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October 26, 2014

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Training for green jobs in plans for stimulus money

The federal economic stimulus will send Nevada about $37 million to weatherize buildings and homes and another $28 million to train workers for green jobs, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford said Friday.

The Senate Energy, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee unanimously voted to move forward with Horsford’s bill, SB152, which would set guidelines for how to spend federal economic stimulus money meant to create “green jobs.”

Horsford said Nevada could get training for at least 3,200 unemployed or underemployed workers, and provide money to weatherize low-income housing, schools and public buildings.

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, worried that requirements of the American Recovery and Relief Act would force the hourly wages for weatherization workers to be prohibitively high for home projects. He said wages could be two or three times what the state programs currently pay.

Horsford said he did not think Townsend’s estimates were accurate.

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Like Speaker Barbara Buckley, Horsford supports Gov. Jim Gibbons’ early application for a waiver from the requirement to restore many of the cuts in higher education.

“It would allow us flexibility to fund essential services in state government,” Horsford said. He added that he did not think the waiver would be granted before Nevada’s budget has to be completed.

While Gibbons, Buckley and Horsford support the waiver, higher education advocates have said it would mean many of the deep cuts Gibbons proposed would not be restored.

Horsford called that perception by higher education “unfortunate.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office sent a clear message Thursday, saying Reid does not support Gibbons’ request for a waiver.

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With Lake Mead at its lowest recorded level and the Southwest facing continued drought, Southern Nevada Water Authority officials say they are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to keep water flowing to Las Vegas.

Officials told state lawmakers the authority will spend $817 million to drill a deeper hole to draw water from Lake Mead.

The authority is looking for water from other sources, including in eastern and central Nevada and Mexico, and at desalination. The authority also has spent $350 million to bank 1.2 million acre-feet of water underground in Arizona for emergencies.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the water authority, and two deputies, Kay Brothers and Richard Wimmer, appeared before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources last week.

Despite the problem of finding enough water for Las Vegas, lawmakers had questions about the quality of the existing water.

“I talk to some people in different parts of the valley and some individuals think the water tastes horrible,” said Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, the committee’s chairman.

The water is “very alkaline, a lot of calcium and magnesium in it,” Brothers said. “Chlorine is there for your health and safety. Personally I can’t taste it, but a lot of people don’t like the chlorine taste. If you leave it out on your counter and let the chlorine go off and then refrigerate it, it tastes as good as bottled water.”

When he dines out, Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said he orders “Lake Mead water with a lemon” to soften the taste.

Customers don’t want to spend additional money to build a treatment plant to purify the water further when most of the water is used outside, Mulroy said.

Mulroy and Brothers praised the conservation efforts of Clark County residents. Annual water consumption dropped almost 21 billion gallons from 2002 to 2008 despite an increase of 400,000 in population. Gallons used per person per day have fallen from 347 in 1990 to 249 in 2008. The authority has set a goal of 199 gallons by 2035.

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