Plans prompt water scrutiny

KINGMAN, Ariz. — Las Vegas developer Jim Rhodes plans to build as many as 305,000 homes and drill for massive quantities of water to supply them in the Kingman area, according to documents scrutinized by state and local officials.

Those officials said they are concerned about the size of the company’s proposed developments at five northwest Arizona locations and their possible effects on the area’s underground aquifers.

Mohave County Board of Supervisors Chairman Pete Byers expressed outrage at the revelations.

“We’ve got these animals coming in here eating up our entire county,” Byers said. “It’s very frustrating that these giant builders are coming here with these huge projects demanding all the water, and people are blaming me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

The city of Kingman and surrounding areas rely upon groundwater from the Hualapai Basin. The Arizona Department of Water Resources has determined that roughly 70,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year from the same basin is available to Rhodes through his ownership of large tracts of land.

“That’s an amazing amount of water,” Arizona Water Resources spokesman Jack Lavelle said.

Agency Director Herb Guenther said he has never seen one party secure that much water from a single basin.

“This is by far the largest I’ve ever dealt with,” Guenther said.

He said several hundred thousand homes are planned in the Buckeye area outside Phoenix, but he noted that some 16 developers are pursuing those projects.

There are about 326,000 gallons in an acre-foot, which is enough water to supply two average Las Vegas homes for one year.

Rhodes Homes Arizona Vice President Chris Stephens said Arizona law affords a landowner the right to prove supply to secure water for future development.

“What we can do as a good developer is protect our rights to develop,” Stephens said. That is what Arizona law allows every landowner to do, he said.

The water supply analysis is preliminary, Stephens said, and the Arizona water agency is free to change numbers and allowances before water is conveyed to new homeowners.

Guenther said he was aware Rhodes was active in northwest Arizona but did not know so much water has been declared available for so many homes at the Peacock Vistas, the Peacock Highlands, the Nugent Ranch, the Hafley Ranch and at Red Lake.

“That’s news to me,” Kingman Mayor Les Byram said Monday. “The city of Kingman had ought to be concerned if he’s got that many future projects in mind and got land to drill wells in our aquifer.”

Stephens said Rhodes really doesn’t want to be in the water business and that Kingman could possibly benefit from a future partnership. He said Kingman, as had been proposed by former City Manager Paul Beecher, could expand its service boundary and provide water in a mutually beneficial agreement.

“We think these are things that the city ought to be thinking about,” Stephens said.

Rhodes also plans to develop as many as 25,000 homes in Golden Valley west of Kingman, serving them with groundwater from the Sacramento Basin. Forty miles north of Kingman Rhodes plans to build as many as 20,000 more homes at the Village at White Hills, served by the Detrital Basin, about 40 miles north of Kingman.

Similarly, Las Vegas businessman Leonard Mardian plans to develop as many as 25,000 homes at his Ranch at White Hills and 40,000 more at the nearby Mardian Ranch. The former would use water from the Detrital Basin, the latter from the Hualapai Basin.

“Where are they going to get all those people?” asked a bewildered Lavelle.


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