More good news. The Nevada Legislature special session on the budget did not address the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) Groundwater Development Project (watergrab) water rights issue.
In case you aren't familiar with the issue; the Nevada Supreme Court recently decided that Rural Nevadans were not being allowed due process by the State Water Engineer. Not since the original water rights filings (over 20 years ago) has anyone been able to file a protest. Many original protesters have died. Their families have not been allowed to stand in for the original protester. Many original protesters have sold their property. The new owners were not allowed to replace the original protester. And after over 20 years, attrition had left few protesters, which was just how SNWA wanted it.
So, when the Nevada Supreme Court decided that justice was not being served, and that the Nevada State Water Engineer would have to include new protesters, the Southern Nevada propaganda machine kicked into full gear. They claimed that everybody's water rights were at risk. Lie. They claimed that no one in Las Vegas would be able to get a loan. They already can't. They claimed that the Las Vegas economy would collapse. It already has. And they claimed that their water rights were being taken away. Now wait a minute... The reality is that the Supreme Court decision was intended to keep SNWA from taking Rural Nevada's water rights away without due process. The reality is that this decision was made to keep SNWA from stealing water from the rest of the State.
So, when the boss of the Nevada State Water Engineer (Allen Biaggi) found out that they were going to have to be fair, he tried to end-run the Nevada Supreme Court. That's what the effort to slip in the water rights issue during the Special Session on the budget was all about.
My guess is that the Nevada Legislators who chose not to vote on this issue at this time are going to be very glad they didn't. When the watergrab-gate cover-up starts to get more press, they will be so glad they weren't a part of it.
The watergrab issue did not belong in the special session on the budget. The courts should be allowed to finish on the due process issue. This Legislative end-run effort was not only inappropriate, but probably illegal. However, the really big question that needs to be asked is; what's the big rush?
Why was it that every SNWA lobbyist was up in Carson City pressuring the Legislature to get this over so quick?
The most obvious reason is that new protesters could mean less water. If Rural Nevadans get their day in court, SNWA might not be able to railroad the watergrab through with the State Engineer. However, my guess is that a few more rural protesters won't make that big of a difference.
A more likely reason that SNWA is so concerned about new protesters is that during the Spring Valley, Cave Valley, Dry Lake Valley, and Delamar Valley hearings; the Federal Government dropped all their protests. Back during the Bush Jr. administration, SNWA made a back-room deal with a sell-out bureaucrat at the Department of the Interior. In exchange for a toothless agreement for SNWA to “monitor and mitigate” the massively devastating environmental damage that would be inflicted; the Department of the Interior ordered the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to drop all their protests.
With a new administration in the White House, and a new management at the Department of the Interior; it isn't very likely that the DOI would lie down this time and just let SNWA get away with turning the Great Basin into a wasteland.
There is one more reason SNWA is in such a hurry. Watergrab-gate. The longer this process takes, the cheaper desalination gets. The longer this process takes, the harder it will be to keep the lid on the fact that Las Vegas will get stuck with a much higher bill with the Groundwater Development Project. The longer this takes, the more obvious it becomes that SNWA wasted tens of millions of dollars on overpriced ranches in Rural Nevada.
If they can't get the watergrab over with soon, the cover-up will fail. And when that happens, heads will roll. Pat Mulroy will lose her job. Kay Brothers will lose her job. Allen Biaggi will lose his job. The SNWA board members will find it hard to get re-elected. And Rory Reid will find it a lot harder to get elected Governor.
As one might expect, they're in a hurry to save their own skin.