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Water pipeline foes head to Ely District Court

By ThisIsReno
Courtesy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Courtesy of the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

GBWN NEWS — Opponents of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s massive pipeline project are confident heading into next week’s hearing in White Pine County (NV) District Court challenging the water rights granted SNWA in Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar Valleys.

On June 13 and 14, Senior Judge Robert Estes will hear oral arguments concerning the Nevada State Engineer’s rulings from March 2012 permitting SNWA to pump and export to Las Vegas up to 61,127 acre feet of groundwater annually from Spring Valley and 22,861 acre feet per year from Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys. Day one will likely consider issues affecting all four valleys and those specific to Spring Valley. The second day is expected to focus on the other three basins.

Simeon Herskovits, who represents Great Basin Water Network, White Pine County and more than 350 additional plaintiffs in Nevada and Utah, said “we are confident that the science, the facts and the law support our case that the State Engineer’s decisions should be reversed.” Other plaintiffs in the hearings include the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Nation, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Millard County (UT), and Baker Ranches.

“There isn’t the amount of water available to export without devastating effects upon senior water rights holders, the environment and the communities in the region. It would take centuries after pumping ceases before these basins would return to equilibrium – so allowing SNWA to pump to these permitted limits would amount to illegal groundwater mining,” Herskovits said.

The same court in Ely in 2009 overturned the State Engineer’s ruling awarding SNWA water rights in Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys, finding that the Engineer had “abused his discretion”, that the ruling was “arbitrary and capricious”, and that the groundwater in question was already appropriated and used down-gradient.
A previous ruling by the State Engineer granting SNWA water rights in Spring Valley was invalidated in 2010 by the Nevada Supreme Court in a separate case brought by GBWN. In that case, the Court found that the State Engineer had taken too long to hold hearings on SNWA’s water rights applications, effectively denying the due process rights of water rights holders and other interested parties an opportunity to protest those applications.