Nevada Church Still Seeking Justice
Days before Easter, the Patch of Heaven property in Amargosa Valley, Nevada flooded again due to the federal government’s illegally diverted stream. Each new flood is a painful reminder of what the government took from the small church, and further motivation to keep fighting for justice.
The church retreat operated by Ministerio Roca Solida and Pastor Victor Fuentes, has flooded repeatedly since the Fish and Wildlife Service stole their water and diverted it around their property a decade ago.
Victor’s wife Annette Fuentes still chokes up when she thinks about Aug. 5, 2010. That date remains fixed in her memory as the “day they took the water.” For Annette, Victor, and the entire Ministerio Roca Solida congregation, it was a “horrible day.”
Their Patch of Heaven church camp had been an oasis in the desert and a spiritual refuge away from the bright lights and darker influences of Las Vegas. The camp was a place of hope for the troubled youth who traveled there.
Until Aug. 5, 2010.
That was the day the Fish and Wildlife Service began a project to take away the stream that had flowed across the Patch of Heaven parcel for dec- ades. Fish and Wildlife officials did not seek essential Nevada state permits for this diversion and ignored hydrological experts’ advice.
They foolishly directed the water to higher ground around the church’s property in their quest to remove it from Patch of Heaven – with devastating consequences.
The Government Must Pay for this Damage
The church’s property is now parched, except when the rains come… then the new stream swells and overflows its banks, flooding the property as it did last month. (Visit mslegal.org to see video of the flood.)
“You hear about floods and things and how danger- ous it is. But until you’re standing right in front of it, and to see what we saw – the devastation. Wow,” Annette says.
Floods have caused more than $200,000 worth of damage and made the property nearly useless. Until the steam is rerouted or other flood mitigation is installed, repairs are futile since the risk of flooding is ongoing.
“What happened to us is wrong,” Victor says, “but we don’t have the money to pay attorneys.” Mountain States Legal Foundation continues to fight for the Fuentes’ and Patch of Heaven in state and federal courts, thanks to MSLF’s faithful supporters.
“I have to believe that justice will be done. I have to believe that they’re going to have to finally, finally pay for what they’ve done. Because it’s wrong,” says Annette.
In December 2019, MSLF attorneys argued for the Fuentes’ water rights before the Nevada State Engineer’s (NSE). As we await the NSE ruling, our attorneys continue to prepare for the federal trial. Court closings for COVID-19 postponed the trial, but it will likely be rescheduled for later this year.
Zhonette Brown is the General Counsel for Mountain States Legal Foundation.