisters.

Luetta Callaway, who has kept a place in Trout Canyon since 2004, said patching the existing line is “only a temporary fix for who knows how long.”

Eventually, a permanent replacement — most likely a buried pipe — will have to be built to current standards governing water systems.

Trout Canyon homeowners are forming a nonprofit association so they can apply for federal grant money for what could be a multimillion-dollar project.

Callaway doesn’t live in the canyon full time like some people do, but she said getting by without water has been a struggle nonetheless.

Since early July, they have had to haul their own water up the mountain on 11 miles of dirt road just to wash dishes, take baths or keep their fruit trees alive. With no way to fill it, their small pond ran dry and their koi fish died.

“You don’t know how much you need water until you don’t have it,” the Las Vegas resident said. “It’s been pretty rough.”

The Carpenter 1 Fire burned to within about 50 yards of some residential property in Trout Canyon. No homes were damaged, but the blaze left a scorched panorama behind the cluster of cabins 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

The fire was sparked by a July 1 lightning strike on a nearby ridge and burned its way to the eastern side of the range. Firefighters finally declared the blaze fully contained on Sunday, after a rainstorm that Callaway said caused flash flooding and further damaged the water pipe in Trout Canyon.

Though the canyon lies well outside its service area, the Las Vegas Valley Water District was brought in to help through a little-known and rarely used mutual-aid program known as the Nevada Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network.

Tarnowski said the district will be eligible for reimbursement under several federal programs.

District spokesman J.C. Davis said the agency saw it as an opportunity to help “some Clark County residents who’ve had a pretty rough go of it.”

It’s too soon to know how much the repair work will cost, but Davis said it probably “won’t be a big number” because the seven-person crew is working with mostly donated materials.

It’s a unique job in a unique location for the workers, he said. “They’re a distribution crew. They’re normally out there fixing busted pipes, except not like this.”

Tarnowski said the work was made possible by “extraordinary cooperation” among various government entities, including the U.S. Forest Service and Clark County’s Office of Emergency Management. Permits that normally would take weeks have been issued in days, he said. “Paperwork has been moving at a speed I’ve not seen in my experience.”

News of the community’s plight also triggered offers of help from all over. The town of Beatty sent 200 feet of plastic pipe. People in Pahrump donated material and equipment. Henderson-based Cashman Equipment supplied a bulldozer to plow the narrow dirt access road leading to the spring.

“The response from across the state has been outstanding,” Tarnowski said. “It makes you proud to be from Nevada, that’s for sure.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.