Las Vegas water plan gets strong public opposition

Published: Sunday, Oct. 9 2011 10:31 p.m. MDT

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The Southern Nevada Water Authority's plan to pump water from remote valleys along the Nevada-Utah border to quench Las Vegas' thirst drew strong opposition at a hearing conducted by the Nevada official who will rule on the request.

The overwhelming majority of the nearly 100 people who spoke to state engineer Jason King on Friday were against the multibillion dollar project, citing its cost and harm to the environment, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The opponents included members of the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation of Utah, the Paiute Tribe of Utah, and the Ely and Duckwater Shoshone tribes of Nevada.

"We were put here, including Las Vegas people, by the creator to take care of this Earth, not to abuse it," said Ed Naranjo, administrator of the Goshute reservation in Utah. "We need to have you listen to us. Think of all the little people, the people not yet born."

Rural Nevadans, environmentalists and Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, joined in opposing the project.

"That's not the way to solve a water problem," Hogan said. "It would be a disastrous blunder. The environmental damages are just unthinkable."

Critics say tapping 126,000 acre-feet of groundwater would result in economic and environmental catastrophe for those in and around Spring, Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys.

They cited the dust and environmental problems created decades ago when Los Angeles tapped the water in Owens Valley in California, draining Owens Lake, the Nevada Appeal of Carson City reported.

Utah residents expressed concern that large-scale groundwater pumping would dry valleys in Nevada and send dust and lingering fallout from nuclear tests blowing east as far as the Salt Lake City area.

But representatives from the AFL-CIO, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, a homebuilders association and the Nevada resort industry praised the proposed 300-mile, $3.5 billion pipeline.

Without a reliable water supply, the Las Vegas area will not be able to recover from the recession, let alone flourish again, said Danny Thompson, secretary-treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO.

"This is about more than an inter-basin transfer of water," Thompson said. "The economic viability of the state is at stake here."

Virginia Valentine of the Nevada Resort Association noted tourism is the top generator of jobs in southern Nevada.

"A water shortage in this area would have a devastating effect on our economy," she said.

The hearing on the water authority's request for unappropriated water began Sept. 26 and is expected to conclude Nov. 18.

Friday was the only day set aside for testimony by members of the public.

King is expected to make a decision on the request by March.

The state will accept written comments on the water authority's groundwater applications until Dec. 2.

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