77°F
weather icon Clear

Southern Nevada water agency to appeal ruling against pipeline project

The Southern Nevada Water Authority will continue its push to pipe in water from across Eastern Nevada.

Authority board members voted unanimously Thursday to appeal a recent state engineer’s ruling that blocked the agency’s plans to one day pump groundwater from four valleys in Lincoln and White Pine counties.

Before the vote, water authority general manager John Enstminger said the controversial project might not be needed for decades to come, but keeping it as an option is the prudent thing to do.

“Conservation is our community’s number one resource option,” he said.

Last month, State Engineer Jason King rejected the authority’s applications for the valleys because of an earlier court ruling he said he disagreed with but was legally bound to follow.

That 2013 decision by Senior District Judge Robert Estes required the state engineer recalculate and likely reduce how much water he had previously granted to the authority, in part to ensure that the water table in the largest of the basins would eventually reach equilibrium despite large-scale groundwater pumping.

In the 111-page decision King issued on Aug. 17, he said that directive from the court left him no choice but to reject the authority’s water applications, even though he considered it “poor water policy for all Nevadans.”

Sisolak explains vote

Authority officials — and King — hope to see Estes’ ruling reversed as a result of the petition for judicial review approved by the board on Thursday.

King apparently feels so strongly about the matter that he also intends to file an appeal in which he will ask the court to throw out his own decision, said JoAnn Kittrell, spokeswoman for Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Thursday’s unanimous vote surprised some observers who had expected Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak to break ranks with his fellow water authority board members after he recently voiced opposition to the pipeline project.

But Sisolak said his vote was about clearing up a legal dispute over state groundwater policy, not about his feelings regarding the pipeline itself.

“I have serious reservations about this project,” Sisolak said. “I’m not convinced this would solve our water problems in and of itself.”

Instead of a multibillion-dollar pipeline that might damage the environment and not produce that much water, Sisolak said he would prefer to see the authority invest in ocean desalination plants along the Pacific Coast in exchange for more water from the Colorado River.

“We’re not going to run out of salt water,” he said.

Sisolak is the Democratic candidate for governor, and if he wins in November, he could end up appointing Nevada’s next state engineer. King has announced plans to retire early next year.

Asked how his feelings about the pipeline project might play into a gubernatorial appointment like that, Sisolak said he didn’t want to speculate.

Opposition runs deep

Las Vegas water officials have been been pursuing the pipeline from eastern Nevada since 1989, when they startled rural residents with a surprise mass filing for billions of gallons of untapped groundwater resources across the southern half of the state.

In the decades since, the authority has spent tens of millions of dollars on permitting and preparation work for the project, including the purchase of several ranches in White Pine County’s Spring Valley, where the wholesale water agency still grows hay and raises livestock to preserve its water rights.

Authority officials insist the pipeline will be needed one day to supply the valley’s growing population and provide a backup supply for a community that gets 90 percent of its drinking water from the Colorado River.

The project remains a key component of the authority’s 50-year water resource plan, though officials do not expect to need that water for at least 15 to 20 years.

Construction of the 300-mile-plus network of pumps and pipelines could take a decade or more and cost more than $15 billion, including financing costs.

A diverse coalition of rural residents, ranchers, American Indian tribes, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts from Nevada and Utah opposes the project, which they fear will drain a huge swath of the state, destroying the landscape and the livelihoods of those who depend on it.

One of those opponents, environmentalist Patrick Donnelly, said he didn’t buy the explanation Sisolak and other board members gave for their unanimous vote on Thursday.

“I think it’s duplicitous to say this wasn’t a vote for the pipeline,” Donnelly said. “There’s no way to frame it other than that.”

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
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST