Nevada Supreme Court to Judge State Engineer

Posted on | May 29, 2009 | No Comments

ASK any of the rural Nevadans who stand to lose their water to Las Vegas and its proposed 300-mile pipeline into central Nevada if the proceedings were fair, and they will laugh at your naivete. For them, Las Vegas gamed the table before the rural communities even knew that a game was on. One of their last recourses to stop the pipeline is a suit coming before the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday at 10.30am.

The court’s summary of Great Basin Water Network versus the State Engineer of Nevada reads: “In 1989, the predecessor to the Southern Nevada Water Authority filed applications for unappropriated water rights from rural Nevada for use in Las Vegas. More than 800 interested persons filed protests. In 2005, the State Engineer notified roughly 300 of the interested persons that a prehearing conference would be held to discuss the water rights applications. Some organizations and individuals petitioned the State Engineer to re-notice the 1989 applications and reopen the period for filing protests. After the State Engineer denied the request, appellants filed a petition for judicial review in the White Pine County District Court. That petition was denied and appellants are now appealing that decision. ISSUES: Did the State Engineer deprive appellants of the right to due process and/or equal protection by refusing to re-notice the groundwater applications? Did the State Engineer violate his statutory duties by not ruling on the 1989 application within one year?”

Mike Turnipseed, the State Engineer who originally received the protests has since become a paid consultant for Las Vegas.

The “more than 800” protests cited in the case description were in fact more than 3,000.  As the legal protest period to the original 1989 applications neared closing in August 1990, the number of protests had surpassed 3,000 and Turnipseed’s office was so swamped by them that he told the Las Vegas Business Press, “It’s beginning to look like we could have 4,000 to 5,000 protests.”

Among the protestors were the US National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Bureau of Land Management and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs.

And still Las Vegas is prevailing. 

So, 20 years after the fight against Las Vegas began, when you ask any of the surviving protestors if they think that they have had a fair shot at protesting the pipeline, you may wish to forgive the tired laugh as an answer.

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