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Ruling on Southern Nevada water agency’s pipeline project months away

Updated September 28, 2017 - 4:15 pm

The Southern Nevada Water Authority will have to wait until next year to learn the fate of its plans to siphon groundwater from rural eastern Nevada.

State Engineer Jason King won’t issue his ruling on the authority’s groundwater applications until late January at the earliest, according to a schedule set this week during an ongoing state hearing on the project.

The authority is seeking state permission to pump up to 84,000 acre-feet of water a year — enough to supply at least 170,000 homes — from Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys in Lincoln County and Spring Valley in White Pine County. The water would be sent to Las Vegas in a pipeline expected to stretch about 300 miles and cost as much as $15 billion.

Opponents of the project argue that large-scale groundwater pumping would drain the four valleys, damaging the environment and threatening the livelihoods of current and future water users in eastern Nevada and western Utah.

Before King decides how much water the authority should be allowed to withdraw, he wants to see draft proposals from all the parties in the case spelling out how they think he should rule.

On Wednesday, hearing officer Susan Joseph-Taylor, who also serves as deputy administrator for the Nevada Division of Water Resources, set a deadline of Jan. 19 for those draft ruling proposals to be submitted.

The state engineer also asked for draft rulings from hearing participants in 2011 before he granted water for the authority’s pipeline in 2012.

A district judge struck down that decision the following year and ordered King to hear the matter again. That rehearing got underway Monday in Carson City and is scheduled to last until Oct. 6.

The water authority is in no great hurry to get a ruling from King or build the pipeline project. Officials for the agency have said the rural groundwater won’t be needed in the Las Vegas Valley for another 15 to 20 years.

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

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