Judge hears arguments in water pipeline fight

By Howard Watts

 Special to The Ely Times

On Monday, US District Court Judge  Andrew  Gordon heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to block a proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) from building a 300-mile long pipeline  to extract billions of gallons of groundwater from the eastern part of the state. Attorney Simeon Herskovits represented a broad coalition of local governments and nonprofit groups in Nevada and Utah, including White Pine County and the Great Basin Water Network. Along with tribal governments and other environmental advocates, they sued the federal government in early 2014.

Plaintiffs argue the Bureau of Land Management’s assessment of the environmental impact of the project lacked enough detail and improperly delayed studying certain effects from the proposal.

They ask that permission to build the project across public land be revoked until the analysis is revised.

“The hearing shows once again the shell game that SNWA is playing to build the pipeline,” said Gary Perea, a White Pine County Commissioner.“They, along with the state and BLM, point fingers, make excuses, and cut corners while constantly working to move the project forward.”

Over the course of about an hour and a half on Monday, pipeline opponents and representatives of the federal government and SNWA laid out their positions.

After asking a series of questions to both sides, Judge Gordon anticipated making a ruling by the end of September, when Nevada’s State Engineer will again take up the issue of how much water to grant to SNWA.

Previous decisions by the top water official were voided in state court for being insufficient.

“All of these agencies are trying to avoid making a detailed plan to avoid or mitigate the damage from this multibillion-dollar boondoggle until it’s already built,” Perea said. “Why? Because the costs to ratepayers and the affected plants, animals, and communities would be massive. If those things were all made clear up front, the choice would be clear: reject the plan outright.”

There is no specific timeline for when the pipeline project, estimated to cost at least $15 billion, would be built, nor a breakdown of how such an expenditure would be paid for.

SNWA has already spent millions of dollars purchasing land, including active ranches in rural Nevada, and pursuing necessary approvals at both the state and federal level since initially filing applications for water rights in the target valleys in 1989.

The proposed project faced a recent setback when water rights granted by the state were overturned in Nevada Court. After a lawsuit from similar groups, in 2014 Senior District Judge Robert Estes ordered King to recalculate how much pumping should be allowed and develop detailed triggers for corrective action should large-scale withdrawals result in damage.

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  1. Theresa M Watson says:

    Why is the State of Nevada still hassling about SNWA and water? This problem has been going on since the 1980’s and there never is a resolution. I am a former White Pine resident and I am thoroughly disgusted that Clark County carries so much clout. Please don’t let Clark county and its environs mess up the beautiful landscape of White Pine County with 300 miles of tacky fences. Isn’t the scenery in White Pine already littered with wind mills that supposedly will provide many megawatts of power for other states? The philosophy seems to be of the mindset that the wide-open spaces and rural areas do not account for much of anything. The longer this item is on the table, the less progress will be made – the same story is reinvented over and over. How very sad.

  2. Dale W Green says:

    I agree absolutely with everything Theresa M Watson said! Also a former resident and raised in an near both valleys. The windmills, what a useless, over-rated joke that have destroyed the scenery that I and many have held deep in heart and memory for lifetimes. Lastly, the thoughtless “water-barons” of SNWA may kindly and briskly lump-it! Go home and STAY-ON-YOUR-PORCH!! You may visit, but keep your hands to yourself and your mouths shut! Your caliber of authoritarian globalist cronies have destroyed, over-run, over-regulated, raped and pillaged We the People’s land enough!!

  3. Russell giles says:

    Isure wish you you easterners would stop complaining about water that us southerners bought and paid for! Its our water!

    • Thanks for that demonstration of the typical and blatant sense of entitlement that our southern bullies tend to lead with. How about this: Live Within Your Means. You know, like other people and cities have to do. Like people living in deserts have to do. Of course LV would be about a tenth the size it is under such a rational context, but who’s counting, right?

      Beyond that, can you qualify that statement, Russell, or is that just a thing you assume as you look no further than the end of your own nose?

      • Russell giles says:

        The water rights of several ranches were sold to the snwa by the ranchers themselves so i where i come from that means it belongs to the folks that paid money for it

        • Are you sure about that? Because where you come from is a place where fortune and what you think you are holding can turn on a dime. Fortunately and in the real world, the gamble of a shell game can be interceded upon, particularly within a fresh political climate. Your convenient ‘deal is a deal’ attitude doesn’t necessarily play if the deal was bad and/or commitments were not met. We’re not horse trading, here – and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to environmentally and economically ruin a big chunk of the state for your own purposes, now would you, Mr. Vegas?

          • Russell giles says:

            I sense a little.prejudice against people from vegas in this conversation and i also believe if the water were to be piped to southern utah this would never be an issue the pipeline would have been constructed a long time ago

  4. Nope, Russell – a bad deal is a bad deal. And frankly a bad deal for eastern Nevada is ultimately a bad deal for NEVADA. If you back a bad deal that is bad for Nevada (I won’t bother getting into things like organic or social blight or drought, and how that would inevitably effect even LV), then logically you are prejudiced against anything but Southern Nevada’s immediate ‘needs’ (and therefore against any contrasting/conflicting/competing concerns) and you are not interested in anything but LV (not Nevada as a whole). Did you track with that? I know it’s hot down there this time of always.

    So tell me again how you’re a proud Nevadan while you stomp your feet and pout about poor sad Las Vegas (only). That needs yet more water… for a football team and stuff… Seriously. If this is a bad deal, there is too much on the line to simply treat it like a done deal. And the funny part is that it sounds as though you would also champion the purchase of Manhattan for trinkets as nothing to ever complain about by the natives. Are you a native Nevadan, Russell? Are you a Nevadan, Russell? Have you ever even been to McGill, Russell? Russell, do you even remotely know what sagebrush smells like?

    • Russell giles says:

      Well said wheeler , and yes i am a native nevadan and have traveled nevada extensively but i still believe what i said and stand by it

  5. Russell giles says:

    At this point i no longer want to debate this issue

  6. I was against southern Nevada getting the water also
    But they bought it from your beloved ranchers
    So it no longer belongs to to eastern Nevada it is now the property of southern Nevada water authority
    Take your hatred out on the ones who betrayed you
    Your friendly neighborhood rancher

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