67°F
weather icon Clear

Southern Nevada Water Authority expected to appeal pipeline plan ruling

It looks like the Southern Nevada Water Authority won’t be taking no for an answer.

The authority board will hold a rare special meeting Thursday to launch an appeal of the most recent state ruling against the agency’s plans to pipe groundwater to Las Vegas from across eastern Nevada.

Last month, State Engineer Jason King denied the authority’s applications to pump water from four rural valleys in Lincoln and White Pine counties.

Authority board members are expected to vote Thursday to authorize a court challenge of that decision.

Las Vegas water officials have been pushing their multibillion-dollar pipeline plan since 1989 to feed growth in Las Vegas and provide a backup supply for a community that gets virtually all of its water from a single source.

“These groundwater resources represent an important long-term water supply option and will reduce Southern Nevada’s reliance upon the drought-stricken Colorado River, which provides 90 percent of our community’s water resources and is likely to experience its first federally declared shortage within the next two years,” the authority said Monday in a written statement announcing Thursday’s special meeting. “The ability to maintain access to these available, unused groundwater supplies within our community’s 50-year water resource planning horizon is contingent on completing legal and permitting processes.”

It’s unclear what role King might play in a court review of his Aug. 17 decision.

In an unusual twist, the state’s top water regulator made it clear in his ruling that he didn’t agree with what he was doing. But King said he had no other choice given the restrictions places on him by a previous court order.

“Although the state engineer believes there is water to appropriate in the four subject groundwater basins, he is precluded from doing so as a result of the scope of those remand issues” ordered by the court, King wrote in his 111-page decision.

In 2012, King granted the authority permission to pump up to 84,000 acre-feet a year — enough to supply at least 170,000 homes — from four rural valleys in Lincoln and White Pine counties.

But a 2013 ruling by Senior District Judge Robert Estes struck down that decision and sent the matter back to the state engineer for further review on several narrow technical issues.

In his ruling last month, King said those directives from Estes represented “poor water policy for all Nevadans,” but he was legally bound to follow them.

Longtime opponents of the pipeline project celebrated King’s decision but acknowledged that the matter was almost certainly headed back to court.

The authority’s plans have drawn fierce opposition in Nevada and Utah from rural residents, ranchers, American Indian tribes, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts and even the Mormon Church, which operates a large cattle ranch in one of the White Pine County aquifers targeted by the authority.

Critics argue the project will drain a large swath of arid eastern Nevada, destroying the landscape and the livelihoods of those who depend on it.

The authority has already spent tens of millions of dollars on permitting and preparation work for the project. Construction of the more than 300-mile network of pumps and pipelines could take 10 to 15 years and top $15 billion, including financing costs.

Thursday’s special meeting, the board’s first since 2011, is slated to begin at 11 a.m. and include a closed session so board members can confer in private with the authority’s general counsel. That will be followed by a public vote on whether to proceed with the court appeal.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Raging winds fan flames of wildfires in Southern California

Hot, dry winds sweeping into Southern California raised concerns that the region’s largest utility could widen power shutoffs Friday to prevent equipment from sparking wildfires.