CARSON CITY — Backers and foes of a plan to pump billions of gallons of water to booming Las Vegas differed Thursday over the economic prospects of the rural Nevada valleys that would have to give up the water.
Proponents of the Southern Nevada Water Authority plan to draw more than 11.3 billion gallons of groundwater a year from Delamar, Dry Lake and Cave valleys maintained that a population boom in the isolated area is unlikely no matter what.
Foes of the proposed pumping, part of the water authority’s $2 billion-plus project to pipe water across the water to Las Vegas, countered that growth has occurred before in the areas and can again — but only if groundwater is available for development.
Richard Holmes, a longtime urban planner and now the water authority’s environmental resources director, said the areas may have a history of intense activity, such as mining decades or even a century ago, but as he looks to the future, "I just don’t see it happening."
Tim Sullivan, a real estate adviser hired by Cave Valley Ranch LLC, which has development plans for its extensive holdings in Cave Valley, countered that many people from urban areas are drawn to valleys like the ones the water authority wants to pump, and water is critical for them.
"Water is precious, and we need to preserve it," Sullivan said, adding that Cave Valley may not be "the second Las Vegas," but it’s "a world-class site" that will draw new people, especially baby boomers who want second homes or vacation homes in scenic areas.
While opponents of the plan compare it to a Los Angeles water grab that parched California’s once-fertile Owens Valley in the early 1900s, water authority attorney Paul Taggart has said some of the growth possibilities mentioned by opponents are "nothing more than speculation."
The affected valleys are all in central Lincoln County, which initially opposed the plan but reached an agreement with the water authority that states which groundwater basins can be developed. The agreement also allows for use of the pipeline, for a price, by the county.
The agency hopes to begin delivering the rural groundwater to Las Vegas by 2015. Its eventual goal is to tap into enough water in rural Nevada to serve more than 230,000 homes, in addition to about 400,000 households already getting its water.ON THE WEB: Public hearing schedule, viewing