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Act now to stop Las Vegas' water grab

Published October 6, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has completed its environmental review, and will decide soon whether to grant the right-of-way for a 300-mile-long pipeline to pump 57 billion gallons of Great Basin groundwater each year to Las Vegas.

Now is the time to add your voice to those of tens of thousands of people nationwide who care about the people, plants and animals of the Great Basin by telling the federal government to put a stop to this destructive boondoggle.

The BLM's Final Environmental Impact Statement finds that the Southern Nevada Water Authority's groundwater development project could:

• Cause water tables to drop up to 200 feet and land surface to subside more than 5 feet over 525 square miles,

• Threaten to dry up 305 springs, 112 miles of streams, and 8,000 acres of wetlands,

• Damage or destroy 191,506 acres of important habitat for big game, fish and other wildlife,

• Blow 34,742 tons of dust downwind into Utah every year,

• Harm Great Basin National Park, sacred tribal and cultural sites, and water rights holders in Utah and Nevada, and

• Drastically degrade agriculture, tourism, economic opportunities, and quality of life in the region.

The EIS recommends no pumping in Snake Valley, where Utah and Nevada share the aquifer, but this doesn't mean the valley is safe from the pipeline's devastating effects. Tens of thousands of acre feet of groundwater that now flow into Snake Valley will disappear due to excessive pumping the BLM would allow in adjacent Spring Valley.

The water applications for Snake Valley are still active and SNWA says it will pursue a right-of-way (ROW) into Snake Valley in the future. SNWA general manager Pat Mulroy is even threatening to take Utah to the U.S. Supreme Court to have her way with Snake Valley. The need to fill the 8-foot diameter pipeline will drive SNWA to pursue those applications and those in other Nevada basins – if they build it, they will fill it.

The director of the Nevada BLM, Amy Leuders, will issue a Record of Decision on the pipeline project sometime after Oct. 1, but because this decision is so important and so controversial, we are sure it will be made at the top of the bureaucratic and political ladder by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Utahns must take action to stop this economic and environmental disaster. Write today and tell Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to deny the rights of way for the pipeline: feedback@ios.doi.gov or 1849 C St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240. Send a copy to Nevada BLM director Amy Leuders: nvgwprojects@blm.gov or 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502.

Salazar and Leuders must be told that, as the ranchers of Snake and Spring valleys have said repeatedly for the past two decades, there is no surplus water for export.

The impacts of this project are too severe, too long-term and irreversible to allow it to go forward.

Mitigation measures will not prove adequate or timely enough to protect the land, waters, wildlife, and people of the area.

There are better, cheaper, more reliable and less destructive alternatives to meeting Las Vegas' future water needs. The BLM did not even study viable alternatives like improved conservation measures, use of recycled water, ocean desalination or managing the Colorado River to keep Lake Mead full enough to assure the city's water supply.

If the BLM is to live up to its legal obligation to protect the land and wildlife under its management, then it must select the No Action Alternative and deny the ROW.

To learn more about how to make Utah's voice heard, visit http://www.greatbasinwaternetwork.org.

Steve Erickson is a consultant and the Utah coordinator for the Great Basin Water Network.