Utah lawmakers not sold on Snake Valley water deal

Published August 19, 2009 6:27 pm
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Utah lawmakers voiced concerns Wednesday that a proposed Snake Valley water deal tilts too favorably toward Nevada and could harm the water and air in the Beehive State.

"I don't believe a bad agreement is better than no agreement," said Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim.

Utah Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler gave Winn and other members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Interim Committee a quick overview Wednesday of the proposal, made public for the first time last week.

As he has in prior presentations, Styler said the proposed accord with Nevada is Utah's best chance of keeping its own water supplies safe in light of the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plan to build a 285-mile pipeline from northern valleys to feed Las Vegas.

But Winn said he and his constituents thought they would be more involved in the negotiations, which have taken place in secrecy during the past four years.

The central Utah lawmaker said that while he likes the part of the agreement that proposes the Nevada state engineer wait until 2019 to decide whether to approve the Southern Nevada Water Authority's application for 50,000 acre-feet of Snake Valley water per year, other parts of the proposal are less acceptable.

In particular, Winn asked for a more equitable division of unallocated water still in play, which under the proposal would be divvied 7-to-1 in favor of Nevada.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Provo, said she would rather wait on the agreement until scientific studies are done of potential harm to water and air quality, especially since Gov. Gary Herbert's administration is so new.

"My hope is there isn't a rush to sign this," she said.

The committee took no action. The co-chairman, Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, asked Styler to keep the members informed about the proposal.

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