Great Basin Water Network
Southern Nevada Water Authority
Groundwater Development Project
Project Time Line
Las Vegas Valley Water District files on all unappropriated water in Snake, Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys
Protests filed by local residents, conservation interests, Great Basin National Park (GBNP) and the Bureau of Land Management(BLM)
Nevada Legislature adds interbasin water transfer requirements to Nevada's water law, thanks to the advocacy of knowledgeable water policy advocates
Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act (Public Law 108-424)) facilitates pipeline corridor. Also requires agreement between Nevada and Utah on the division of shared groundwater, EIS and BARCASS carbonate aquifer study
First road tour of Eastern Nevada areas targeted by SNWA project
- Research into comparison between Nevada water grab and Owens Valley (Calif) initiated.
July 12, 2004 — Letter to Senator Reid — Re: Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2004 — The 3 page letter was sent by the Nevada Ad Hoc Water Network, a coalition of 22 organizations and two dozen citizens
First water strategy meeting in Baker is held and the need is identified to establish a separate group to work on water importation projects.
- Pacific Institute study on water conservation in southern Nevada begins. The study (link below) was published on November 26, 2007 — Hidden Oasis: Water Conservation and Efficiency in Las Vegas.
- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping process is initated (first try); activists turn out hundreds to public meetings and generates thousands of comments.
- Senator Harry Reid (NV) dedicates Great Basin National Park (GBNP) Visitors Center.
Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) is founded.
- Nevada State Engineer (NSE) holds hearing on 1989 Spring Valley protests.
- Agreement by Souther Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), BLM, The National Park Service (NPS), the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Bureau of Intian Affaires (BIA) [without tribes' consent] is signed. The agreement stipulates withdrawal of federal protests of SNWA applications in Spring Valley for future monitoring and mitigation program of groundwater pumping impacts. (This was a secret process — the public and White Pine County, NV were excluded.)
- GBWN files due process lawsuit over NSE exclusion of protestant successors and new residents and lack of notification of protestants.
- BLM re-scopes Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because project description changes.
- Road tour initiated in June to show people the areas in Lincoln and White Pine Counties affected by the water grab.
- Press coverage — Vegas seeks OK to pump water from White Pine valley
GBWN receives 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status.
New allies join GBWN, including the Nevada agricultural community, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks
First Snake Valley Festival is organized to raise awareness and funds to support GBWN's efforts.
- District Court ruling reverses the NSE decision on CDD (Cave, Dry Lake, & Delamar Valleys)
- Central Nevada Regional Water Authority holds first statewide Water Forum.
- BLM delays release of draft EIS to address over 2,000 comments from Cooperating Agencies and to fix hydrology model.
- Dean Baker begins water tours of Baker Ranch/Snake Valley.
Nevada Supreme Court unanimously rules in GBWN's favor in challenge to Spring Valley protest process
- Utah Governor withdraws Utah negotiators from talks on water agreement after Supreme Court ruling.
- NSE reopens protest period.
- SNWA refiles all its applications.
- GBWN and residents protest applications again; 2,300 protests filed. NSE does not combine the protests; filing fees cost $56,000.
- GBWN and allies successfully defeat SNWA lobby efforts for a "legislative fix" to the Supreme Court ruling.
NSE rehears Spring and CDD (Cave, Dry Lake, & Delamar Valleys), a grueling and costly six week process. Attorneys for GBWN, LDS ranch in Spring Valley, Goshute Tribe, 2 Utah counties, and Eskdale present protest cases.
- NSE receives over 23,000 public comments opposing the SNWA applications. In-person comments draw many tribal members
and last an entire day
- BLM releases Draft EIS for public comment, holds 9 hearings. GBWN turns out hundreds and gather 20,461 public comments.
- GBWN publishes EIS guide to encourage participation. EIS discloses $15.7 Billion project cost, and devastating impacts to an area larger than Vermont.
NSE approves a total of 84,000 afy from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, & Delamar Valleys. Snake Valley applications remain in limbo pending bi-state negotiations
- GBWN and others, with sign-ons from over 300 petitioners mostly in Lincoln and White Pine Counties, appeal NSE decision.
- BLM issues Final EIS which generates local comments and 40,000 emails - not form letters - from Sierra Club, CBD, Water Watch and more.
- BLM issues Record of Decision, approving pipeline right of way for Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys
- Last Call at the Oasis documentary released; Stewards of the Rangeland Water shown on Reno public TV.
Governor of Utah announces he will not sign the Nevada Utah Agreement, which was negotiated in secret between the states over the past five years. GBWN and Utah allies declare victory . . . for now.
The NSE and SNWA appeal Judge Estes' ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court, and SNWA Board moves ahead with the "Water Grab."
Nevada State Supreme Court Developments
- All parties’ briefing on the merits of SNWA’s and the Nevada State Engineer’s appeals was completed during the fall, ending in December of 2014. Then, this past February, the Court issued an order dismissing SNWA’s and the State Engineer’s original appeals on the ground that Senior District Judge Estes’s 2013 ruling, which overturned the State Engineer’s approval of SNWA’s water rights for the Project, was a remand order and not a properly appealable final order.
- It is important to recognize that the Supreme Court’s order dismissing the original appeals does not truly dispose of the issues on appeal because both SNWA and the State Engineer resubmitted all the same issues through Petitions for Writs of Mandamus that still are pending before the Court. [More Information]
Federal lawsuit against the Record of Decision (ROD) approving SNWA’s Pipeline Project.
New Federal Website - Colorado River Basin Insights using open data.
- Order on Stipulation Extending the Briefing Schedule in the Federal lawsuit against the Record of Decision (ROD) approving Southern Nevada's (SNWA’s) Pipeline Project — The schedule was extended at the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ). It extends the initial briefing deadlines by about 90 days — United States District Court for the District of Nevada, Southern Division
- Drought in the Colorado River Basin
Insights using open data — Since 2000, the Colorado River Basin (Basin) has been experiencing a historic, extended drought that has impacted regional water supply and other resources, such as hydropower, recreation, and ecologic services. During this time, the Basin has experienced its lowest 16-year period of inflow in over 100 years of record keeping, and reservoir storage in the Colorado River system has declined from nearly full to about half of capacity. This application was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation in support of the Department of the Interior’s Open Water Data Initiative (OWDI). This visualization is part of a multi-agency effort to showcase the usefulness of open data (i.e., data provided in a discoverable, sharable, and machine-readable format) by exploring the current 16-year drought and its effects on the Colorado River Basin — U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation
- June 2, 2016 - GBWN and allies file reply brief in federal case challenging BLM's Record of Decision for the pipeline
- September 14, 2016 - NSE to hold status conference on remand for Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar Valleys
(1) Advocates Celebrate Protection of Nevada Water Law as Nevada Legislature Adjourns
- Assembly Bill 298 was a proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority [SNWA] to lay out the definitions of certain terms and a detailed monitoring, management and mitigation (or 3M) process in Nevada's water law. The bill died in the face of extensive opposition from environmentalists, sportsmen, ranchers, farmers, rural residents and governments, tribes, and businesses. This broad group of stakeholders argued the language was too permissive and would lead to more of the state's groundwater basins becoming over-allocated.
- Read GBWN's testimony on Assembly Bill 298
- See GBWN's webpage about this legislation
(2) Federal case against BLM challenging 2012 right of way decision in favor of SNWA's pipeline project
- At oral arguments in Las Vegas, GBWN's attorney Simeon Herskovits presented arguments on behalf of a group of Plaintiffs, including GBWN, White Pine County, rural local governmental entities, and citizens groups. Attorneys for co-plaintiffs including the Goshute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Ely Shoshone Tribes, and the Center for Biological Diversity presented argument with Simeon. Arguments were made challenging the BLM's failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.
While Judge Andrew Gordon did not stop the proposal, he ordered the BLM to take another look at possible environmental effects of SNWA's project, which included weather the project will meet Clean Water Act requirements and whether it will be possible to replace or restore remote wetlands if groundwater pumping begins in the Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys. Pipeline opponents say ancient natural water basins beneath the Nevada-Utah state line aren't naturally replenished in today's arid climate conditions. "There can be no question that drawing this much water from these desert aquifers will harm the ecosystem and impact cultural sites," the judge said.
- Read the judge's ruling — 39 page PDF
(3) Fourth State Hearing on Controversial SNWA Water Pipeline Concludes
- The Nevada State Engineer's Office held two weeks of hearings on the controversial plan by SNWA to take groundwater from eastern Nevada and pipe it over 250 miles to Las Vegas, after the Nevada District Court sided with White Pine County, Great Basin Water Network, and allies, finding that the previous 2012 rulings on the same applications granted more water than was available. The court also found SNWA did not have specific plans to monitor and mitigate predicted impacts, or guarantee that senior water rights and the environment would be protected.
White Pine County and Great Basin Water Network, along with the Goshute, Ely Shoshone, and Duckwater Shoshone Tribes and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, presented evidence critical of the project to the State Engineer in this most recent hearing, the fourth round on water rights applications first filed in 1989. Before the State Engineer makes a decision, he's asked all parties to draft a proposal for how they'd like him to rule. A decision is not expected until February 2018 at the earliest, which will then likely go back to the court for review.
- For additional details see GBWN's webpage on this issue
- For the first time in the 29 year of the Water Grab fight, the Nevada State Engineer denied Southern Nevada Water Authority's applications for groundwater in Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, and Delamar Valleys! BUT - he also approved SNWA's monitoring, management, and mitigation plans to drain the valleys. Our ACE attorneys Simeon Herskovits and Iris Thornton filed the White Pine County/GBWN appeal in September to overturn the 3M plans, while SNWA sued to undo the denial of water rights, and the State Engineer appealed his own decision.
Our first film, Great Basin Water Is Life, debuted this spring in Las Vegas, Reno and online. More than 18,000 people have watched and learned about the Water Grab from the people affected. The film showcases the beauty and fragility of Water Grab territory and the stark reality that there isn't extra water for SNWA's 300-mile, $15.5 BILLION folly impacting eastern Nevada and Utah's West Desert. The film has already snagged its first award: it was chosen for the 2019 Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Grass Valley/Nevada City, CA in January, and will be part of a nationwide pool of films for local and regional film festivals.
- December 27, 2018 — Former Titus Aide Hired To Fight Las Vegas Water Pipeline Plan — The Great Basin Water Network has hired a former aide to Rep. Dina Titus to help lead its fight against Las Vegas’ efforts to tap rural Nevada groundwater. The Reno-based environmental group recently named Kyle Roerink as its executive director, and he becomes the organization’s first paid staffer. Roerink said he plans to spend 2019 making the public and lawmakers aware of the dollar and environmental costs of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s planned pipeline from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas — knpr.org [11.27]
- October 30, 2019 —[LETTER: Kyle Roerink is executive director of the Great Basin Water Network - GBWN] Clark County development plan built on stealing rural water — The Review Journal’s Oct. 25 editorial, “Clark County Commission’s lands plan needed for economic growth,” had no mention of how the Las Vegas Valley will be able to sustain its water supply for — RJ.com [Print PDF]
- October 18, 2019 — WATER FIGHT REACHES 30 YEAR MARK — A special White Pine County Commission and Ely City Council meeting was held last Wednesday to discuss White Pine County’s continuous efforts to protect the water as well as the land. The battle began in 1989 and has continued on for decades, making this year the 30 year mark of this water war with Southern Nevada Water Authority. The war? SNWA’s plans for a pipeline that would travel from White Pine County to Clark County as an additional water resource for Las Vegas if approved. Several local residents stood up and spoke out about the proposed pipeline . . . elynews.com
- August 23, 2019 — [Commentary — By Kyle Roerink]
Delegation must not carry SNWA’s water for Las Vegas pipeline — Officials at the Southern Nevada Water Authority want the state’s congressional delegation to do their dirty work for them. A legislative proposal that serves as a federal wish list for Clark County–– including the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) –– has provisions which would partially enable and authorize the long-contested Las Vegas water grab pipeline. The proposal –– as outlined in a discussion draft put forward by Clark County –– circumvents bedrock environmental laws in order to pave the way for the 300-mile pumping and piping project to siphon 58 billion gallons of water annually from Eastern Nevada in perpetuity — nevadacurrent.com
Support Document: Letter from GBWN to Senator Catherine Cortez Masto — RE: Pipeline Provisions (Sections 802(a) and 804) in Clark County Lands Bill [PDF]
- August 17, 2018 — Press Relese: Water Grab Opponents Declare Victory
Nevada State Engineer Rejects SNWA’s Water Applications
- June 2019 — We killed the bad bills! And while the 2019 Nevada Legislative session is over, Our fight Continues!
- April 04, 2019 — The problems with taking water from Eastern Nevada The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate wildlife and the people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
“Southern Nevada should [obtain water] legally,” Roerink said while filming Nevada Politics Today. “They shouldn’t steal water from Eastern Nevada and decimate the face of Eastern Nevada as we know it, along with a national park, national wildlife refuges, and the heritage of our ranching and farming culture” — reviewjournal.com
- February 26, 2019 — OPINION: Don't change water laws to benefit the few — By Abby Johnson: A small but powerful cluster wants big changes to Nevada water law this legislative session. A hearing this week will shine a light on the dangerous proposals pitching “modernizations” and “fixes” for an old system known as prior appropriation. Sounds harmless, right? Don’t let the friendly language fool you — thenevadaindependent.com
April 16, 2020: GBWN Press Release: — SNWA admitting defeat on pipeline, but more work to be done
- More Background: — Ken Ritter, Associated Press
Las Vegas water officials said Friday they're giving up a decadeslong plan to pump and pipe groundwater from rural northeast Nevada to suburbs and tourist resorts in the state's largest metropolitan area.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority said in a statement it won't appeal a judge's order for the authority to recalculate the amount of water that might be available below ground to supply the project.
The authority will instead update its 50-year water plan to focus on water conservation and solidifying ties to other states that, like Nevada, rely on water from the Colorado River.
That makes Judge Robert Estes' March 9 decision the final word on the authority's bid for state approval to use water rights obtained when SNWA bought ranchland in the 1980s in arid valleys in White Pine and Lincoln counties near the Utah border.
"The water they've wanted to grab since 1989 never was there for the taking and never will be," said Simeon Herskovits, lead attorney for the Great Basin Water Network, a coalition of opponents that predicted the project would cost $15 billion and would turn some areas to dust bowls.
Herskovits tallied seven court victories dating to 2009 for environmentalists, Native American tribes, ranchers, two Utah counties and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns a ranch in one of the Nevada valleys.
Opponents maintained that tribal nations' due process rights were denied and the pumping plan did little to prevent possible damage to cultural areas including a grove of swamp cedars that area Shoshone tribes consider sacred in an uncommonly wet area of Spring Valley in White Pine County. The authority initially won approval from the state's top water official, then-State Engineer Jason King, to draw enough groundwater to supply some 170,000 new homes per year in Las Vegas. The authority planned to build a 250-mile pipeline for the project.
In 2010, the state Supreme Court ordered King to hold new hearings, and King in 2011 again approved the authority plan.
Estes in 2013 labeled King's decisions "arbitrary and capricious" and ordered the recalculation. The state high court backed Estes, and King grudgingly rejected the authority's proposal in 2018.
Las Vegas currently gets about 90% of the water used by most of its 2.2 million residents and more than 40 million tourists a year from the Lake Mead reservoir behind Hoover Dam. The lake was last full in 1983. After 20 years of drought, it is now less than half-capacity. Officials had cast the pipeline plan as key to ensuring a reliable supply.
Patrick Donnelly, of the Center for Biological Diversity in Nevada, said opponents know the water authority still has pumping rights applications pending and still seeks right-of-way approvals from the Bureau of Land Management for the 250-mile pipeline route.
"Eastern Nevada's fragile ecosystems and rural communities have won a reprieve, but the fight isn't over," Donnelly said in a statement. "As long as pipeline permits are still alive, our struggle continues."
- May 21, 2020 — Water authority board votes to withdraw remaining water right applications, permits for pipeline project — The Southern Nevada Water Authority board voted Thursday to withdraw its remaining permits and applications associated with its proposal to pump groundwater from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas — a project criticized by environmentalists, ranchers, tribes and rural counties. The unanimous decision by the board, which is composed of local elected officials, marks an end to the water authority’s multi-decade effort to get approval for the controversial water project — thenevadaindependent.com
- May 25, 2020 — 0:13:12 The Las Vegas Water Grab is Dead — In 1989, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) began buying water rights in rural Nevada and developing a plan to export the groundwater via a 300 mile-long pipeline across public land for domestic and industrial use in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Last week, the SNWA Board of Directors voted to assign the project a status of “deferred,” effectively scrapping the plan — The Sierra Nevada Ally
May 28, 2020 — OPINION: End of SNWA pipeline fight unifies us all — In the fight to stop the Las Vegas Pipeline there have been many strange alliances. There were farmers and ranchers working with big-city environmentalists, rural county governments mobilizing in lockstep with tribal officials, and faith groups working alongside scientists. But the chasm dividing the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the cohort of pipeline opponents was as expansive as the water grab itself. The original proposal from 1989 spanned across the Great Basin, demanded every unclaimed drop of water in the region, and cost astronomical sums. Shortly after his election to the Clark County Commission and appointment to the Southern Nevada Water Authority Board, Justin Jones and I spoke about the future prospects of the Las Vegas Pipeline. He didn’t mince words -- He wanted the pipeline dead. I was skeptical. — thenevadaindependent.com [Print PDF]
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