LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – 76-year-old Oscar Anchondo purchased two acres of Lytle Ranch land back in the 80s. It was a good price and only an hour away from the Las Vegas Strip, he said.
Like the other 6,000 people living in the Moapa Valley, he said its ruralness and seclusion are a huge draw. But, the muddy river that runs through it is known to flood each rainy season.
The unpaved roads in Lytle Ranch become rivers, seen most recently this March, and are left muddy and impassable, as Anchondo described them.
“For school, children waited for the bus in water,” Anchondo said of the March floods in Spanish. His neighbor, Arturo Villezcas, helped to translate during this interview.
Villezcas, additionally, said the March floods split the road up to his home on a hill in half, preventing him from parking his car at his front door for weeks.
“If we need an emergency ambulance or somebody else, we need the roads to be fixed, to be ready for an emergency,” Villezcas said, sitting next to Anchondo in his neighbor’s front yard Tuesday morning.
While the roads have since dried up, residents like them are fearing the next flood. With little paved roads and no streetlights or addresses painted on the homes, they say they want and have asked for the county’s help in preparing for it.
But, the county said it’s a give-and-take situation. Marilyn Kirkpatrick is the Clark County commissioner for District B, which includes the Moapa Valley. She said currently, flooding is anticipated annually and county workers prepare by alerting the impacted communities of it and ensuring “the roads are passable.”
“This year, we’ve seen one-offs where flooding has gone different directions, it’s come down much faster,” Kirkpatrick said inside her Downtown office. “Flooding is always a concern, just because of the infrastructure.”
Infrastructure, that is lacking. According to the current county code, Regional Flood Control District Assistant General Manager Andrew Trelease says these residents are responsible for their protection.
“We don’t have any structural solutions, so we encourage the residents to keep their washes clean,” Trelease said, sitting next to the commissioner. “We’re not aware of any structures being flooded, which is the major thing. If people stay in their homes, they don’t drive through these flooded areas, they should be safe.”
He also recommends residents get flood insurance through FEMA or other carriers.
As to paving these dirt roads, Clark County Public Works Director Dennis Cederburg said residents must first bring them to a certain standard, which requires grading roads with gravel themselves. Only then can the county begin to maintain them, he said.
“Once you have the gravel road standard, it performs the basis for future paving,” Cederburg said, sitting in Kirkpatrick’s office.
But, these answers are not enough for the residents who want underground flood control systems so they can drive both during and after floods. So, what would it take to get them the necessary infrastructure?
New homes and businesses, Kirkpatrick said, come with developers and opportunities that could help cover the cost of some mitigation projects. She indicated that without the extra assistance, the county alone cannot afford them.
But, she added that years of Moapa Valley Town advisory board meetings exemplify the community’s rejection of expansions that intrudes on their rural ways of living. She pointed to a meeting two weeks ago where a residential development pitch was denied.
“We’ve turned down many developments in the Moapa area in particular. I tend to follow the board because it’s a representation of the community,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve had people come in with farming stuff that they wanted to build. We’ve had several different housing developments, half-acre lots, and (the community members) prefer to have two-acre lots. Not saying that they have to grow, but at the same time, when you live in a rural community, there are expectations of what you get for services.”
Kirkpatrick said she met with members of this community last week where she discussed their “wishes” for the area. She said she is committed to securing grant funding to help in fulfill these desires.
In the meantime, residents are left weighing their secluded life with enduring river roads for another season. Anchondo admited that he would rather have the infrastructure.
“We need this kind of help so we can move on,” Anchondo said while looking at the desert landscape.
“A lot of people don’t want (growth) here, especially factories and things like that. But, the county should see the needs of the people,” Villezcas added.