Developer again seeks water rights

CARSON CITY — Another effort by Reno businessman and powerbroker Harvey Whittemore to get rural Nevada water for a development he is building about 50 miles north of Las Vegas is scheduled for an Oct. 30 state prehearing conference.

Whittemore’s Tuffy Ranch Properties LLC has filed 54 applications with the state water engineer to change existing water rights in Lake Valley from irrigation use in the valley to domestic use in Whittemore’s Coyote Springs project, more than 100 miles to the south.

The applications, involving about 11,000 acre-feet of underground water, have been protested by White Pine County and by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Other critics include Louis Benezet of Pioche and Jo Anne Garrett of Baker, both opponents of efforts to export rural Nevada groundwater.

A Tuffy Ranch Properties attorney has said approval of the application would not hurt neighboring ranchers in Lake Valley or the farms and ranches that Tuffy bought and operates in the valley.

Benezet and Garrett have questioned whether enough water will be left for the environment and outlying ranches given the efforts by Whittemore and by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is planning a big pipeline to carry rural water to Las Vegas.

The water authority’s goal is to tap into enough water in rural Nevada to serve more than 230,000 homes, in addition to about 400,000 households already getting the agency’s water in the Las Vegas area, which is one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation.

The Oct. 30 prehearing conference follows a ruling in February from state Engineer Tracy Taylor that rejected much of the request by the Lincoln County Water District and a water marketing company to sell water rights to Whittemore.

Taylor ruled that 1,000 acre-feet of water could be pumped from Kane Springs Valley, rather than at least 5,000 acre feet sought for the Coyote Springs project.

Whittemore had argued that Lincoln County could not survive economically unless the state engineer approved the water allocation for his development, where he plans to build tens of thousands of homes. The project is a few miles from Kane Springs Valley.

Whittemore had predicted Coyote Springs will produce $100 million a year in tax revenue for every 40,000 homes built.

He said he will need 50,000 acre-feet of water for the development. He owns 4,600 acre-feet of water rights at Coyote Springs.

An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, almost enough to serve two households for a year.

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