Las Vegas lets go of water grab
Eastern Nevadans are celebrating this Earth Day after the Southern Nevada Water Authority decided not to appeal a court decision that went against a 300-mile pipeline from Ely to Las Vegas.
Last week the Southern Nevada Water Authority decided it won’t appeal a decision about the water rights needed for the $15.5 billion project.
The pipeline has been opposed by several jurisdictions, and in early March, Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Robert Estes denied an appeal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority — invalidating water rights for the Las Vegas water grab and pipeline.
The authority could have appealed Estes’ decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.
“Residents of the Great Basin breathed a great sigh of relief after learning of SNWA’s decision,” said Great Basin Water Network Executive Director Kyle Roerink on April 16. “Our attorneys, White Pine County officials, tribes, and front-line communities in Nevada and Utah have all said this project was illegal for more than three decades. The news vindicates their long-held fierce opposition and years of fighting a David-vs-Goliath battle. But there is still hard work that must be done. SNWA must revoke both sets of its remaining water rights applications in places like Snake Valley and withdraw its application for the pipeline’s right of way with the BLM. We have been in discussion with the SNWA over these matters and look forward to seeing what comes next. The proof of SNWA’s intent will show itself in the coming months when they take the proper next steps to nullify all of the water grab applications.”
In 2013, Estes remanded the water rights applications back to the Nevada Division of Water Resources, finding many conflicts under the law. Following through on the remand, in 2018, the Division denied the water rights applications. Southern Nevada Water Authority then appealed the remand, resulting in the March order from Judge Estes.
Additionally, in 2017 a federal district court judge remanded portions of the federal Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline’s right of way back to BLM, finding it insufficient in its proposed mitigation measures and suggesting that some impacts may not be mitigated.
“Judge Estes’ recent ruling completed an unbroken line of seven victories that opponents of SNWA’s Pipeline Project have won over SNWA in both state and federal court going back to 2009,” said Simeon Herskovits of Advocates for Community and Environment, lead attorney for the broad coalition of pipeline opponents. “In his March 9 Decision Judge Estes authoritatively dismantled all of SNWA’s legal arguments and their persistent misrepresentations of the facts. Over the years, water officials throughout Nevada and the West have dismissed any chance of us succeeding in this long fight and others have pleaded with us to accept the inevitability of this ill-conceived project. Instead, we have completely defeated SNWA in court. The water they’ve wanted to grab since 1989 never was there for the taking and never will be.”
Las Vegas is roughly 400 miles from Carson Valley, only 100 miles further than Ely is from the state’s largest city.