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Record number of tribes gather to oppose Nevada pipeline



LAS VEGAS – Over 30 tribal leaders met in Las Vegas today to issue a joint statement opposing the controversial Las Vegas groundwater pumping pipeline.

At the heart of the statement is the lack of required government-to-government consultation required by the federal government by Executive Order 13175 issued in 2000.

“The federal government has not, and is not authentically involving the Tribes”, said Ed Naranjo, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation. “One meeting just weeks before the final EIS does not constitute a government-to-government consultation, not even close. We are being ignored and we are tired of it. I know this is an old story – the Indians are being told what’s best for them – but this time it’s different.”

The tribes held nothing back in their criticism of both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management. “The BLM and BIA are going to destroy us,” stated Rupert Steele, former chairman of the CTGR. “We are talking about water here – all life needs water – even Indians. If the SNWA is allowed to build this pipeline and pump water from our lands it will destroy us.”

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

The statement issues a clear call to action to the BLM and BIA from the Tribes: “the federal government should not issue a final environmental impact statement until true government-to-government consultation occurs with policy-level federal decision-makers and Tribal leaders.”


DATE:     May 23, 2012

Re:       Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) groundwater pipeline project

As leaders of federally-recognized tribes impacted by the proposed SNWA groundwater pipeline project, we met on May 22, 2012 with representatives from a number of regional tribes to discuss the SNWA project.  A central principle of Federal Indian law is that the United States government has a trust responsibility to protect the interests of Indian tribes.  It is also longstanding federal policy that decision-makers of the United States government must consult with Indian tribes on a government-to-government basis whenever federal actions impact tribal interests.  In handling the proposed SNWA pipeline project, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) have failed to uphold their trust responsibility to affected tribes, and have failed to meet their tribal consultation obligation.

The Nevada State Engineer recently approved SNWA’s application to pump over 83,000 Acre Feet per year from Spring Valley and surrounding basins, which is within tribal aboriginal territory and the site of a number of sacred sites, including the Swamp Cedars Massacre Site where over 300 Indian men, women, and children were massacred by the United States Calvary. Tribal elders maintain that a Swamp Cedar tree grew where each one of the Indians was massacred at that site.  It is undisputed that the Swamp Cedar trees at that site will die if SNWA groundwater pumping in Spring Valley occurs.  This will desecrate and destroy a tribal sacred site.  When this information was presented at the Nevada State Engineer’s hearing, an SNWA attorney compared tribal religious beliefs about the Swamp Cedars to a child’s belief in the “boogey man.”  We were deeply disappointed that the federal agencies did not participate or even appear in the State Engineer’s hearing in what SNWA’s attorney called “the biggest water case in Nevada history.”  This is because the federal agencies had earlier made an agreement with SNWA to withdraw federal protests to SNWA’s groundwater applications without even consulting a single tribe.  The agreement established a so-called “mitigation and monitoring” program that looks at damage after it occurs, involves no tribal representatives, and does not provide any mechanism to stop pumping if and when damage to resources occurs.  These actions of the federal government violated the government’s trust responsibility and tribal consultation obligation.

The right of way for the proposed pipeline is over 300 miles long, over 6 feet in diameter, and will involve unprecedented digging within Indian ancestral lands to bury the pipeline underground in areas where countless Indian remains and artifacts are located.  The extent of destruction to Indian remains and cultural sites remains unknown because the BLM has failed to share cultural resource information with the tribes and has failed to properly consult with affected tribal leaders and cultural resource staff in accordance with federal guidelines and tribal consultation policies.  Tribes have not had a meaningful role in the decision making process, and have not had an opportunity to meet and consult with policy-makers for the BLM and BIA. The draft “programmatic agreement” offered to the tribes by the BLM in the ongoing NEPA process does not give tribes decision-making authority to identify cultural sites, nor a say in how tribal remains and cultural resources should be treated when they are disturbed by the pipeline construction.  To date, not a single tribe has signed the programmatic agreement and we will not sign it.

We oppose the SNWA pipeline project because it will cause permanent environmental damage to tribal aboriginal lands and will destroy tribal sacred sites including the Swamp Cedars Massacre site.  The depletion of water resources in Spring Valley by SNWA should not occur before the adjudication of the affected tribes’ federal reserved water rights.  At this time, the full impacts to tribal cultural resources and sacred sites in the proposed pipeline right of way are unknown and the BLM has refused to properly involve the tribes in a meaningful cultural resource protection process.  The federal government should not issue a final environmental impact statement until true government-to-government consultation occurs with policy-level federal decision-makers.

Current signors:

Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of the Chemehuevi Reservation, California

Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Nevada and Utah

Ely Shoshone Tribe of Nevada

Moapa Band of Paiute Indians of the Moapa River Indian Reservation, Nevada

Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (consisting of Cedar Band of Paiutes, Kanosh Band of Paiutes, the Koosharem Band of Paiutes, Indian Peak Band of Paiutes, and Shivwits Band of Paiutes)

Yomba Shoshone Tribe of the Yomba Reservation, Nevada

Pahrump Paiute Tribe

Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians


Other tribes are expected to sign the statement.

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