Ely Times Staff Writer
White Pine County has teamed up with seven other counties to file a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for violations of the National Environment Policy Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Historic Preservation Act and American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The lawsuit focuses specifically on the proposed massive water pipeline project that would pump water from rural Nevada and Utah to Clark County.
The lawsuit states the project “would have devastating hydrological, biological, and socioeconomic impacts across vast areas of eastern Nevada and western Utah.”
Simeon Herskovits, the lawyer for the county who previously won a battle in court to have the state engineer to go back to the drawing board for the project, drafted the lawsuit with the help of District Attorney Kelly Brown. Herskovits said the basis of the lawsuit lies in a number of “deficiencies” in the environmental impact study (EMS) conducted by the BLM.
“Essentially we feel that the environmental review process that the federal agencies, chiefly the BLM, participated in was fatally flawed from the outset,” Herskovits said.
Former county commissioner and current member of the water advisory committee Gary Perea said the amount of money the Southern Nevada Water Authority is putting behind buying land and attorneys is doing nothing but hurting taxpayers in Clark County.
“It boggles my mind,” Perea said. “The water rate payers in Las Vegas have already spent $100 million on this project and they don’t have a drop of water.”
He estimates the lawsuit won’t reach court for a year, but all he can do now is leave it up to the lawyers and try and educate people in Clark County that the project is “not sustainable” in the long run. In the meantime, Perea is working with other rural counties to establish a state water plan that will realistically deal with managing water for the future, not just suck everything dry and move on.
“Nevada for a long time has been on the boom and bust kind of cycle,” Perea said. “They find an area and take it for all it is worth. They make as much money as they can with no long term planning. This is the same case here.”
Herskovits said the BLM failed to build into its plan a long-term view for the environmental impact the project would have, despite their plan to have the pipeline to operate indefinitely.
“They imposed an arbitrary, irrational threshold of beyond which they won’t look,” Herskovits said.
He added he doesn’t want people to think the lawsuit is anti-Las Vegas. Instead, he believes reexamining the project and carefully studying its long-term effects will benefit all Nevadans.
“The people that are fighting this pipeline are not against Las Vegas and they are not hostile to desires to harming southern Nevada,” Herskovits said. “It’s more a matter of being very, very concerned of the sustainability and soundness of a big project like this and the conviction that it is completely unsustainable. In the end it is going to be bad for rural Nevada but also bad for urban southern Nevada.”