The Southern Nevada Water Authority has filed a request to deny "interested person status" to 15 applicants, including several from Utah, who want a say in a proposal to pipe water from sources near the Utah/Nevada border to Las Vegas.
"We oppose the pipeline," said Steve Erickson on behalf of the Great Basin Water Network. "We think there are other alternatives they should explore."
The Water Authority told Tracy Taylor, the Nevada state engineer, in its request for denial that the applicants have not demonstrated the "extreme" circumstances required to be declared an interested person.
But applicants Salt Lake and Utah counties, represented by a Reno attorney, are worried that piping water from a basin in the Snake Valley region could turn the area into a "pollution spewing ... dust bowl." The attorney and a Carson City law firm last week filed briefs with Taylor, asking him to decide in favor of the applicants.
Groups that include Erickson's, conservationists and the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority are fighting the Southern Nevada Water Authority's claim that applications for interested person status were not filed in a timely manner.
The second group wrote in their brief to Taylor that the proceedings to decide whether to pump water from the Snake Valley will be complicated "no matter how you cut it."
"Participation from these parties will certainly not make matters worse, and will only serve to give the state engineer all of the facts necessary to make his determination," the document states. "Therefore, they should be allowed the opportunity to defend their interests, as only they can do, rather than trust that some other protestant will 'carry the water."'
Erickson said Taylor may make a decision on the applicants next week during a hearing in Carson City.
Last month the National Congress of American Indians approved a resolution opposing the pipeline project on the basis that it would lower Great Basin groundwater tables, dry up springs and wells and harm plants, animals and people.
In the meantime Utah Geological Survey researchers are spending $3 million on drilling into and monitoring aquifers in the Snake, Hamlin and Tule valleys to learn more about how much water is at stake, what the quality is like and whether the aquifers flow into one another.
The state funding for the study was in response to the Southern Nevada Water Authority applying with Taylor's office for water rights to 110,000 acre-feet of groundwater on the Nevada side. Although pumping hasn't started, Taylor has given the go ahead to pump up to 40,000-acre feet west of Great Basin National Park in Nevada.
Should Nevada get those rights so close to the border?"That's an interesting question," UGS hydrogeologist Lucy Jordan said last month. "It depends who you ask. That's where the big problems come in. Whose water really is it?"