Posts Tagged ‘pipeline’

Coalition Calls For Rejection Of Groundwater Pumping Project By Southern Nevada Water Authority

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am November 29th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A coalition of environmental groups opposed to a plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump groundwater from rural Nevada to Las Vegas to supply future demand says the project is unnecessary, expensive and would cause harm to the environment.

The coalition said it has more than 1,000 statements from Nevada residents expressing concern about the project to present to the Nevada State Engineer, who will rule early next year on the first set of groundwater applications reviewed during a lengthy hearing that ended Nov. 18.

Courtesy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Public comment is still being accepted by the agency through Dec. 2.

“In tough economic times, it is outrageous that such a boondoggle could be approved,” said Marie Logan, Nevada organizer for Food & Water Watch. “This pipeline project would only benefit a handful of developers while the 2.6 million Nevada taxpayers and thousands of Las Vegas ratepayers will be stuck paying the bill for a project that will ultimately bankrupt the state’s natural resources.”

The Center for Biological Diversity will also be submitting more than 21,000 comments in opposition to the project gathered nationally to Gov. Brian Sandoval, the water authority and the State Engineer.

Utah ranchers, Native American tribes, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and rural Nevadans formally protested the applications during the hearing process. They argued that granting the applications would harm the environment and destroy their way of life. The water applications would potentially affect Utah communities as well.

Several Southern Nevada labor groups have supported the project.

The water authority argued in the hearing 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 are 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.

Launce Rake, representing the Great Basin Water Network, said the actual estimate when financing costs are included is $15 billion. The cost of the project will be borne by water customers, who will see significant increases to pay for it, he said. The residential construction growth that was to pay for the project is no longer there, Rake said.

“It’s going to triple residential water bills,” he said. “It’s going to more than double bills for small businesses. And when you start looking at the impact on our recession-ravaged community of sucking $15 billion out of that community, that’s pretty significant.”

Rake said Southern Nevada is now using about 200,000 acre feet of its allocation from the Colorado River. There is a healthy reserve available to ensure a reliable water supply well into the future, he said.

Despite the controversy over the project, or maybe because of it, Nevada’s elected officials have been mostly absent from the debate.

One exception is Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, who testified in opposition to the project at the hearing, citing environmental concerns. He also spoke at the coalition’s event Monday in Las Vegas, citing the potential costs of protracted litigation over the project.

Hogan said the environmental consequences of the project are highest on his list of concerns. But there are also the costs of dealing with potential legal claims arising from the pumping of the groundwater.

The Los Angeles Water and Power Department has expended $1 billion on remediation for environmental damage in the Owens Lake area from that water diversion completed decades ago, he said.

“The remediation that is needed will be what makes those things really become very large layouts in future years,” Hogan said.

Hogan said the need for jobs is one likely reason why many elected officials are staying silent on the pipeline project.

“I think that accounts for some of the timidity,” he said.

Rake said that because taking a position either way would alienate someone,  it has been easier for elected officials to stay out of the debate.

“I do know that there are a number of elected officials who are concerned about the impact of this,” he said. “And I think that a growing number of elected officials are more than just concerned, but they’re becoming aware that the cost, both environmentally and financially, is really, really pretty significant.”

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Audio clips:

Launce Rake, representing the Great Basin Water Network, says a growing number of elected officials are concerned:

112811Rake1 :17 really pretty significant.”

Rake says people of all political persuasions should be concerned:

112811Rake2 :25 concerned about this.”

Assemblyman Joe Hogan says the potential for remediation costs are significant:

112811Hogan :31 correcting the situation.”

 

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.”

 

 

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.”