Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finally, Someone Who Isn't Intimidated by Las Vegas

Press Release from Great Basin Water Network:

Pioche, Nev. -- Last week, the Seventh Judicial District Court in Pioche, Nevada issued a strong, critical reversal of the State Engineer’s ruling on the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s water rights applications in Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar Valleys in rural eastern Nevada.

In July 2008, the State Engineer issued his decision on SNWA’s applications, filed 19 years earlier in 1989. Because the ruling grossly overestimated the amount of available groundwater in the valleys, and granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority an amount of water that would have resulted in inevitable disastrous consequences for rural Nevada ranchers and the environment, the Ruling was appealed in the summer of 2008 by a group of protestants to SNWA’s applications represented by Simeon Herskovits of Advocates for Community and Environment. Oral argument was heard in a courtroom packed with Lincoln and White Pine County residents in September 2009.

In the Oct. 19, 2009 decision, the Court strongly rebuked the State Engineer, finding that the ruling “results in an oppressive consequence for the basins affected, with the State Engineer simply hoping for the best while committing to undo his decision if the worst occurs despite the exceedlingly long time required to reach equilibrium and the effects which will eventually spread out from the basin of origin and affect the down-gradient basins. Capriciousness by the State Engineer is the reasonable conclusion.”

Simeon Herskovits, attorney for the petitioners in the case said of the ruling, “We applaud the District Court’s reversal of an obviously unsound decision by the State Engineer. There can be no doubt that the long term interest of all Nevadans will be best served by the Judge’s decision to use common sense and reason in applying Nevada’s water law.”

The ruling represents yet another obstacle in the mounting resistance to the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s massive, unprecedented effort to acquire and pump hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water each year from rural Nevada through a 300 mile pipeline to feed its growing population. It also falls on the heels of heated controversy surrounding the negotiation of a potential agreement between Utah and Nevada to divide the waters of neighboring Snake Valley, which straddles the Utah Nevada border. That agreement is a prerequisite to the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s planned pumping of even more water from the Snake Valley, and has met with strong resistance on both sides of the border. The ruling also comes at a time when financing of the pipeline has been put into question given the rising costs associated with such a project and the downturn in Las Vegas’s economy.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority was quick to attack the ruling and the well respected senior judge who issued it. Says Steve Erickson of the Great Basin Water Network, “SNWA is staying true to its proven track record of trying to bully its way to the results it wants, and of concealing and distorting the scientific evidence concerning the basic underlying hydrology of the region and the damning environmental impacts its pipeline project would cause.”

Susan Lynn, of the Great Basin Water Network responded to SNWA’s attack on the Judge by saying, “Such a response is consistent with SNWA management’s inability to engage in self-critical reflection about this astronomically expensive, utterly misguided, and environmentally catastrophic project.”

Although the Southern Nevada Water Authority has stated that it plans to appeal the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court, the petitioners are confident that the ruling will stand.”

This press release is GREAT news. The SNWA watergrab is no longer a sure thing.

To be continued...