BLM approves Vegas water pipeline

Jan 4, 2013

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finished 2012 by signing off on a massive pipeline project that will carry water from rural counties along the Nevada-Utah line to thirsty Las Vegas. The controversial 263-mile water tube will stretch from rural areas to urban Las Vegas, home to 2 million people.

BLM published the plan in the Federal Register on Friday, Dec. 28, and announced the availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SN- WA) Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine Counties Groundwater Development Project. The notice is available on the Federal Register. The purpose of the project is to construct a groundwater delivery system to the Las Vegas Valley.

The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-424), directed the Secretary of the Interior to issue a right-ofway grant on federal land in Lincoln and Clark counties, NV, to construct a groundwater delivery system.

After extensive environmental analysis, consideration of public comments, and application of pertinent federal laws and policies, the Department of the Interior (DOI) decided to grant SNWA a right-of-way for the construction, operation, maintenance, and termination of the mainline water pipeline, main power lines, pump stations, regulating tanks, water treatment facility and other ancillary facilities of the project.

The decision authorizes BLM to issue a right-ofway grant to the SNWA for the preferred alternative as analyzed in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued in August 2012. BLM will conduct subsequent environmental analyses for the future facilities and groundwater development.

The Nevada State Engineer is the authority for approving or denying water right applications. Up to 83,988 acre-feet per year (afy) of groundwater could be transported through the proposed facilities from SNWA’s water rights in Spring, Delamar, Dry Lake, and Cave valleys, and up to 41,000 afy of water rights from SNWA’s private ranches and agreements with Lincoln County. No water would be developed in Snake Valley.

The ROD, signed by Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, constitutes the final decision of the DOI. Challenges to the decision, which are expected, must be brought in federal district court.

“This decision defies common sense, and is pure folly and short-sightedness,” said Great Basin Water Network president Abby Johnson. “The BLM’s own environmental impact statement, in thousands of pages of analysis and disclosures, confirms that, if implemented, the project would result in certain devastation for the environment, ranching families, Native American people, and rural communities.”

Great Basin Water Network’s attorney, Simeon Herskovits, said, “We will be studying the ROD closely, but unless serious deficiencies in the EIS have been corrected, we do not believe the decision to approve SNWA’s pipeline project can be scientifically, economically, or legally sound.”

The cost effectiveness of the project is also being questioned.

“Spending $15 billion for 84,000 acre feet of water is not cost-effective,” said Nevada State Senator-elect Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “The project is not economically feasible, and it is an environmental risk with dire consequences for a huge part of rural Nevada.”

A copy of the ROD is available from the BLM Nevada State Office by calling 775-861-6681, sending an email request (please note “ROD copy request” in the subject line) to: nvgw, or by downloading from the internet at — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor