My view: Alternative F a massive drain on Snake Valley residents

By Annette and Cecil Garland

Published: Sunday, July 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

A cow grazes near a fence in Snake valley. Alternative F claims there will be no groundwater development in Snake Valley and that more water will be taken from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys in Nevada to make up the difference.

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As residents of Callao in Juab County, we are voicing our concern about the proposed Alternative F to the Bureau of Land Management's, or BLM, Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for Southern Nevada Water Authority's right-of-way to export water from rural Nevada and Utah to Las Vegas. While we applaud the idea of no groundwater mining from Snake Valley, the name "Alternative F" seems aptly named as we see this alternative as "failing" to protect Snake Valley and especially western Juab County.

First, this alternative was added to the EIS after the publication of the draft statement and after the public comment period. We can find no description on either the website or the BLM informational newsletter for public scrutiny. Alternative D and E also exclude Snake Valley from the groundwater project. Why has this alternative been added at all?

More importantly, Southern Nevada Water Authority has not withdrawn its Snake Valley well applications with the Nevada state engineer's office. Therefore, they will remain viable for future options of exploitation. All it would take is a new right-of-way application to the BLM for a pipeline into Snake Valley. Southern Nevada Water Authority will need to fill its expensive pipeline. Conservative estimates put the cost of the current proposed pipeline at $15 billion, and Southern Nevada Water Authority's own projections submitted to the Nevada state engineer in the hearing in the fall of 2011 revealed that it intends to pump between 251,035 and 313,914 acre-feet of groundwater annually. "If they build it, they will fill it."

Alternative F claims there will be no groundwater development in Snake Valley and that more water will be taken from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys in Nevada to make up the difference. What it fails to inform the public is that scientific studies have shown that there is a significant amount of water that flows from the valleys in eastern Nevada into Snake Valley and eventually into the Great Salt Lake. If they export more water from the Nevada valleys, they are still taking water from Snake Valley.

In fact, wells will be drilled farther north in Spring Valley. This will in turn affect the Deep Creek Valleys and the water used by the citizens in Juab and Tooele Counties sooner than with any of the other alternatives. There will likely be adverse effects to the air quality from Snake Valley to the Salt Lake Valley. Sensitive and endangered species near Great Basin National Park will be threatened. The Goshute Indian Tribe in the Deep Creek Valley is also concerned about the destruction of its sacred and cultural sites with this new alternative.

We urge the Juab and Millard County Commissions to support the No Action Alternative rather than Alternative F. With its many faults, Alternative F may, and probably will, fail to protect us in the future. Let us not be deceived that the Southern Nevada Water Authority has a "great deal" for us. Let us support the alternative that provides the best protection for the citizens of rural Utah and Nevada. That is not the failing and deceiving Alternative F.

Annette and Cecil Garland oppose Nevada's drilling proposals to supply Las Vegas with water. They live in Callao, Utah.

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