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July 23, 2014

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Water pipeline project hearing wraps up

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Las Vegas Sun

Location of the proposed Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline.

CARSON CITY – After hearing 82 witnesses and considering more than 10,000 pages of exhibits over 24 days, the state wrapped up its hearing Friday on the application of the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pipe millions of gallons of water from Eastern Nevada to meet the growing population needs of the Las Vegas area.

In closing arguments, Paul Taggart representing the water authority said the 125,976 acre feet from the four valleys will not turn the areas into a dust bowl and the project is environmentally sound.

But lawyers representing opposing interests argued the project would deplete the underground resources of Eastern Nevada, stymie its economic development and said there should be greater water conservation efforts in the Las Vegas area.

And it’s not over yet. Hearing Officer Susan Joseph-Taylor said the public could submit its comments to her by Dec. 2. Attorneys have until Dec. 23 to file their 50-pages briefs. And then they have until Jan. 27 to present proposed draft final rulings.

State Engineer Jason King has until March to make a ruling on what is billed as the biggest water case in the history of the state.

Taggart said Southern Nevada is the economic engine driving the state with 70 percent of the population. He urged state officials not to listen to a small minority but “to the millions of people that need this water.”

The Colorado River is 90 percent of the water used by Southern Nevada and that future is uncertain, he said. Conservationists want residents in the Las Vegas area to conserve more water and they “won’t be satisfied until every blade of grass goes away,” Taggart said

There is 80,000 acre feet sitting in the Eastern Nevada area that will never be used, said Taggart referring to a previous decision granting the authority rights that was overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Simeon Herskovits, representing 300 businesses, governments and individuals in the Great Basin Network, said the water rights are already eliminated in the Cave Rock, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys. He urged state officials to eliminate those applications and take a conservative approach in allocating from Spring Valley.

Herskovits argued there was no mechanism to protect the areas if something goes wrong. He said Southern Nevadans could meet most of its water needs by conservation. And he said there were other sources of water that could be sought.

Paul Echohawk, representing the Duckwater Shoshone, the Ely Shoshone and the Goshute tribes, urged the denial of the application under further studies are completed on the effect of drawing down the water.

Echohawk was highly critical of the federal Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for not having representatives at the hearing to protect the interests of the Indians.

“The federal government has remained silent,” Echohawk complained.

Paul Hejmanowski, representing the Cleveland Ranch in Spring Valley, called the project “hopefully flawed.” The state engineer in 2007 approved 80,000 acre feet but the Supreme Court overturned that, requiring another round of hearings.

Hejmanowski said only 56,532 acre feet may be available. The application by the water authority would draw down the ground water level 150 feet in 75 years. If something goes wrong there is nothing to protect his client, Hejmanowski argued.

An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.

While the hearing lasted 24 days, Joseph-Taylor limited the closing arguments to 15 minutes for each lawyer and it was completed in two hours which included a short recess.

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  1. I think that's "hopelessly flawed."