BLM approves 300-mile pipeline to thirsty Las Vegas
Written byHENRY BREAN, Las Vegas Review-Journal/Greenwire
After seven years of review, the Bureau of Land Management has signed off on a plan to pipe groundwater about 300 miles to Las Vegas, though it excluded a valley on the Utah border that has sparked a controversy.
The pipeline would stretch from White Pine County, in eastern Nevada, to Las Vegas in the south of the state. Nevada's top water regulator has already given the Southern Nevada Water Authority permission to pump 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year from Spring Valley and three other watersheds, enough to serve about 300,000 homes in the Las Vegas Valley.
Under the deal approved by BLM, the water authority would need to build the multibillion-dollar pipeline around the neighboring Snake Valley. The authority wanted to claim another 51,000 acre-feet of water in Snake Valley, but that application has been stalled by a disagreement between Nevada and Utah.
Back in 2009, officials in both states reached a water-sharing agreement for Snake Valley, which straddles the state border just west of Great Basin National Park. But the pact never took effect because Utah never signed it.
BLM had to exclude Snake Valley from the project because of the uncertainly left from this deal, water authority General Manager Pat Mulroy said. She accused Utah of "bad faith bargaining and inaction" and said Nevada might be forced to take the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court if there is further inaction.
Nonetheless, Mulroy said she was delighted with BLM's approval for most of the project.
"This project is now sitting out there as a safety net if the [Colorado] river really goes south," Mulroy said. "We now have the necessary water resources and the rights of way to protect southern Nevada."