LAS VEGAS — Today the Bureau of Land Management issued a Record of Decision which gives the Southern Nevada Water Authority a right-of-way across federal public lands to construct a pipeline to bring limited and ancient groundwater from central Nevada and western Utah deserts to Las Vegas.
The SNWA proposes to pump at least 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year from valleys in rural Nevada through 300 miles of pipe to the Las Vegas Valley – at a cost estimated to be in excess of $15.7 billion.
“This decision defies common sense, and is pure folly and short-sightedness,” said Great Basin Water Network president Abby Johnson. “The BLM’s own environmental impact statement, in thousands of pages of analysis and disclosures, confirms that, if implemented, the project would result in certain devastation for the environment, ranching families, Native American people and rural communities.”
Great Basin Water Network’s attorney Simeon Herskovits said, “We will be studying the ROD closely, but unless serious deficiencies in the EIS have been corrected we do not believe the decision to approve SNWA’s pipeline project can be scientifically, economically or legally sound.”
“Spending $15 billion for 84,000 acre feet of water is not cost-effective,” said Nevada State Senator-elect Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka). “The project is not economically feasible, and it is an environmental risk with dire consequences for a huge part of rural Nevada.”
“Las Vegas Valley residents and particularly small businesses have already been hard hit by the SNWA’s funding needs for the needed ‘third straw’,” said Rob Mrowka, a GBWN board member and Las Vegas ratepayer. “This groundwater development project will cost the valley residents many times the price of the third straw leading to severe economic hardships for small businesses and resident ratepayers alike. The pipeline would not be needed if elected officials adequately addressed growth management and directed the SNWA to other, less expensive supplies of water.”
The state of Utah stands to suffer the fate of once again being downwind from a dangerous and unhealthy project in Nevada. “Over 30 million tons of new dust and particulate matter will be created each year as winds send aloft soil no longer secured by Great Basin vegetation such as sagebrush and greasewood,” said Steve Erickson of Salt Lake City, a GBWN board member. “In that dust are radionuclides, toxic heavy metals and soil-borne diseases which pose a real and serious danger to Utahans.”
“This pipeline has always been about growing SNWA’s power and budget,” said GBWN board member Launce Rake, of Las Vegas. “We don’t need more water. We need responsible financial and resource management at SNWA.”
The project will not start until it gets final financial approval from the SNWA Board. “There is still time for the SNWA Board to enter into a much-needed dialogue with the community on economical and secure options for meeting the Valley’s future water needs,” said Mrowka.