Following a ruling by the Nevada State Engineer denying Southern Nevada Water Authority’s (“SNWA”) water right applications for its groundwater development project, SNWA filed a notice of appeal and a petition for judicial review with the Nevada District Court in White Pine County. A group of opponents have also filed a petition for judicial review.
The project has been on the table since 1989. The State Engineer’s ruling, which was issued late last summer, was the result of a December 2013 court ruling holding that the Nevada State Engineer did not adequately investigate the impact that SNWA’s plan to pump groundwater from four eastern Nevada valleys would have on other water users. The court remanded the applications back to the State Engineer to be reevaluated. SNWA and the State Engineer appealed the 2013 ruling in early 2014, and the court dismissed the appeals in early 2015. (For on the December 2013 court ruling, see “Judge remands SNWA pipeline project appropriations to State Engineer,” JOW December 2013. For more on the appeals of the 2013 court decision, see “SNWA pipeline project runs gauntlet of legal challenges,” JOW February 2014. For more on the dismissal of those appeals, see “Nevada Supreme Court Dismisses Appeal of District Court Order on Southern Nevada’s Groundwater Development Project,” JOW March 2015).
The current State Engineer ruling denied all of SNWA’s water right applications based on remand issues that required recalculation of the water available in Spring Valley and in Cave Valley, Delmar Valley, and Dry Creek Valley. The ruling, however, approved the Monitoring, Management, and Mitigation Plans (“3M Plans”), subject to reinstatement of any appropriated water under the water right applications.
SNWA filed a notice of appeal and a petition for judicial review of the current ruling because, as stated in a briefing to the Board of Directors on the matter, “The ruling makes it clear that there is groundwater available in these basins for appropriation. However, the State Engineer’s Office was prevented from granting rights by the scope of the remand instructions, which impose unprecedented requirements into the science of water appropriation in Nevada. Further, the ruling makes it clear that the State Engineer’s Office believes that the remand order runs counter to its statutory authority in Nevada.”
A 59-member coalition of opponents to the project also filed a petition for judicial review. A press release by the Great Basin Water Network, who is member of the coalition and has long been a principal opponent of the project, explained that the coalition is challenging the approval of the 3M Plans saying they are “grossly deficient and would set a dangerous precedent for the future of Nevada’s groundwater.”
They note that the courts have rejected earlier iterations of the plans and that only minor changes have been made. Overall, they say, “The 3M Plan[s] would allow springs, wells, and wetlands to go dry while only providing token and temporary compensation for senior water rights holders and the environment.”
Written by Marta L. Weismann