Vegas case for water surveyed

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare your reading glasses. Today the Bureau of Land Management is expected to publish a long-delayed draft environmental impact statement scrutinizing the impact to federal land of a proposed Las Vegas pipeline into the Great Basin. Long pipe (306 miles), long document (it’s expected to run more than 1,200 pages). An extended comment period of 90 days is expected. Click here for background, here for a link to the federal register. The comment period will start the day that a notice of publication of the EIS appears in the register.

Shortly after the federal comment period ends over access to public land for the Vegas pipeline, Nevada’s State Engineer will begin omnibus hearings to decide whether or not to award water to fill it. Previous awards by the former state engineer were thrown out by two courts, citing due process violations and unsound assessments of available groundwater

Vegas pipeline hearing timeline sketched

FOLLOWING a series of damning court decisions that vacated almost 80,000 acre feet a year of groundwater awards to Las Vegas from four valleys in rural Nevada, the State Engineer has published a tentative schedule to re-notice and re-hear the cases. If the brisk timeline is kept, the decisions over whether or not to tap the Great Basin Aquifer to slake Las Vegas could come as early as mid-February 2012.

Under the new schedule, notices of the applications by Las Vegas for permission to tap rural groundwater over thousands of square miles will be published in regional Nevadan newspapers in November. The period in which affected parties may lodge legal protests entitling them to participate in the hearings will close in late December.

Whereas we screwed up the first time …

Behind the rain shadow, the news just gets more eye-popping. This deliciously poker-faced article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal is dated today but went live yesterday. Today, yesterday. Today, twenty years ago. What is time when there is groundwater in five rural basins in central eastern Nevada and to the south, hot dry Las Vegas wants it?

Time, it turns out, is the issue. Last month, the Supreme Court of Nevada ruled that the State Engineer had violated the due process rights of those protesting a nearly 300-mile-long pipeline proposed by Las Vegas. Under the law, hearings awarding Las Vegas rural water that began in 2006 should have begun in 1991.

“There would just be so much litigation”

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is spinning so hard, it may need its own axis. This morning’s Las Vegas Review-Journal captures the angle and motion as the water agency led by Patricia Mulroy moves to defend the lawfulness of a massive haul of groundwater awards put into question last week by the Nevada Supreme Court decision Great Basin Water Network vs State Engineer.

Its defense, hinted at in a January 28 press release from the authority, is to insist that the Supreme Court was wrong to challenge awards that were to flush a nearly 300-mile-long Las Vegas pipeline because violating due process rights of protestors is a common practice of the State Engineer.