Feds Flood Church Camp for Inner City Kids
Apr 18, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley
Mountain States Legal Foundation defends rural Nevada church camp
devastated by repeated flooding inflicted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
DENVER, CO. For seven years, Pastor Victor Fuentes battled the federal government to protect his church’s camp for kids outside Pahrump, Nevada. It was a battle he did not expect when he fled Fidel Castro’s dictatorship to come to a land where the Constitution protects property rights. Today, Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) joined Pastor Fuentes and his church, Ministerio Roca Solida Iglesia Cristiana, in their fight against the government’s repeated destructive flooding of their camp and the theft of their water rights.
Ministerio Roca Solida asserts that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service illegally diverted two spring-fed streams that cross its property, triggered four devastating floods in seven years, and inflicted over $225,000 in damages. “Federal officials abandoned common sense, flouted required federal permits, and dismissed expert warnings about the tribulations their actions would visit upon the camp,” said MSLF attorney Christian Corrigan. “Misconduct by the federal government does not get much more high-handed, spiteful, and brazen than this.”
In 2006, the Church purchased the idyllic 40-acre parcel—surrounded by the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge—for retreats, baptisms, and hosting troubled youths from Las Vegas seeking to turn their lives around. The Church spent over $700,000 to repair buildings, restore septic systems, and make improvements. Pastor Fuentes and church volunteers built most of the buildings on the property.
In late 2010, the Fish & Wildlife Service, without required Clean Water Act permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, illegally diverted valuable desert streams that had run across the property since before Nevada became a state, cutting off the Church’s surface water supply. Incredibly, the Service’s diversion channel was not designed to accommodate rain or runoff waters; therefore, within weeks of the diversion, the re-routed streams jumped their new banks and directed a torrent of mud and water throughout the entire camp severely damaging structures, injuring livestock, and wreaking other havoc. After the agency refused to restore its property, the Church began its battle to force the federal government to restore its water rights, end the nearly annual flooding, and compensate it for the damages it inflicted.
“It is especially tragic that a man who fled communist tyranny should learn the harsh lesson that, here in America, the federal government is the world’s worst neighbor,” said William Perry Pendley, MSLF president.
In 1991, Pastor Fuentes escaped Cuba and secured political asylum after swimming seven miles, at night, from Santiago Cuba to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Desperate to bring his ailing mother to America for medical treatment, he became involved with former Cuban nationals who promised to secure her freedom in exchange for his participation in an illicit drug distribution scheme. Caught and convicted of drug distribution, he served a three-year sentence, but while doing so was exposed for the first time to religious materials and became a Christian. After his release, he became a pastor, ministered to troubled youths in Las Vegas, and founded Ministerio Roca Solida. Despite the maltreatment the federal government has forced his Church to endure, Pastor Fuentes refuses to lose faith that, in the end, justice will prevail.
Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.
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