Posted on | September 26, 2011 | 5 Comments
Pat Mulroy seemed haggard and uncharacteristically subdued as hearings commenced today in Carson City over whether to allow Las Vegas to pump groundwater from four rural valleys to support more casinos and houses in Southern Nevada. Yet, as she took more than half a day’s questioning, the performance today by Southern Nevada Water Authority’s controversial general manager built into one of her best. She all but annihilated suggestions by opponents that increased conservation, water trades from California or desalination were magic bullets that would obviate the need for rural groundwater to keep Las Vegas in business. Anyone who doubts her mastery of Colorado River politics should seek out copies of today’s testimony.
As good a speaker as Mulroy can be, and today she was great, she was also aided and abetted by the rules of engagement. Carson City civility and debatable definitions of “beneficial use” of water prevented the asking of the most obvious question: Who in their right mind would support destroying some of the most beautiful valleys in the west — most of them federal public land — to support unchecked expansion of what amounts to an urban hybrid of Disneyland and Gomorrah?
The other elephant in the hearing room, or in this case, the dolphinarium in the Mojave, remains the absurdity of pursuing growth in a metropolis located in what is already a desert and is expected to become even hotter and drier with climate change.
Gains from Mulroy’s performance were drastically undermined late in the day when a SNWA attorney tried to certify Kay Brothers, Mulroy’s former deputy, as “an expert for hydrological modeling for water planning purposes.” Three years ago, it was revealed that Brothers and the attorney were among an inner circle of pipeline architects who attempted to suppress models by real hydrologists showing the devastating impact that the proposed pipeline would have on the target valleys. The hearings officer declined to certify Ms Brothers as an expert on modeling.