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Posted: April 22, 2012     Author: Susan Lynn

Hundreds File Court Challenges Against State Engineer Water Ruling

Hundreds File Court Challenges Against State Engineer Water Ruling

More than 300 local governments, Indian tribes, ranchers, farmers, businesses, environmental groups, and families and individuals from across Nevada and Utah filed petitions for judicial review appealing the Nevada State Engineer’s decision to allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump and pipe away up to 27 billion gallons annually from rural valleys through SNWA’s massive proposed Pipeline Project.

The appeal to State District Court casts further financial and legal uncertainty over a massive (and many observers say unnecessary) project that would cost well over $15 billion and cause devastating environmental impacts in an area of the Intermountain West larger than the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts combined. SNWA’s controversial project would provide water for growth and supplement its Lake Mead water supply, although Las Vegas has had virtually no growth for the better part of a decade. The agency, which has resisted calls for greater conservation measures, uses only about 70 percent of its allocation from Lake Mead .

To bring the water to Las Vegas from the Spring, Dry Lake , Cave and Delamar Valleys of East-Central Nevada , SNWA proposes a sprawling system of wells, pumps and pipelines spanning some 300 miles. The system would impact both Nevada and neighboring Utah , and the proposal has united American Indian tribes, ranchers, rural businessmen, religious organizations, Las Vegas water-system ratepayers and environmental groups in an exceptionally broad and effective opposition movement that so far has blocked pipeline construction for more than 20 years.

White Pine County , Nevada , and the Great Basin Water Network are leading the appeal. Their attorney, Simeon Herskovits, who represents multiple appellants, cited five primary concerns with the Nevada State Engineer’s decision:

1. The decision sanctions “large-scale groundwater mining which will draw down the groundwater system in a pervasively and seriously damaging manner” and cause particularly serious harm to existing water rights in the affected valleys;

2. The pumping would affect businesses, including ranching, farming, mining, a variety of tourism-related industries, and recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, bird and wildlife watching, sightseeing and aesthetic enjoyment, hiking, camping, water sports, and snow sports, and spiritual pursuits such as worship at sacred sites and ritual practices using groundwater or groundwater-dependent resources;

3. SNWA’s groundwater mining would lead to increased dust emissions and associated air quality and public health impacts;

4. The decision improperly deviates from the State Engineer’s prior practice and established policy in ways that mask the long-term effects of the Pipeline Project and sanction unsustainable water exports; and

5. The rulings improperly rely on a woefully inadequate monitoring and mitigation plan as a substitute for ensuring that the project will not cause impermissible harms.

According to Herskovits, the rulings fail to consider sound science and important public policy concerns presented during the hearing on SNWA’s applications. “We believe the rulings must be challenged and are confident of the grounds for appeal,” he added.

“We appealed this decision because it would set a precedent that one big city and a few narrow business interests can trample over the economic and environmental future of many rural communities and huge areas of the country. The export of this region’s scarce water by SNWA would devastate local economies, communities, and the environment of eastern Nevada and western Utah ,” said Susan Lynn, coordinator with the Great Basin Water Network.”

“We really had no choice but to appeal the State Engineer’s rulings because they pave the way for SNWA to drain our valleys of their native groundwater, which will devastate ranchers, farmers, and other local businesses with senior water rights and destroy the local environment” said White Pine County Commissioner Gary Perea.

1755 E. Plumb Ln. #170
Reno , NV 89502

News Release For Immediate Release: April 23, 2012
For more information, contact:
Susan Lynn, Great Basin Water Network: 775-786-9955
Gary Perea, White Pine County Commissioner & The Border Inn: 775-234-7300
Simeon Herskovits, Advocates for Community and Environment: 575-770-3438
Steve Erickson, Citizens Education Project: 801-554-9029