Las Vegas, Nev. – Despite a decade and more than 5,000 pages of work, the Bureau of Land Management’s environmental analysis of a huge, 300-mile groundwater diversion project fails to address profound problems with the proposal and uses outdated or flawed basic information, the Nevada Conservation League said Friday.
The project proposes to pump more than 30 billion gallons of water from rural Nevada, including areas surrounding the Great Basin National Park, to Las Vegas. Originally proposed as a way to ensure continued population growth in water-hungry Las Vegas, the Southern Nevada Water Authority now says the plan is needed to augment supplies from the Colorado River.
Scot Rutledge, NCL executive director, said federal contractors for the BLM failed to fully consider the rapidly growing cost of the project, which is now nearly $16 billion, according to the most recent figures revealed by SNWA staff members. A year ago, the SNWA in an analysis (required by state regulators) put the cost at just over $15 billion – four times the cost publicly released until then.
“This would not just be the most expensive public works projects in the history of Nevada, it would be one of the most expensive projects in the history of the United States,” Rutledge noted. “Clark County ratepayers have already been hammered by huge increases in water bills to pay for an $800 million infrastructure project. Rate increases to pay for a project of this scope would further stress pocketbooks and balance sheets all through the Las Vegas Valley.
“Most importantly, these costs must be considered relative to alternatives that still need to be fully considered by federal, state and local policy makers,” he said.
Conservationists, fiscal conservatives, rural ranchers and Native American communities are concerned with the multiple impacts that the project would have to both the economies and environment of the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah.
Rutledge urged those with concerns about the project to call the SNWA public information line and tell the agency to choose environmental and fiscal common sense over the pipeline megaproject at (702) 258-3930.