Bill targets federal protests of water rights applications

CARSON CITY — A rural Nevada lawmaker wants Cabinet-level approval of what he considers frivolous government protests to certain water rights applications, a move he said would protect water that belongs to people of the state.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, told the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday that his Assembly Bill 425 is a response to many protests by the National Park Service and federal Bureau of Land Management to water rights applications in southern Nye County.

“It’s having a devastating impact on the rural communities who do depend upon the lawful, legal use of their appropriation of groundwater that I believe belongs to the people of the state of Nevada,” Goedhart said. “One of the most important things we can do is preserve citizens’ rights to their property.”

AB425 would prohibit the state water engineer from considering a protest filed by any government agency unless it’s signed by the head of that agency, including the Interior secretary, who oversees the BLM, park service and Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Agriculture secretary, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said the bill would essentially shut out federal agencies, which often have concerns related to conservation.

“A common theme in this session when it comes to water is to ensure we have as public a process as possible,” Bobzien said.

Goedhart said the bill would ensure more openness.

“This does not preclude them from having a seat at the table. … I believe this brings accountability and transparency to the process. Now they can’t say it was done by a guy who signed it in a back room,” Goedhart said.

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