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Clean water group taking $62 million case to high court

A judge cleared the way Wednesday for the Clean Water Coalition to file an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court challenging the state’s right to take $62 million from a scrapped pipeline project.

Clark County District Judge David Barker ruled that the dispute about whether the Legislature can take the coalition’s money to help balance the state’s budget can be settled in the high court before other litigation is taken up.

Barker is the same judge who ruled in December that the coalition is a political subdivision of the state, giving the governor and lawmakers overriding authority.

The coalition is expected to file its appeal Thursday, and the case should be on the Supreme Court’s docket by early next week, said Kevin Powers, an attorney with the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The bureau will request that the high court rules by May, so legislators will know whether they’ll have the
$62 million for the state’s two-year budget, Powers said.

Every dollar counts as the state faces a large shortfall that could lead to budget cuts affecting local governments, he said.

Barker ruled that the appeal shouldn’t be delayed by other lawsuits. The M Resort, which paid $700,000 in fees to the coalition, is claiming breach of contract because the money wasn’t used for its original purpose.

The county Water Reclamation District and the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas formed the coalition in 2002 to develop a wastewater pipeline to Lake Mead.

The coalition last year suspended preliminary work on the pipeline because waning growth and advances in sewage treatment reduced the need for the project.

Members voted to stop collecting sewer hookup fees — the source of the $62 million — from new homes and businesses.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@review journal.com or 702-455-4519.

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