Posts Tagged ‘groundwater’

Native American Tribes File Legal Challenge To Las Vegas Groundwater Pumping Plan

By Sean Whaley | 11:19 am April 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A coalition of Native American tribes has filed a lawsuit in Nevada District Court seeking to overturn a ruling issued earlier this year by the state engineer granting nearly 84,000-acre-feet of groundwater in four rural eastern valleys to Las Vegas.

Members of the Confederate Tribes of the Goshute protest at the Las Vegas water hearings in Carson City in October. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (CTGR), Ely Shoshone Tribe and Duckwater Shoshone Tribe filed the appeal on Friday in the White Pine County District Court in eastern Nevada.

The appeal follows a decision by Nevada State Engineer Jason King in March to allocate the groundwater in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys to the Las Vegas Valley Water District as part of an ambitious $7 billion project to pipe the water south.

The water district had sought about 125,000-acre-feet of groundwater in its applications.

“I fear Mr. King’s decision will literally wipe out our tribe, so of course we are filing an appeal,” said Ed Naranjo, CTGR Tribal Chairman. “We are determined to fight this disastrous project so long as decision-makers keep it alive. We have no other choice.”

King found in his rulings that the water district had justified the need to import water from the valleys and that the agency has an acceptable water conservation plan.

In partially granting the Spring Valley water request, he said, “there is unappropriated water for export from Spring Valley, (and) there is no substantial evidence the proposed use will conflict with existing rights . . . ”

Along with the tribes, numerous individuals, groups and municipalities have also opposed the decision, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake, Millard, Juab, and Tooele Counties in Utah, the Great Basin Water Network, and several individual ranchers and farmers.

The water authority argued in hearings on the applications held last year that the plan to acquire unappropriated groundwater rights in rural Nevada to supplement Southern Nevada’s supply of Colorado River water is absolutely essential to the economic future of the region.

The authority said the water would not be tapped for many years if the applications were approved. Beyond the hearing process, construction of a 300-mile pipeline to bring the water to Southern Nevada will take 10 to 15 years. The pipeline project cost is estimated at $7 billion, a figure opponents said is well below what it will actually cost ratepayers.

The tribes argue they depend on the groundwater in Spring Valley for a number of reasons, such as native wildlife and plants, and sacred sites used for religious practice.

Madeline Greymountain, vice-chairwoman of the Goshute Tribal Council, said: “Our tribal leaders and elders have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy documenting the importance of our ancestral lands including Spring Valley. The area is vital to the cultural survival of our people.

“We pleaded before the Nevada State Engineer, we shed tears, we wanted our voices to be heard, but neither our survival as a people, nor our voices were considered in the final ruling,” she said. “Spring Valley is as important to our people today, as it was to our past, and will be to our future generations. So we will protect it in every way we can.”

The Goshute Tribe has been fighting the project for nine years. The tribe detailed its hunting and gathering areas and other cultural information in the form of a cultural map, which was presented to King during the hearings.

Groundwater Pumping Plan Now In Hands Of State Engineer As Marathon Hearing Concludes

By Sean Whaley | 3:10 pm November 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The fate of an ambitious plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump more  than 125,00-acre feet of groundwater from rural areas of the state to slake the thirst of Las Vegas residents is now in the hands of the state engineer after a marathon hearing that began Sept. 26.

State Engineer Jason King heard closing arguments today in the application process, with attorneys representing opponents of the project asking him to deny the water rights sought by the agency.

Attorneys for Utah ranchers, Native American tribes, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and rural Nevadans argued that granting the applications would harm the environment and destroy their way of life.

Courtesy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

In her testimony in support of the plan two months ago, Pat Mulroy, general manager of the authority, said the plan to acquire unappropriated groundwater rights in rural Nevada to supplement Southern Nevada’s supply of Colorado River water is absolutely essential to the economic future of the region.

The closing arguments wrapped up weeks of testimony about the effects of the groundwater pumping on the rural aquifers.

Las Vegas attorney Paul Hejmanowski, representing the Mormon church in opposing the groundwater applications in Spring Valley, said there are no protections for rural areas if the pumping ends up causing harm, despite agreements between the water authority and federal agencies to monitor and respond to declines in the water table.

“Mistakes can happen,” he said. “Where are our protections.”

If the applications are granted, all the springs will go dry and “cause groundwater mining on an unprecedented scale,” Hejmanowski said. “These applications need to be denied for the reasons we discussed. They are not in the public interest.”

Paul EchoHawk, an attorney representing affected Native American tribes, including the Goshutes and Shoshone, also argued against granting the applications. He also criticized federal government agencies for not representing tribal concerns at the hearings because they had previously entered into “stipulated agreements” with the water authority on the groundwater pumping plan.

EchoHawk called them “backroom deals” that were entered into without consulting the tribes, and said they should be disregarded by the state engineer in considering the applications.

Attorney Paul Taggart, representing the water authority, argued that substantial evidence has been submitted to support the groundwater requests.

“Don’t mistake as public interest the very small vocal minority when there are millions of people who need this water in Southern Nevada,” he said. “Approve these applications to secure a safe and reliable water supply for seven out of 10 Nevadans, and to secure the future economic development of Nevada.”

In her testimony in September, Mulroy said Southern Nevada needs to ensure it has a diverse supply of water for that time in the not-so-distant future when the states sharing the Colorado River basin fully use their allotments. The river is over-appropriated and a prolonged drought could create a shortage in coming years, she said.

There is no viable alternative to guarantee a supply of water to Southern Nevada, with desalination plants not a realistic short-term option, she said. The agency is seeking 125,976-acre feet of groundwater in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys as part of an ambitious $7 billion project to pipe the water south. The applications have the potential to affect ranching communities in Utah as well.

Mulroy said the water would not be tapped for many years if the applications are approved. Beyond the hearing process, construction of a pipeline to bring the water to Southern Nevada will take 10 to 15 years, she said.

Opponents argued that more conservation could alleviate the need for the groundwater.

Mulroy said the agency has an aggressive turf reduction project that has helped conserve Southern Nevada’s water supplies.

Courtesy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The parties in the request have until Dec. 23 to file written closing briefs. The public has until Dec. 2 to file any written comments.

A decision is expected sometime next year.

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Audio clips:

Las Vegas attorney Paul Hejmanowski says approving the applications will cause the springs in Spring Valley to go dry:

111811Hejmanowski :28 an unprecedented scale.”

Water Authority attorney Paul Taggart says the water is needed to assure the economic viability of Southern Nevada:

111811Taggart :21 development of Nevada.”

 

 

Opponents of Groundwater Pumping Plan Presenting Their Case to State Engineer

By Sean Whaley | 4:12 pm October 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Opponents of a proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pipe rural Nevada groundwater south to quench the thirst of Las Vegas got their chance to argue against the project today before State Engineer Jason King.

The hearings began Sept. 26 and are scheduled to run through Nov. 18. The water authority made its case to tap the rural groundwater supplies over the first several weeks of hearings.

Opponents, including Utah officials, the Great Basin Water Network and the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, have been given through Nov. 15 to make their arguments that the request for 125,976-acre feet of groundwater in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys would harm the environment and economic viability of rural Nevada and Utah.

Much of the hearing today focused on concerns by Utah officials that tapping the groundwater from southern Spring Valley in Nevada would adversely affect water resources in the adjoining southern Snake Valley that straddles the Nevada-Utah state line.

Hugh Hurlow, a senior scientist with the Ground Water & Paleontology Program for the Utah Geological Survey and a witness for Millard and Juab counties in Utah opposed to the applications, testified that his analysis shows that pumping from southern Spring Valley could potentially cause groundwater levels to decline in the Snake Valley because of the interbasin flow that now occurs from west to east.

Hugh Hurlow, a witness for the opposition to the Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater project, testifies today. / Nevada News Bureau.

The flow from southern Spring Valley to the southern Snake Valley is estimated at between 4,000-acre-feet to 33,000-acre-feet per year, he said in his testimony.

Using the lower range of the estimates for his calculations, Hurlow said he estimates that between 10 percent and 25 percent of the southern Snake Valley groundwater comes from the interbasin flow from the west from southern Spring Valley.

This would adversely affect well levels and springs in the southern Snake Valley which is already under stress due to agricultural and other uses, he said.

“So that is why I think that a reduction of the interbasin flow from Spring Valley to Snake Valley could have adverse effects to the groundwater system in Snake Valley,” Hurlow said in response to questioning from Mark Ward, the attorney representing the Utah counties in the proceedings.

Utah attorney Mark Ward presented the Utah county case against the water project today. / Nevada News Bureau.

He also argued that if water rights are granted, that a proposed monitoring system include test wells in Utah that would need to be operated for several decades to track any changes in groundwater levels and flow.

Attorney Paul Taggart, representing the water authority in the hearing, noted that the agency has asked the state engineer to include such a monitoring program if water rights applications are granted.

He also cited two studies suggesting the interbasin flow is no more than 4,000-acre-feet annually. Only one study suggests the flow is greater than 12,000-acre-feet, Taggart said.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the authority, said in opening arguments in September that the plan to acquire unappropriated groundwater rights in rural Nevada to supplement Southern Nevada’s supply of Colorado River water is essential to the economic future of the region.

Southern Nevada needs to ensure it has a diverse supply of water for that time in the not-so-distant future when the states sharing the Colorado River basin fully use their allotments, she said. The river is over-appropriated and a prolonged drought could create a shortage in coming years, Mulroy said.

Opponents argue that more conservation and the pursuit of desalinization plants would be better alternatives to taking the groundwater.

Mulroy said the agency has taken aggressive steps to improve conservation efforts, including a turf reduction program, and that environmental issues make the desalinization option unlikely to become available in the near term.

Even if the water applications are granted, it would be at least 10 years before construction of a pipeline costing an estimated $7 billion would move forward, Mulroy said.

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Audio clips:

Hugh Hurlow, a senior scientist with the Ground Water & Paleontology Program for the Utah Geological Survey, says Spring Valley groundwater flows into the Snake Valley:

103111Hurlow1 :29 southern Snake Valley.”

Hurlow says about 10 percent to 25 percent of the southern Snake Valley water comes from the Spring Valley to the west:

103111Hurlow2 :25 southern Snake Valley.”

Hurlow says that is why there could be adverse impacts on the southern Snake Valley:

103111Hurlow3 :14 in Snake Valley.

Southern Nevada Water Authority attorney Paul Taggart says most studies show smaller amounts of interbasin transfer:

103111Taggart :23 these prior studies.”

 

 

Public Passionately Weighs In On Las Vegas Plan To Pump Rural Groundwater South

By Sean Whaley | 4:15 pm October 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Supporters of a plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump more  than 125,00-acre feet of groundwater from rural areas of the state to slake the thirst of urban residents said today the project is critical to keeping the state’s economic engine running.

But opponents said the groundwater pumping plan being considered by the Nevada State Engineer will be an environmental disaster for rural eastern Nevada, harming wildlife and altering the way of life of residents from Caliente to Ely.

Numerous representatives of Native American tribes also spoke in opposition to the water importation plan, arguing it would permanently alter their way of life as well. About 40 Goshute, Shoshone and Paiute tribal members traveled by bus from the Utah/Nevada border area to attend and speak at the hearing in Carson City.

Clell Pete of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute offers a prayer today outside the Las Vegas water hearing. About 40 members of the tribe, and others, protested the project. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

Hearings on the plan have been ongoing for two weeks and are expected to continue through Nov. 18 before Nevada State Engineer Jason King. A number of groups have formally opposed the agency’s request for 125,976-acre feet in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys.

Today was set aside for members of the public to comment on the plan. Testimony was taken from around the state via video conference, including Caliente, Ely and Las Vegas. More than two dozen speakers took the opportunity to comment on the project, which ultimately could cost Las Vegas water rate payers as much as $7 billion. Construction would not begin for at least 10 to 15 years.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, testified in support of the proposal, saying the water agency has aggressively pursued conservation initiatives in an effort to maximize the use of the state’s allotment of water from the Colorado River.

“This state is in a place where we have never been before,” he said. “Our economy is a disaster. And we have a reliance on a single industry. I would tell you that this is more than just about inter-basin transfers, this is about the well being of the state of Nevada.”

Failure to approve the importation plan would mean gambling with the economic viability of the state, Thompson said.

Hearing Officer Susan Joseph-Taylor and State Engineer Jason King listen to testimony via video conference today. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

Frank Wyatt, president of Pinnacle Homes and president of the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, also testified in support.

“From local home builders to suppliers and construction professionals, we support thousands of jobs that benefit Nevada’s economy,” he said. “To ensure job opportunities continue, Southern Nevada must have predictable water resources.”

The project will provide protection to Nevada from a drought in the Colorado River basin and diversify water resources, Wyatt said.

Brian McAnallen, vice president of government affairs for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, also supported the project.

“Achieving and maintaining good water quality today while preparing for the delivery system needs of tomorrow is essential to our community and it’s good public policy,” he said. “Southern Nevadans have already answered the call to conserve water.”

Susan Wetmore, a resident of Baker, Nevada, criticized the plan, however.

“I believe that the proposed pipeline is unwise, environmentally irresponsible and wasteful,” she said. “It is unwise because no one really knows what the effects of pumping will be on our hydrologic basins.”

Ronda Hornbeck, a lifetime resident of Lincoln County, said the water applications would restrict opportunities for economic development in rural Nevada.

“Southern Nevada Water Authority, by taking the water from the other counties, potentially takes away the ability of the smaller counties to continue and grow and prosper the same as Clark County wants to do,” she said.

“Why is it OK to destroy one community to save another?” Hornbeck asked. “The state water engineer states that if the water is granted, and there are impacts to the existing water rights and ecosystems, Southern Nevada Water Authority will have to stop pumping. By the time pumping impacts are noticed, it will be too late.”

Critics said the agency should work on desalinization plants instead of piping rural water south.

At the first day of the hearing, however, Pat Mulroy, general manager of the authority, said desalinization is not practical in the near term due to environmental concerns in neighboring California.

Tansey Smith, representing the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, read portions of a resolution approved in October 2010 in opposition to the project.

Tansey Smith, representing the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, speaks in opposition to the water plan. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

“But overall, if we could take the consideration of the Native American people who are continuing to use this precious resource for cultural purposes as part of the Great Basin culture of the state of Nevada, that would be a good thing,” she said.

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Audio clips:

Frank Wyatt, president of Pinnacle Homes and president of the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, says the project is an economic benefit for Nevada:

100711Wyatt :14 predictable water resources.”

Susan Wetmore of Baker, Nevada, says the project is unwise and irresponsible:

100711Wetmore :14 our hydrologic basins.”

Lincoln County resident Ronda Hornbeck says taking the rural water will make it difficult for the areas to develop economically:

100711Hornbeck1 :16 wants to do.”

Hornbeck says by the time the pumping of the water is found to be harming rural Nevada it will be too late:

100711Hornbeck2 :27 and social impossibility.”

Tansey Smith, representing the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, says Native American uses of the rural water should be considered:

100711Smith :26 people know that.”

Public Comment Period Set For Oct. 7 In Southern Nevada Water Rights Hearings

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 6:19 pm September 20th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada State Engineer Jason King today announced additional locations for public comment during the upcoming Southern Nevada Water Authority water-rights hearings.

The hearing is scheduled for multiple weeks beginning Sept. 26. Public comment is scheduled for Oct. 7 starting at 8 a.m. and will be video cast from several locations. The locations for public comment are the Nevada Legislative Building in Carson City, Room 1214; the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas, Room 4412; and the Great Basin College in Ely, Room 112.

Groundwater basin locations for SNWA applications.

Written public comments are also being accepted until 5 p.m. on Dec. 2. Comments should be addressed to the attention of Susan Joseph-Taylor, chief hearing officer, Office of the State Engineer, 901 South Stewart Street, Suite 2002, Carson City, Nevada 89701.

The hearing will be broadcast by audio and video on the internet from the Nevada Legislature.

The hearing will be held during normal business hours. The schedule of case presentations is:

- Sept. 26 through Oct. 6: Opening statements and Southern Nevada Water Authority

- Oct. 7: Public comment.

- Oct. 10–14: Southern Nevada Water Authority.

- Oct. 31: Henry Vogler, Juab County, Utah, Millard County, Utah (protestants).Nov. 1: EskDale Center, Great Basin Water Network (protestants).

- Nov. 2-10: Great Basin Water Network (protestant).

- Nov. 14 and 15: Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, Ely Shoshone Tribe (protestants).

- Nov.16: Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (protestant).

- Nov. 17: Long Now Foundation (protestant).

- Nov. 18: Closing arguments.

Hearing Background

In 1989, the Las Vegas Valley Water District filed 146 water-right applications to appropriate nearly all of the unappropriated groundwater in 27 hydrographic basins, for a total appropriation of 180,000 acre-feet of groundwater. It later withdrew 32 applications from 10 of the basins and other applications were transferred to Lincoln County. Most of the applications have been assigned to the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which was created after the filing of the applications.

Permits were granted on applications filed in Spring Valley, Cave Valley, Delamar Valley and Dry Lake Valley; however, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the statutory process for postponing action on the applications had not been followed and remanded consideration of the applications back to the State Engineer with the requirement that the protest period be re-opened. The applications were republished in early 2011, which re-opened the protest period, and the new hearing does not include Snake Valley.

The total acre-feet of groundwater requested by SNWA from Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys is 125,976 acre-feet. There are applications pending in other hydrographic basins that have not been acted on, and the protest period on those applications will also be re-opened when the State Engineer is ready to move forward with action on those applications.

Information

More information, including documents, exhibits and groundwater basin inventories, is available online.

Nevada Water Law

An overview of Nevada water law is also available.