Ranchers Oppose Plan to Pipe More Water to Las Vegas

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The Southern Nevada Water Authority plans to pump an additional 11.3 billion gallons of water yearly into the swelling city of Las Vegas by 2015. SNWA reached an agreement last month with US Fish and Wildflife, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal agencies to authorize building a pipeline from Lincoln County, north of the city, and siphoning water from the Delamar, Dry Lake and Cave valleys.

At public hearings this week in Las Vegas, Carson City, Ely and Caliente, scores of people participated, most of them ranchers and conservationists who voiced their opposition. Some argued that the estimated cost of $2 billion is a lowball — that the project will end up costing $3.5 billion. Others say the state should bring water from the Pacific Ocean 250 miles away and spend its money on desalinization. Still others contend that the pipeline will threaten species in the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge.

Lincoln County first opposed the water export plan but then agreed, stipulating which basins could be tapped. The county will also receive a fee from the state.

There is a seven-year drought in Southern Nevada; at the 2000 census, Las Vegas was the fastest growing city in the nation.