68°F
weather icon Clear

Officials seek Gold Butte reduction to guarantee water supplies

Water officials in Mesquite have asked the Trump administration to shrink the size of Gold Butte National Monument to ensure the community’s access to springs it plans to use as a future water supply.

Short of a boundary adjustment, the Virgin Valley Water District is requesting specific changes to the Obama-era proclamation that established the monument, which utility officials say threatens to cut them off from six crucial springs in the Virgin Mountains.

“If we could get one of those two to occur for us, we would be very, very happy,” said Kevin Brown, general manager of the water district that serves the northeastern corner of Clark County.

Brown made his pitch in person on July 30, when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited Nevada as part of his review of 22 national monuments created by presidential decree since Jan. 1, 1996.

Brown said he was part of a small group of people who met with Zinke for about 10 minutes at a private residence in Bunkerville.

“He listened to the information,” he said. “He didn’t show his hand one way or the other.”

Future growth depends on springs

Current projections show that Mesquite will outgrow its existing supply of groundwater within the next 20 years or so, though Brown said it could happen as much as a decade sooner if the population continues to surge in the city 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Tapping the springs in the Virgin Mountains about 10 miles south of Mesquite could provide an additional 2,500 acre-feet of water a year on top of the roughly 12,200 acre-feet of groundwater the district currently has at its disposal.

The proclamation President Barack Obama signed on Dec. 28, 2016, to designate the monument does spell out protections for “valid existing water rights” in the area, but Brown said the document includes “a lot of wiggle room” for federal officials to restrict access.

Local officials want new language added to the proclamation that specifically references the water district’s interests and “doesn’t leave any room for interpretation,” Brown said.

The other option, he said, is to move the monument’s northern boundary 5 or 6 miles to the south so it excludes the six springs and all of the water district’s service territory.

By Brown’s count, the change would cut about 24 square miles from the roughly 460-square-mile monument.

Conservationists oppose carve-out

Conservationists strongly oppose the idea.

“Honestly, we advocated for greater boundaries. We feel there have been compromises made already,” said Jaina Moan, executive director of Friends of Gold Butte.

She sees no need to change the proclamation, either. As far as Moan is concerned, Gold Butte’s founding document already includes ample protections for Mesquite’s water rights and its ability to develop them in the future.

In fact, Moan said, the water rights and rights of way Mesquite plans to use someday are now protected by federal law thanks to the proclamation.

“They never had that before,” she said.

Before his July 30 meeting with Brown and others, Zinke took a helicopter tour of Gold Butte and Basin and Range National Monument in remote Lincoln and Nye counties.

He has yet to announce any recommendations for the two Nevada monuments.

Zinke is due to wrap up his review and deliver his final report to Trump by the end of the month.

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
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
EU says Brexit deal in sight but UK still must do more

This week’s EU leaders’ meeting — the last scheduled summit before the Brexit deadline — was long considered the last opportunity to approve a divorce agreement.

Stanley Cup champion Blues visit Trump at White House

Like previous NHL champions, they decided to keep with the long-held tradition of visiting the president at the White House.

Russia becomes de facto power broker in northern Syria

Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria, deploying troops Tuesday to keep apart advancing Syrian government and Turkish forces.