Environment: Court rejects Las Vegas water grab

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Court rebuffs Las Vegas plan for unsustainable groundwater mining.

Nevada’s fragile desert spring ecosystems safe for at least a little while longer

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Nevada judge this week blocked a Las Vegas water grab that would rob future generations of precious groundwater resources.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority had proposed siphoning 37 billion gallons from remote underground aquifers in a plan that was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity and its allies in the Great Basin Water Network, as well as by White Pine County, Nev.

According to federal studies, the groundwater pumping, hundreds of miles north of the city, would destroy more than 137,000 acres of wildlife habitat by lowering groundwater tables by up to 200 feet in many areas — all to fuel unsustainable growth in the desert metropolis.

In 2011, the Nevada Division of Water Resources gave the project a thumbs-up by allocating 84,000 acre-feet of ancient groundwater a year to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for export to Las Vegas, but Senior Judge Robert Estes of the Seventh Judicial District Court of Nevada said that allocation is unfair to future Nevadans and not in the public interest. Continue reading

Water: BLM OKs massive Nevada pipeline project

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The BLM has approved a right-of-way for a 250-mile water pipeline in Nevada.

Conservation groups prepare for court battle

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Conservation advocates say they will challenge the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of a 250-mile pipeline project designed to drain central Nevada aquifers and deliver water to Las Vegas.

The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s groundwater development project would siphon more than 27.4 billion gallons of groundwater per year from at least four valleys in central Nevada. According to environmental groups, the project would imperil dozens of species dependent on precious surface and groundwater in the driest state in the U.S.

“The federal government’s own scientists are confirming this Las Vegas water project would be an epic environmental disaster,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s really no exaggeration to say that the natural, cultural and social heritage of central Nevada is at grave risk from this project.” Continue reading

Water: BLM study shows widespread impacts of Las Vegas diversion plan

A massive water diversion proposal in Nevada would permanently damage fragile aquatic ecosystems in the Great Basin desert.

Proposed mitigation inadequate, critics say

By Summit Voice

A massive Las Vegas water grab aimed at siphoning 37 billion gallons from underground aquifers could destroy more than 137,000 acres of wildlife habitat by lowering groundwater tables — by up to 200 feet in many areas.

Species associated with the springs and wetlands are most at risk, but the diversions would also drive declines in species like mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, sage grouse and Bonneville cutthroat trout, according to the Bureau of Land Management’s final environmental impact statement for the pipeline right-of-way for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s groundwater development project.

Conservation advocates say the study shows what they’ve been claiming all along — that the project is unsustainable and will result in unacceptable impacts to ecosystems.

“The federal government’s own scientists are confirming this Las Vegas water project would be an epic environmental disaster,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s really no exaggeration to say that the natural, cultural and social heritage of central Nevada is at grave risk from this project.” Continue reading

Las Vegas water grab challenged in court

Las Vegas water plan challenged in court.

Groups say diversion plan lacking adequate environmental analysis

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Nowhere is water more precious than the desert, where a tiny oasis can be the only source of sustenance in thousands of acres. Most people intuitively understand the value of water in dry regions, but Las Vegas and Nevada state water officials just don’t get it.

A long-planned scheme by Las Vegas to rob surrounding desert basins of groundwater last month won approval from the state engineer but a huge coalition of environmental and community groups won’t let that decision go unchallenged.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 300 allies in the Great Basin Water Network appealed  the Nevada state engineer’s approval for a plan to allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump and pipe away up to 27 billion gallons of water annually from four rural valleys to feed urban development in Las Vegas. Continue reading

Pressure builds against Grand Canyon uranium mining

A diverse coalition opposes uranium mining on public lands around the Grand Canyon.

Decision on moratorium due soon

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Lawmakers, conservation groups and other major stakeholders are stepping up the pressure to prevent uranium mining on public lands around the Grand Canyon.

Officials from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have pressed to limit new uranium mining along the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River watershed, which provides drinking water for 25 million people. The outdoor industry has weighed in as well, as visitation to the Grand Canyon generates $687 million annually in revenue and contributes to the creation of more than 12,000 full-time jobs, according to a 2005 Northern Arizona University study.

This week, major national conservation groups also weighed in.

“With most of our public lands in the West open to mining under the nation’s antiquated 19th century mining law, there is no reason why such harmful industrial activity should be allowed around this natural landmark,” the groups wrote in a letter to the Obama administration. Continue reading

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