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Will water bill come back to life in Carson City?

A dangerous water-grab bill seems to have stalled in our Legislature, as the Review-Journal recently reported (“Dozens more bills die in Nevada Legislature,” May 22). But the many Nevadans who oppose Assembly Bill 298 fear this incredibly harmful legislation may not be as dead as it seems.

Primarily authored by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, AB 298 would substantially revise state water law to facilitate the authority’s plan to pump groundwater from rural Nevada and pipe it 300 miles across the desert to Las Vegas. If built, the project would cause irreversible harm to Nevada’s wildlife by draining springs and wetlands.

At a May 16 Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing, dozens of ranchers, rural counties, water districts, farmers, conservation groups and others stood together to oppose the bill. After the Authority refused changes to address the many concerns, committee chair Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, wisely allowed the bill to die in committee without a vote.

But in the Legislature, is anything ever truly dead? With multiple water bills still in play, the scuttlebutt is that provisions from AB 298 may be tacked onto other legislation, discounting the concerns of so many Nevadans and shortcutting the public involvement that is the hallmark of Nevada’s legislative procedures. The people of Nevada deserve a transparent and public process, particularly since AB 298 would have far-reaching and severe consequences for both rural communities and wildlife.

The opposition to the authority’s bill was overwhelming. Leadership in Carson City would be unwise to circumvent the citizens of Nevada and tack this wildly unpopular bill onto existing legislation. To do so would be undemocratic, violating the trust we put in our elected officials with likely repercussions at the ballot box.

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