Friday, August 18, 2006

Newe SNWA Board Member

As a member of the Western Shoshone (Newe) Tribe of Native Americans, I perceive this water grab from a different perspective than much of the rest of America. I only speak here as an individual. I am not a representative of the Tribe.

I don't see this water grab as a necessary act to continue the success of our economic system. I don't see this as inevitable to keep our Country strong. The way I see this is; as just the continued dominance and exploitation of the Native Americans. The Western Shoshone still own this land in Central Nevada, by Treaty, with the United States of America. A treaty that has never been settled. We Western Shoshone don't wish to bankrupt the Nation with an appropriate cash payoff, or expect you to give it all back. That wouldn't be realistic. But, when natural resources are taken from our land; we would at least be appeased if you leveed appropriate taxes on them, that reflected the real cost of their actions. Everything taken from this land has a cost far greater than the up front cost of just taking it.

Of course, we Western Shoshone would greatly prefer that as much of our land as reasonably possible remain as natural as possible. Many of us feel that, especially since this Treaty hasn't been settled yet, keeping the land healthy would be an honorable act the Government could do, as an act of respect to our people and the Treaties our Nations have pledged to abide by.

At the very least, we could minimize the environmental, economic, and health damage; by just charging those who wish to take from our Nation, the real world cost of doing it.

The 2 billion dollar cost of just drilling the wells, putting in the pumps and the pipeline network; is just the cost of preparing to take the water. It seems that's all Southern Nevada Water Authority wanted originally to pay – just the extraction costs. They've now spent what? Approaching 100 million dollars on farm and ranch land in Spring Valley? The rest of the costs; the environmental destruction, the economic stagnation, and the health loss – will pretty much be the burden of Rural Nevada and the Western Shoshone.

It has been said that one of the more dubious goals of big corporations has been their tendency to socialize the costs, and their contradictory tendency to privatize the profits. Of course, SNWA is not a corporation, it is a quasi-municipality – which means that SNWA must be responsive to the community to which is serves.

SNWA should recognize that if they want to function as a Statewide entity, and don't pay taxes in the State of Nevada, that they should have representation from the whole State of Nevada. The Board of Directors of SNWA should have at least one member from each effected County, the Western Shoshone and Paiute Tribes, and the State of Nevada. This would be a reasonable step in the right direction. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised that eventually it will be mandatory, because SNWA's current management practices in the State of Nevada just might be illegal.

If I were on the Board of Directors of SNWA, I would be asking these questions:

  1. Where's my report on the decreased cost of desalination?

  2. In light of the long term multi-million dollar investments in ranches, how much money have we spent on water alternatives, such as desalination, that could get us water sooner?

  3. 75 years is a long time, what happens if the tax laws change, and someday, we have to pay more than just extraction costs?

  4. Since White Pine County hasn't settled with SNWA, they may someday be able to sue us for costs over and above extraction costs. Have we calculated those possible costs into our risk analysis?

  5. Most importantly; is the water grab really the right thing to do... or just the path of least resistance?

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