FRIENDS OF NEVADA WILDERNESS                    Keeping Nevada Wild Since 1984                                   JULY 2004...
d                               From the front lines                                    Timing is everything. For almost  ...
dHold the anchovies!Lincoln County WildernessBy Roger Scholl and Brian Beffort    On June 16, 2004, the entire bipartisan ...
V                        Proposed wilderness areas in                        Lincoln County     see legend opposite page  ...
WNevada’s Congressional delegationcomments on aspects of the bill                               “When the Southern Nevada ...
A long road travelled                                                                             z                     Ea...
zHow you can help improve the bill   Please write the Nevada Congressional delegation and urge them to               add t...
8                           Explaining the titles in the bill                           By Shaaron Netherton              ...
9one at a time   Friends of Nevada Wilderness, the broader en-vironmental community and many rural residentssee Las Vegas’...
What’s at stake?                                                                                     z                    ...
zWater in the Las Vegas ValleyBy John Hiatt    The Las Vegas Valley Water District (LV-                est precipitation l...
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Summer 2004 Friends of Nevada Wilderness Newsletter

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Transcript of "Summer 2004 Friends of Nevada Wilderness Newsletter"

  1. 1. FRIENDS OF NEVADA WILDERNESS Keeping Nevada Wild Since 1984 JULY 2004 What’s proposed for wilderness? Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act By Shaaron Netherton The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation tact wild landscapes. The bill also includes several and Development Act of 2004 (S2532/HR4593) citizen-proposed areas, including the stunning Big would designate 14 new wilderness areas, totaling Rocks Wilderness and Mt. Irish Wilderness with its 769,611 acres as wilderness, and re- rich archeological resources. These citizen lease 245,516 acres from wilderness areas were missed by the BLM during study area consideration. Wilderness “Many areas their inventory and never became wilder- would receive management and release provisions ness study areas. permanent set no new precedent for wilderness Many areas would receive permanent wilderness in the United States. These provi- wilderness protection in this bill. The lofty limestone cliffs of the Far South Egans and protection.” sions are the same as those used for BLM wilderness areas in the Clark Worthington Mountains hold important un- County Conservation of Public Lands derground wilderness values with their and Natural Resources Act of 2002. fragile cave resources, along with their There is also no “hard release” language in this bill, rugged outer beauty. The rainbow of colorful volca- IO L which means all areas released as wilderness study nic tuff formations would be protected in the Fortifi- IT IA cation Range. Wildlife habitat galore would be pro- N areas could be considered for wilderness again in the future. tected with the many springs and seeps of theED EC Although it falls short of our expectations, this White Rock Range. Bristlecone pines cling to the bill would designate more Wilderness than any other tops of the Worthington Mountains, and large Pon- SP single bill has designated in Nevada. Our Citizens’ derosa Pine forests are found in the Weepah Spring proposal includes 2.5 million acres of wild lands area and Clover Mountains. Parsnip Peak cradles mostly in Lincoln County. A large chunk of that large stands of quaking aspen. proposal is land in the Desert National Game Throughout these areas, many wildlife species EASTERN Range. These US Fish and Wildlife-managed wild depend on the solitude, freedom and habitat that wil- lands are not included in this bill, but they will re- derness protects, from the desert tortoise to elk, NEVADA main protected as proposed wilderness until we are deer, bighorn, goshawks and golden eagles. Report from the front lines Page 2 PUBLIC able to get them designated in future legislation. Hold the anchovies! Page 3 Of special note are the “Big Four,” the Mormon, LANDS Meadow Valley, Delamar and Clover Mountains. Lincoln County map Page 4 Inside: Three of these new wilderness areas would be- BI LL IS come the second, third and fifth-biggest wilderness Congressional comments on bill Page 5 INTRODUCED areas in the state (the Black Rock Desert is the A long road travelled Page 6 largest; Arc Dome would become fourth). These How you can improve the new bill Page 7 four areas total about 476,000 acres. The “Big Explaining the bill step by step Page 8 Four” and the nearby Desert National Wildlife Groundwater issues in Nevada Page 10 Range comprise an extensive block of relatively in- Water in the Las Vegas Valley Page 11 1
  2. 2. d From the front lines Timing is everything. For almost We have always believed the way No. Nevada Members four years, the board and staff of to accomplish wilderness protection is Board of Directors Friends of Nevada Wilderness have to work with all the stakeholders — been working hard to protect eastern the local and federal governments, Henry Egghart Nevada’s wild places. We’ve reported land owners, miners, ranchers, hunt- Corey Lewis to you on our progress and highlight- ers and fishermen, mountain bikers, Ron Hunter ed some of these fabulous areas. OHV enthusiasts, Roger Scholl Almost the day you etc. These incredi- Marge Sill Rural Nevada Members received your June ble lands belong newsletter in your to all of us. I firmly mailbox, our Congres- believe that the Karen Boeger sional delegation si- more polarized our Peter Bradley So. Nevada Members multaneously intro- country becomes, duced in the House and the more po- and Senate the Lin- larized our issues Theo Byrns coln County Conserva- become, the hard- Geoff Frasz tion, Recreation and er it will be to find Hermi Hiatt Development Act of workable solutions John Hiatt 2004. Because protecting eastern on the ground, where solutions matter Macaire Moran Nevada is so important and every one most. We must learn to work together, Bart Patterson of you has helped in many ways, we trust each other and focus on the val- Executive Director wanted to get a special edition of the ues that we share. newsletter out to you, our members, This issue of the newsletter is Staff Ely as soon as possible. meant to inform you of the facts and Shaaron Netherton For me, the legislation is bitter- let you come to your own conclusions Las Vegas sweet. I lived in Ely for over eight on how you feel about this bill. Contact Pam White years and know and love many of information for the entire Nevada Con- Reno these places. Yes, the bill proposes gressional delegation is included. I Susan Potts to protect some magnificent wild hope you will share your opinions with places, but it’s fewer than I had the delegation on how to improve this Brian Beffort hoped, and far less than our 2.5-mil- complex legislation. In this newsletter, Pete Dronkers lion-acre Citizens’ Wilderness Pro- we offer some suggestions for improv- Northern Nevada Office Pat Patera posal for Lincoln County. There are ing the Wilderness title as well as oth- key areas missing in the legislation, er titles. such as the Pahranagat Range, part For more information, refer to our PO Box 9754 of the Mt. Irish area, Dutch John website at Reno, NV 89507 Southern Nevada Office Mountain and the vast wild areas in www.nevadawilderness.org (775) 324-7667 the Desert National Wildlife Range managed by the U.S. Fish and Wild- For the Wild! 1700 E. Desert Inn #406 life Service. Lower slopes of many Website Las Vegas, NV 89109 wilderness study areas have also (702) 650-6542 been left out. E-mail There are also titles in the bill, Shaaron Netherton www.nevadawilderness.org such as the water pipeline corridors Executive Director and rights-of-way, that Friends of Ne- fnw@nevadawilderness.org vada Wilderness and the entire Neva- da environmental community vigor- ously oppose.2
  3. 3. dHold the anchovies!Lincoln County WildernessBy Roger Scholl and Brian Beffort On June 16, 2004, the entire bipartisan Nevada better. We are constantly asking them to do justCongressional delegation introduced the Lincoln that, but we also recognize that they work forCounty Conservation, Recreation and Develop- every other Nevadan as well, some of whomment Act of 2004. Like the Clark County bill that have requested things we don’t like. As with sopassed in 2002, the Act is not a wilderness bill, butrather an omnibus public lands bill that would leg-islate several actions involving public lands in thecounty. Some of these actions we support and areworking to make stronger. Others we oppose andare working to eliminate. As we at Friends of Nevada Wilderness weighthe pros and cons of the different parts of the Act,we are reminded of the sometimes-frustratingway in which Congress works. Maybe it’s the fact that we haven’t had lunchyet today, but somehow this legislative process re-minds us of food. So here’s an analogy: In early 2001, our Congressional delegation an-nounced they would be baking a Lincoln Countypublic-lands pizza. For several reasons (efficiencyand expediency might be two), the delegation haschosen to address many eastern Nevada land is-sues in one big pizza, as they did in Clark Countyin 2002. They invited the public to provide their Mormonconcerns and proposals as ingredients. Rural citi- many other bills working through Congress (the Mountainszens, local governments, land management agen- Energy and Appropriations bills are good exam- proposedcies, sportsmen, miners, off-road vehicle enthusi- ples), the Lincoln County bill has both good in- wilderness areaasts and the Nevada Wilderness Coalition re- gredients and bad. Until it passes, we will worksponded. Each group brought its favorite ingredi- to add more good stuff and get rid of the bad.ents. As much as we believe in wilderness, we be- Now the delegation has assembled the pizza, lieve in American Democracy more. Rather thanand we’re looking at it before it goes into the throwing bombs at each other, we gather aroundoven. We don’t like what we see. Someone else the table to contribute to a political pizza withbrought anchovies (we hate anchovies), and we “Come on in – the earth, like the sun, other Americans. It’s not always delicious, but belongs to everyonewant more mushrooms. we see it as our only choice, as today’s political and to no one.” If this were our party, we would have done climate won’t tolerate a mushroom-only pizza. Ifthings differently (more mushrooms, no ancho- not everyone sees the ecological, aesthetic and - Edward Abbeyvies), but it’s not. We have to remind ourselves health benefits of mushrooms, we will continuethat we’re not the only ones at the table, and to talk with them until they understand and ap-we’re not in control of the process. Such is the preciate what we find obvious.nature of cordial dining and American politics. Leaving the table entirely only further polariz- Some argue that our elected leaders work for es our politics, which isn’t good for wilderness orus, and that we should demand a pizza we like our country. 3
  4. 4. V Proposed wilderness areas in Lincoln County see legend opposite page Mission Statement Keeping Nevada Wild! Friends of Nevada Wilderness is dedicated to preserving all qualified Nevada public lands as Wilderness, protecting allpotential Wilderness from ongoing threats including mining, over- grazing, road construction, andoff-road vehicle use,educating the public on the values of – and need for – Wilderness, and improving the management and restoration of these public wild lands.4
  5. 5. WNevada’s Congressional delegationcomments on aspects of the bill “When the Southern Nevada Public Lands Here are a few quotes and statements fom Ne-vada’s Congressional delegation on the Lincoln Management Act was signed into law, it was myCounty bill. From June 16, 2004 hope that it would serve as a blueprint “The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation for other bills beneficial to Nevada’sand Development Act represents a comprehensive environment,” Senator John Ensign  “We do not expectplan that balances the needs for infrastructure de- said. everyone to advocatevelopment, recreation opportunities, and conserva- Representative Shelley Berkley every provision of thistion of our natural resources and public lands in said, “This bipartisan legislative pack- bill. In fact, I don’t imagine that anyoneLincoln County, Nevada,” said Senator Reid. “We age strikes a careful balance between will champion everydo not expect everyone to advocate every provi- the need for additional resources to provision of this bill.”sion of this bill. In fact, I don’t imagine that anyone meet the demands of southern Nevada —Senator Harry Reidwill champion every provision of this bill.” and a desire to spur economic develop- Reid goes on to discuss the variety of opinions ment and expand the tax base in Lin-and reactions to this bill: “The only common thread coln County. I am pleased that this billin these views is that they are perspectives pas- designates important wilderness areassionately held by Nevadans. I hope this context il- that will be protected as open space for futurelustrates why compromise is not just desirable but generations and provides funding and thousandsnecessary.” of acres of BLM land to create more parks and trails in Lincoln County.” Legend for map, opposite page “A product of compromise, this bill will expand the tax Wilderness provides WILDERNESS AREA ACRES ACRES base by allowing for refuge for DESIGNATED RELEASED more private develop- endangered animal Wilderness Study Areas ment in Lincoln and plant species, 1 Far South Egans 36,384 16,195 County where the protects vital watersheds to ensure a high quality water 2 Fortifications Range 28,837 13,574 federal government supply for life in and 3 White Rock Range 24,413 125 controls over 98 per- 4 Parsnip Peak 45,837 44,078 cent of the land out of wilderness 5 Table Mountain 0 35,958 now,” said Congress- areas and provides 6 Tunnel Spring 5,530 0 man Gibbons. “At the much needed 7 Clover Mountains 85,757 4,993 same time, we will inspiration for the protect thousands of American psyche. As the nation becomes 8 Evergreen A, B, and C 0 2,694 acres of wilderness 9 Delamar Mountains 111,389 19,021 while also promoting more populated, and 10 Meadow Valley Range 124,833 60,910 public access to pub- open spaces more 11 Mormon Mountains 153,939 16,875 lic lands through the difficult to find, the 12 Weepah Springs 51,117 11,524 creation of a desig- once intimidating 13 Worthington Mountains 30,936 14,892 expanse of Nevada has come to signify nated off-highway freedom. 14 South Pahroc Range 25,638 4,677 vehicle trail for resi- Citizen Areas dents and visitors to – Outrock 15 Big Rocks 13,913 0 enjoy. This is a good 16 Mt. Irish 31,088 0 bill for Lincoln Coun- Total 769,611 245,516 ty, and I look forward 5 to its passage.”
  6. 6. A long road travelled z Eastern Nevada wilderness campaign By Brian Beffort and Shaaron Netherton In 2001, while Friends of Nevada Wilderness vironmental community wanted to see long-term and the Nevada Wilderness Coalition were fo- legal protection of wilderness, but many locals felt cused largely on negotiating the Clark County that the lands would stay protected without it.” Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resourc- “It was an interesting experience for me,” said es Act of 2002, representatives from the Tri-Coun- Brian Beffort. “Not only was it valuable to see ties (Lincoln, White Pine and Nye) began meeting the country where my grandmother grew up, we to discuss wilderness were negotiating with and other public-lands several of my distant Pristine forever, issues in the region. cousins. They might have been happier tonow and for the They shared their con- cerns with Nevada’s meet me if discussions unborn. Let us Congressional delega- hadn’t been so politi- keep these tion, who expressed cally charged.” miracles, these interest in addressing Although discus- splendors these issues after the sions were often heat- pristine forever, Clark County bill was ed and produced fewthese sources of enacted. The delega- agreements on bound- man’s spirit, tion encouraged stake- aries and other specif- symbols of his holders to begin dis- ics, both sides learned goals, cussing issues. a lot. Wilderness advo- Delamar Mountains proposed wilderness area. Lincoln and White cates learned the spe- landscapes Pine counties formed technical review teams cific, on-the-ground concerns of locals about wil-–Nancy Newhall eternally of (TRTs) to bring concerned stakeholders together derness designation in their backyards. Lincoln freedom. to discuss issues involving wilderness designation. County residents were able to replace many of Members of the Lincoln County TRT included their fears and rumors with facts about what wil- county commissioners, staff from UNR’s Cooper- derness designation allows and prohibits. ative Extension, Nevada Division of Wildlife, con- Although TRT discussions produced no con- cerned citizens, as well as Hermi and John Hiatt sensus on wilderness, we all participated in De- representing Red Rock Audubon (and also board mocracy at its most vital — face-to-face discus- members of Friends of Nevada Wilderness), Brian sions among citizens about issues of concern to Beffort, whose grandmother was born and raised all, which are necessary steps to finding political- in Panaca, and Bart Koehler of the Wilderness So- solutions. ciety. The TRT discussions helped shape the Wilder- In December 2001, Senators Ensign and Reid ness Coalition’s Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal for issued an invitation to the TRT to expand discus- Lincoln and White Pine Counties, which we pre- sions “beyond the treatment of Wilderness Study sented to the Congressional delegation and the Areas to address other public land and economic public in June, 2003. It highlights about 2.5 million development issues in this important region.” acres in Lincoln County with high wilderness val- Throughout 2002 and into 2003, the TRT met at ues. Other stakeholders, including Lincoln County least monthly in Alamo, Pioche and Caliente and and the Nevada Mining Association, submitted sponsored field trips to the Mormon and Meadow their wilderness and public lands proposals to the Valley mountains and the Parsnip Peak WSAs. Congressional delegation. The delegation then Hermi Hiatt remembered the hostility shown by balanced everyone’s proposals to draft the Lin- many locals toward the wilderness folks on the coln County Conservation, Recreation and Devel- team. But as time went on, she said trust began to opment Act. build on both sides. Not once during the TRT’s discussions did wa- “We found that we weren’t very far apart on ter development or pipelines ever come up. See what we wanted — to see the landscape stay the John Hiatt’s article on Las Vegas water on same way it had always been,” she said. “The en- page 11.6
  7. 7. zHow you can help improve the bill Please write the Nevada Congressional delegation and urge them to add the following to the Lincoln County bill: Wilderness tions available to commercial and residential sec- 2The entire 2.5-million-acre Citizens’ Wilder- tors in Las Vegas. Extreme drought measuresness Proposal for Lincoln County should be desig- should be instigated immediately in southern Neva- SEND LETTERS TOnated. In particular, the Pahranagat Range should da to reduce water consumption.be included in this bill, to protect its incredible ar- Other things to do THE EDITOR 2 Whether water ever flows in these proposedchaeology. 2 This bill should include wilderness designa- Reno Gazette Journal pipelines is a state, NOT a federal, decision. It is rgjmail@rgj.comtion for the ecologically-significant Desert National Las Vegas Review critical to become active in the upcoming state leg-Wildlife Range lands managed by the US Fish and Journal islative session and be on the alert for more at-Wildlife Service. 2 This bill needs to reserve explicit wilderness letters@lvrj.com tempts by Vidler Water and others to make it easi- er to broker water. It is CRITICAL to inform the Las Vegas Sunwater rights. state water engineer that inter-basin water transfer Other issues is a bad idea for the arid West. lvsun.com/opinion 2 All water pipeline rights-of-way should be 2 Get involved to help protect rural water fromremoved from this bill. future water grabs. 2 The water study needs to be expanded for Contact these groups for information.all of eastern Nevada. +Ad Hoc Water Group, c/o Joe Edsen at 2 Before Las Vegas relies on rural water to (775) 348-7557.support its burgeoning growth, a thorough analysis +Sierra Club, c/o Dennis Ghiglieri (775) 329-must be completed on all water-conservation op- 6118. www.toiyabe.sierraclub.org Nevada’s Congressional Leaders Note: Due to the discovery of ricin and anthrax at Washington senate buildings, mail to DC may face serious delays. Use Nevada addresses or fax instead. Senator Harry Reid Representative Shelley Berkeley Las Vegas Las Vegas Lloyd D. George Building 2340 Paseo Del Prado, Suite D-106 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, # 8016 Las Vegas, NV 89102 Las Vegas, NV 89101 Phone: (702) 220-9823 Phone: 702-388-5020 Reno Senator John Ensign 400 So. Virginia Street, # 902 Carson City Reno, NV 89501 600 East William St., # 304 Phone: 775-686-5750 Carson City, Nevada 89701 Fax: 775-686-5757 Las Vegas Rural Nevada Mobile Office 333 Las Vegas Blvd. South, # 8203 Phone: 775-772-3905 Las Vegas, Nevada 89101 Phone: (702) 388-6605 Representative Jim Gibbons Reno Representative Jon Porter 400 South Virginia Street, # 502 2501 N. Green Valley Pkway, #112D Reno, Nevada 89501 Henderson, NV 89014 Phone: 775-686-5760 Phone: 702-387-4941 Hikers at Weepah Springs proposed wilderness 7
  8. 8. 8 Explaining the titles in the bill By Shaaron Netherton TITLE I – FEDERAL LAND SALES – TITLE II – WILDERNESS – Separate Article The first part of this title redirects the BLM to TITLE III – UTILITY CORRIDORS – auction about 13,373 acres on the outskirts of This is the title that many citizens and organiza- Mesquite, on the Utah border. Congress mandated tions (including Friends of Nevada Wilderness) this sale in the Lin- strongly oppose. It would establish utility corridors coln County Land for the Southern Nevada Water Authority (256 Although this bill Act of 2000. This ti- miles) and the Lincoln County Water District/ establishes corridors tle renders moot a re- Vidler Water (192 miles). After National Environ- The Nevada Bu- and rights-of-way, it directing the BLM to cent court decision mental Policy Act compliance, the bill would desig- reau of Land Man- nate rights-of-way for water pipelines, etc., to con- agement has on- will not transfer prepare an Environ- vey water in Clark and Lincoln counties. All corri- line information water. Only the State mental Impact State- dors and rights-of-way would be along major about Wilderness Water Engineer has ment (EIS) before roads. None would be in wilderness. The bill also this authority. selling the land. authorizes a U.S. Geological Survey/Desert Re- study areas The second part search Institute water resource study for White www.nv.blm.gov/ authorizes the BLM Pine County. wilderness to sell up to 87,005 acres of BLM land mostly ad- Although this bill establishes corridors and displays informa- jacent to Caliente, Panaca, Alamo, Pioche, Hiko, rights-of-way, it will not transfer water. Only the tion on all the wil- Rachel and Carp. The BLM can stop sale of State Water Engineer has this authority. Regard- derness study ar- 10,000 of these acres to protect sensitive resourc- less of whether this legislation is passed or not, the es. Land will be sold to the highest bidders at an- BLM is currently working on a Resource Manage- eas (WSAs) in the nual auctions for not less than fair market value. ment Plan (RMP) that will address similar utility state including corridors. The BLM regularly issues rights-of-way Proceeds from these annual auctions would be maps that show distributed to benefit education, economic develop- for powerlines, fiber optic cables, gas and water grazing allotments, ment and resource management. Currently, 98% pipelines through its normal BLM regulations. spring develop- of Lincoln County is public land. These proposed water pipeline rights-of-way could ments, land owner- While we support some public lands being sold and would be granted by the BLM without legisla- ship, etc. There for community expansion and other reasons, this tion. acreage seems exces- are several maps sive. Maps on our web per area as well as site show specific loca- a several page tions. Regardless of write-up for each of whether this legislation the WSAs. is passed or not, the BLM is currently work- ing on a Resource Man- agement Plan (RMP) that will address similar land sales in Lincoln County. Money from land sales conducted un- der the RMP would go into the general treasury and would not be avail- able for resource man- agement or other uses instate.8
  9. 9. 9one at a time Friends of Nevada Wilderness, the broader en-vironmental community and many rural residentssee Las Vegas’ demand for water as a fight thatwill not go away. It will be critical in the comingyears for all citizens who want to protect ruralNevada’s water from metropolitan areas to bevigilant in opposing inter-basin water transfers atthe state legislature and to the State Water Engi-neer, where such decisions are made. The bill would also move an undeveloped right- is another reason why these areas need to become Photos, from left:of-way on the east side of Highway 93 to an ex- wilderness before there’s too little left to save. Worthington TITLE IV – SILVER Mountains, White Rock STATE OFF-HIGHWAY and South Pahrocs VEHICLE TRAIL - The proposed wilderness bill would establish a 260- areas. mile Silver State Off-High- way Vehicle Trail along a series of existing back- country roads that are cur- rently open and used by OHV enthusiasts. None of the trail would enter wil- derness, although several miles would follow the boundary of the proposed Big Rocks Wilderness Area. The bill requires a Here you will find management plan be pre- countless peaks and pared and allows the BLM valleys, deserts and to close trails to protect lakes, wildlife and the people and natural resources. stillness of the vast basin and range.isting utility corridor on the west side, between Silence. A greatHighway 168 and Kane Springs Road. Coyote TITLE V – STATE & COUNTY PARKS – spacial silence – isSprings Investment (Harvey Whittemore), the This title would allow the BLM to convey up to pure in the basin andowner of the private property to the east of High- 4,851 acres of land to expand Cathedral Gorge,way 93, will pay the federal government for the Beaver Dam and Kershaw Ryan state parks. The range. It is a soundlessappreciated value of the property because of the bill would also allow for BLM to convey up to immensity withremoval of the right-of-way. 14,330 acres to the county for the conservation of mountains in it. You’re Although this transfer would make little differ- natural resources or public parks. These are mostly alone with god in thatence on the ground, it could be advantageous for along highways or near the Silver State OHV Trail. silence.the developer anyway. Friends of Nevada Wilder- TITLE VI – JURISDICTION TRANS- – John McPheeness would like to see the entire 43,000-acre Coy- FERS – This title would transfer about 8,503 acresote Springs property back in public ownership in- of BLM land to Desert National Wildlife Range,stead of becoming the largest master-planned giving these lands better environmental protection.community in southern Nevada, with up to 125,000 About 8,382 acres of DNWR land would be trans-homes and 10 golf courses. This community would ferred to the BLM to facilitate the Coyote Springbe very close to the “Big Four” wilderness areas utility corridor and would have little environmental(the Mormon, Delamar, Meadow Valley and Clo- impact.ver WSAs). The development of this community 9
  10. 10. What’s at stake? z Eastern Nevada Groundwater By Tom Myers, hydrologist and former Conservation Director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness detailed and long-term studies will allow scientists Driving through the arid valleys of eastern Ne- to predict the impacts that could occur from differ- vada, it is hard to imagine that there may be vast ing levels of development. A heartfelt amounts of water lying hundreds or thousands of Ultimately, the public must determine whether feet underground. But there is, and the Southern the negative impacts of groundwater development Thank You Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) wants much of are an acceptable trade-off for furthering growth to all the it to allow Las Vegas to continue growing. in southern Nevada. Friends of In their natural state, all aquifers (water-bear- Who decides water flows? Nevada ing geologic formations) are in equilibrium, with in- Wilderness flow equaling outflow. Inflow recharges the aqui- fer through snowmelt percolating into the mountain The Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation new members, bedrock or floodwaters soaking into streambanks. and Development Act of 2004 would allow 448 and longtime Outflow depletes the aquifer through plant transpi- miles of water pipelines to be built across public supporting ration, springs, streams and possibly the intermit- lands in Lincoln and Clark counties. Whether the water flows through these pipelines will be a de- members. tent lakes that form on playas around the state. cision for the state water engineer, because wa- Add wells to the aquifer, start pumping water out, ter allocation is controlled by the state, not the and the outflow increases. In turn, this eventually federal government. The Bill affirms the state’s lowers the water table. With recharge staying the jurisdiction in this matter. — FNW foot note. same (as it must unless the climate becomes wetter), The scoop on Lincoln pumping wells eventually take water from wetlands, springs and streams. This might take a while, be- County water politics cause the wells could be far from the springs, streams and other natural discharge points. The deep carbonate aquifer is fractured bedrock Several years ago, Lincoln County and Vidler that underlies much of eastern Nevada, from the Water entered into a questionable water agree- Ruby Mountains south and west to Death Valley. ment in which Vidler paid Lincoln County $2 mil- Fractures in the bedrock, such as faults along moun- lion dollars. However, in 2003 the Nevada Attor- tain ranges, affect the flow because they are thou- ney General’s Office made a determination that sands of times more permeable than solid rock. counties did not have the legal authority to make Springs in Ash Meadows, along the Amargosa these kinds of water agreements. During the 2003 River, in Death Valley, the Muddy and White riv- legislative session, Vidler Water and their 18 paid ers, and Pahranagat Valley all result from deep lobbyists worked to make it easier to sell water in carbonate water. The aquifer could have been re- Nevada. charged hundreds of miles to the north, but be- State Senate Bill 487 was introduced, making it cause fractures transmit water quickly, the water legal for most of Nevada’s counties to enter into might have traveled those hundreds of miles in just water selling agreements. This bill was defeated. a few decades. However, at the end of the legislative session, The thickness of the rock and the high water Vidler Water, representing Lincoln County, pushed flows in some of these places can give the impres- through State Senate Bill 336. This bill, signed into sion that water can be pumped for decades with- law by Governor Guinn on June 11, 2003, created out impact. But deep pumping may lower the wa- the Lincoln County Water District (controlled by ter level in the aquifer, drying springs and streams, the Lincoln County Commissioners) and gave them just as opening the drain in a bathtub lowers its legal authority to enter into water agreements and water level. to sell water outside of the county as well as out- It is not a matter of whether developing this side of the state. The Lincoln County Commission aquifer will impact other resources (e.g., springs, / Vidler Water is now asking for hundreds of miles streams, wildlife habitat and water availability to of water pipelines to be constructed in Lincoln local communities), but when it will happen. Only County.10
  11. 11. zWater in the Las Vegas ValleyBy John Hiatt The Las Vegas Valley Water District (LV- est precipitation levels since the start of recordVWD) and other water merchants in the Las Ve- keeping. The continuing drought has lowered reser-gas Valley have long coveted the groundwater re- voir levels on the Colorado faster than anyone antic-sources of Lincoln, Nye and White Pine Counties. ipated. By the end of 2004, Lake Mead is expectedIn 1989, the LVVWD filed applications with the to reach its key trigger level, a surface elevation ofState Water Engineer asking for all unappropriated 1,125 feet above sea level. According to the agree- Silence. A greatgroundwater in most of Lincoln and parts of Nye ment, this level means Nevada will only be able to spacial silence –and White Pine Counties. A storm of protest fol- use 300,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water in is pure in thelowed. 2005. Nevada took about 275,000 acre-feet from basin and range. As a result of the protests and a study detailing the River in 2003 and will probably take the same or It is a soundlessjust how expensive it would be to construct the in- a little more this year. immensity withfrastructure to move the water, LVVWD asked However, the Las Vegas Valley continues to be mountains in it.the State Engineer to delay action on its applica- the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country. You’re alone withtions but retain its seniority in filing. There the situ- Even with a major push for water conservation, the god in thatation rested as the LVVWD worked to get more valley’s master water merchant, the Southern Ne- silence.water from the Colorado River. This strategy was vada Water Authority (SNWA), will not be able to – John McPheesufficient to meet the short-term (measured in meet demand without finding additional sources ofyears rather than decades) needs of the Las Ve- water. Hence, an accelerated effort to obtain newgas Valley. water supplies. With neighboring states either un- In 2001, two factors dramatically changed the able or unwilling to provide water, the only alterna-picture. The Bureau of Reclamation, which man- tive is to use Nevada water.ages the river, and its ultimate boss, Secretary of As a result of thethe Interior Gail Norton, recognized that the rapidly approaching watergrowing population in the West would soon need crisis, the SNWA isall the water the Colorado River could provide, and trying to secure addi-then some. tional water supplies The first step in meeting future obligations as soon as possible.would be to get each state using more than its al- In 2003, the SNWAlotment of water from the river to reduce its reli- asked the Nevadaance on the river. California has long overused its Congressional dele-allotment by some 800,000 acre-feet per year. gation to designateNevada was just starting to exceed its allotment. pipeline rights-of-Arizona would take its allotment within a few way across federalyears. Thus a new legal agreement, the Quantifi- (BLM) land. Thecation Settlement Agreement, was born. delegation, already After much teeth gnashing, wrangling, missed thinking about a Lincoln County Public Lands Bill to Big Rocks proposeddeadlines and the threat of an immediate cutback address other issues, was receptive to the idea. wilderness areato allotment limits, California finally signed the Fast-forward to today, when a bill has been intro-agreement in September 2003. This agreement duced to do just that.stipulates that each overusing State has a 15-year The bill includes only pipeline corridors in Clarkgrace period to reduce consumption to its statutory and Lincoln Counties, but clearly those corridors areallotment, provided there is sufficient storage in the laid out and pointed north to tap the largest aquifers,river’s reservoirs to meet demand. Storage levels which are in White Pine County.were established that defined how much water Although the ultimate decision about how muchover and above the allotments could be taken from groundwater can be pumped from Lincoln andthe river. White Pine counties will be made by the State Wa- The current drought in the West started in 2000 ter Engineer, the race to obtain that water and pumpand appears to have peaked in 2002, with the low- it to Las Vegas is in high gear. 11

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