BAPAH, Utah – The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (CTGR) plans to protest the Bureau of Land Management’s recommendation to approve a massive pipeline to carry water from rural counties along the Nevada-Utah line to Las Vegas.
Tribal leaders reacted with sharp criticism after the BLM on Friday issued the final environmental impact statement for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s proposed water project.
They said it’s a major step forward in the process that will allow the water authority to pump up to 150,000 acre feet of water per year from Goshute and other tribe’s reservations to Las Vegas.
“They’re going to let Las Vegas steal our water, build a pipeline that’s over 300 miles long and 8 feet wide, and decimate our people,” CTGR Chairman Ed Naranjo said in a statement.
CTGR Vice Chairwoman Madeline Greymountain accused the federal government of ignoring rights guaranteed to the Goshute reservation by the U.S. Constitution and the Supreme Court.
“The BLM is shoving this massive and reckless project down the throats of Indian tribes despite the fact that the federal government has a trust responsibility to preserve and protect all Indian tribal trust assets, which definitely includes water,” she said.
The 5,000-page report is now up for a 60-day review before the federal agency issues a final record of decision on the water authority’s right-of-way application.
Tribal leaders and others will submit additional information to the BLM during the comment period challenging data and findings in the document, Naranjo said.
“We will not go away and will take all actions necessary to stop this attempt to take our water,” Naranjo said. “Water is life to us (and) if the federal government takes it away, we will cease to be a people.”
The Las Vegas area is home to 2 million people and attracts 40 million visitors annually. Most of the region’s water comes from the overtapped Colorado River, a source shared by seven Western states and Mexico. Water authority officials say the rural water is needed to protect the state’s population center and economic engine from severe water shortage.
Critics maintain the water import project is unsustainable and other alternatives should be explored for different water sources.
Nevada State Engineer Jason King in March granted the water authority permission to pump up to 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year from four rural valleys in Lincoln and White Pine counties. His approval has since been challenged in court by environmental groups, local governments, Indian tribes, ranchers and others who claim the project will ensure economic and environmental doom to the rural areas.
The CTGR covers more than 100,000 acres in White Pine County as well as Juab and Tooele counties in Utah. Its residents are descendants of bands of Indians who settled in eastern Nevada and western Utah.
While the BLM’s final EIS spares Snake Valley along the Utah-Nevada border from groundwater pumping, critics say drilling in nearby valleys will draw down the aquifer beneath Snake Valley.