Official joins water appeal

The state’s top water regulator has decided to join the Southern Nevada Water Authority in appealing a court ruling that dealt a blow to the authority’s plans to tap groundwater in Lincoln County.

Spokesman Bob Conrad said the state engineer’s office filed its notice of appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court on Friday.

At issue is District Judge Norman Robison’s Oct. 15 decision to strike down a July 2008 order from State Engineer Tracy Taylor that cleared the authority to pump more than 6 billion gallons of groundwater a year from Cave, Delamar and Dry Lake valleys in central Lincoln County.

Those three watersheds represent the first phase of the authority’s proposal to tap groundwater from as far as 250 miles away in White Pine County and pipe it south to supplement Las Vegas amid drought along the Colorado River.

The water authority board on Thursday voted to appeal Robison’s decision.

The senior judge from Gardnerville ruled that Taylor granted water to the authority without sufficient evidence to prove the valleys could sustain such large-scale groundwater pumping.

Specifically, Robison ruled that Taylor’s decision to accept new, higher estimates of the perennial yield for the valleys amounted to “printing more money.”

But Chuck Hauser, general counsel for the water authority, said Taylor had ample evidence on which to base his order. Robison simply chose to ignore it and “improperly substitute” his opinion for that of the state engineer, Hauser said.

Taylor granted the authority enough water to supply more than 37,000 Las Vegas homes. The wholesale water agency applied for almost twice that amount of water in the three valleys.

A group of ranchers, environmentalists and others opposed to the pipeline filed a court challenge of Taylor’s decision in August 2008.

Robison was assigned to hear the challenge after both judges assigned to the district court in Ely disqualified themselves because they were directly linked to the case or knew someone who was.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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