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Nye supports lawsuit against SNWA pipeline

Nye County commissioners Tuesday voted to support the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority, which signed on as a plaintiff in an expected lawsuit opposing the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s pipeline project.

The agenda request from Assistant County Manager Joni Eastley said a complaint will be filed by White Pine County, the Great Basin Water Network and others challenging the record of decision issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of the Interior and supporting environmental impact statement granting the SNWA right-of-way for the pipeline across federal land.

Nye County is a charter member of the eight-county Central Nevada Regional Water Authority. The counties have to approve the authority of the CNRWA in filing as a plaintiff, but Nye County isn’t under an obligation to fund the court action.

“I think this would be the right course to take. If we don’t join in with the rest of the counties on this, it could hurt the water situation throughout the central and northern part of the state for years to come,” County Commissioner Butch Borasky said.

The BLM received the right-of-way application for the 306-mile pipeline from the SNWA on Aug. 19, 2004, which is expected to cost $15.5 billion.

But the water authority said, “the significant and fundamental flaws contained through the EIS undermine the integrity of the BLM environmental impact statement process.”

The request for support from CNRWA Executive Director Steve Bradhurst said the BLM didn’t address the draft EIS deficiencies they identified in the final EIS.

The record of decision by Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes Dec. 28, 2012 states the secretary’s decision was final and not subject to appeal under department regulations.

In a Dec. 9 letter to his board of directors, Bradhurst wrote: “There is not a time limit on challenging a record of decision in federal court. To date there has not been a challenge to the subject record of decision in federal district court. But, based on comments made by Great Basin Water Network and the Center for Biological Diversity representatives, it is likely the record of decision will be challenged in federal district court in the near future.”

“At this phase all we’ve done is verbal support,” Nye County Water District General Manager Darrell Lacy told the Pahrump Valley Times. “We’ve been members of the rural county group that’s been appealing this process from the very beginning.”

The record would normally go through an appeals process, but Lacy said since it was approved at the secretary level any appeal has to go through the federal courts.

“At this stage, Nye County is not as directly involved as the other counties,” he said.

In December, Senior District Judge Robert Estes ordered the state engineer to recalculate and likely reduce how much the authority can safely be allowed to pump from Spring Valley, Cave Valley, Dry Lake Valley and Delamar Valley.

Estes said the pumping could prevent Spring Valley from reaching equilibrium even after 200 years and pointed to serious flaws and omissions in the state’s plan to monitor the impacts of the plan.

Pipeline opponents filed an appeal to protest State Engineer Jason King’s decision to allow the SNWA to pump as much as 84,000 acre feet of ground water per year from those four basins. An acre foot is enough water to supply two homes for one year.

Nye County officials also had lodged a protest of applications filed by the SNWA for 75,000 acre feet of water rights in Upper Railroad Valley and other basins in the far northeastern part of the county. Lacy said those applications are currently suspended.

“The state engineer has not had a hearing on them but their applications are still on the books. We have protested those rulings,” Lacy said. “Our discussions with SNWA, they do not think it is a financially viable solution to use them.”

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