Sunday, February 14, 2010

Watergrabgate


Now, if I were running for Governor against Rory Reid, and I had just read the last post; I would be seriously thinking of how to point out this potentially devastating little factoid to the public.


You know the factoid; Rory Reid was on the board of Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) back when they decided to pay almost $80 million for $20 to $30 million worth of ranches in rural Nevada.


If I were running against Rory Reid, I would be asking some difficult questions. And I would make it a point to tell the public that if elected, I would conduct a full investigation into the real cost of the watergrab and an independent technical study of the alternatives. I would also assure the public that SNWA wouldn't determine which alternatives not to study. And for both the investigation and the study, I would include members from the effected watergrab areas (to assure independence).


This is a political hot-potato for Rory Reid. Just making this look like something needs to be investigated will make him look bad. Personally, I have no desire to make Rory Reid look bad. But I am convinced this whole Las Vegas watergrab of rural Nevada's water is a horribly bad decision that SNWA is pretending is a good one – because they've already committed millions and millions of dollars. No one at SNWA anticipated that the cost of desalination would drop so much. And now they are out on a limb with an inferior plan.


The better plan: All SNWA has to do is build offshore desalination plants off the West coast to provide water for Californians. In exchange, California could allow Southern Nevada to trade that water for more water from the Colorado River. No pipeline necessary. No drying up of rural Nevada. And Californians would be more than willing to deal if SNWA were willing to provide them with more water than what they trade for from the Colorado River. With the desalination plants offshore, there wouldn't be the environmental concerns. And if the power to run the plants is renewably generated offshore also, the only thing coming into shore would be fresh water. Nobody is going to complain about that.


And how do I know this is a better plan? Because SNWA chief Pat Mulroy won't even mention it. SNWA has considered bringing in ice from the arctic, floodwaters from the Mississippi, and a number of other wild ideas. But for some reason or another, she only wants to consider desalination plants on the shoreline and a pipeline in from the coast. Hmmm... It's as if Pat Mulroy knows the desal/trade plan is better – and is trying to distract us from thinking about it.


If I'm right; exposing this hideously expensive boondoggle will ruin Rory Reid's chances for election as Governor of Nevada – and save Southern Nevada residents billions, save rural Nevada economies from ruin, save millions of life forms, and result in more water in the long run.


Unfortunately, I like Rory Reid. I like his policies. However, he has made one enormous mistake in his career. He let Pat Mulroy convince him that the watergrab was the only option. Pat Mulroy has been pushing for the watergrab for 20 years now. She is obviously committed to this plan – so much so that she won't even talk about reasonable alternatives. Rory Reid was a victim of her oversight. Consequently, Rory Reid's biggest mistake of his career was taking advice from Pat Mulroy.


Rory Reid is a lawyer, not a scientist. Rory Reid is a politician, not a hydrologist. When Pat Mulroy told the board of SNWA that the watergrab was the only option, they believed her. When Pat Mulroy told the board of SNWA that they needed to buy up ranches in rural Nevada at far above the going rate, they believed her.


If I were Rory Reid; I would try to get this all over with. The mature thing to do is to fess up to his mistake and try to fix the problem. A number of things went differently than expected. Las Vegas quit growing like a weed. The cost of desalination dropped precipitously. And scientists have shown that the environmental effects of the watergrab will be profoundly devastating. These things cannot be ignored.


Rory Reid does have options. He can claim that he will conduct an investigation and a independent review. And if he does this before his competition, he won't look like he's doing it reluctantly. But, most of us don't believe he really will. After the election is over with, all he has to do is change his mind. No, in order to prove that he honestly wants to do the right thing, he has to do something definitive before the election.


I recommend that Rory Reid try to get Pat Mulroy fired. Since he no longer is on the SNWA board, he can't vote for it. But Rory Reid can tell the truth. Pat Mulroy lied to the SNWA board by omission. Pat Mulroy did not tell the whole truth. The whole truth would include:


  1. This whole pipeline scheme is an effort to get present residents to pay for new immigrants to Southern Nevada. If smaller projects such as desalination plants, were built (as needed), developers could pay for the projects – and new residents would foot the bill.

  2. Independent estimates have concluded that the watergrab pipeline project will likely cost far more than Pat Mulroy claims.

  1. The low Lake Mead levels are just being used as an excuse to panic Las Vegans into accepting the watergrab. Every reservoir downstream of Lake Mead is full. Even Lake Powell has been filling back up.

  2. Las Vegas only gets a 3% allotment of the Colorado River. Even a small change in that allotment would mean a huge difference to Southern Nevada. Up until now, no other state has been willing to give up any water. But now that SNWA can desalinate water for California at a reasonable cost; SNWA can now offer more water to California in exchange for a bigger allotment from the Colorado River.

  3. Nevada water law is written in such a way that it is perfectly acceptable to kill everything on the surface to get to the subsurface water. Yet Pat Mulroy claims that with present environmental laws, this wouldn't happen. However, the BLM isn't even requiring an Environmental Impact Statement for the actual withdrawal of the water.

  4. And most importantly, there are better options now that have not been investigated.


Rory Reid is in trouble on this one. While Rory Reid was on the board of SNWA, he didn't call for an independent review of Pat Mulroy's claims. And now that the truth is coming to light, and tens of millions of dollars have been lost, he will be shown as partially responsible. I sense that Rory Reid is generally an honest man. I don't think he wants to believe he made such a horrible mistake. But this is no reason to continue down such a destructive and expensive path.


Rory Reid has a tough choice to make. He can continue to pretend that he made the right decision back when he was on the board of SNWA – and let his competition ruin his political career. Or, he can focus on reform and get to the bottom of this.


Even if Rory Reid still believes that he made the right decision back when he was on the board, an independent review of the cost of the watergrab and an independent technical study of alternatives would clear his name.


6 comments:

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