Northern Nevada water bill gutted in Assembly | NevadaAppeal.com

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Northern Nevada water bill gutted in Assembly

Nevada Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, speaks Thursday at the Legislature. Amodei's measure to create a big water authority in Washoe County was gutted Thursday in the Assembly. Other Senators working on the Senate floor are, from top, Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Bernice Mathews, D-Reno. Cathleen Allison/ Nevada Appeal

A Nevada Senate bill to create a big water authority in Washoe County has been gutted by an amendment approved Thursday in the state Assembly.

The amendment gets rid of language creating the Northern Nevada Water Authority and spelling out its duties. Instead, the revised SB487 would create an advisory subcommittee whose members would be appointed by the Legislature and the four existing water agencies in the county.

Under the revised SB487, which comes up for another Assembly vote before returning to the Senate for its approval, the subcommittee would examine the availability and responsible use of water within Washoe County and submit a report to the 2009 Legislature.

The original bill sparked debate about growth and water conservation, and was opposed by environmentalists who said the bill was strictly about importing water, as the Southern Nevada Water Authority is preparing to do from eastern Nevada to feed thirsty Las Vegas.

The new agency would have controlled wholesale rates, as well as any water importation plans.

The water authority idea had been pushed by Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, who argued the proposal would put water planning in the hands of the same local officials who make planning and zoning decisions that affect growth.

Opponents of the bill said that regional cooperation is already happening under existing agencies.

Washoe County Commissioner Jim Galloway had opposed the plan, arguing the new agency would make water planning less independent and more politicized. He said the board would import or reallocate water to subsidize water for growth at the expense of ratepayers.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, Sparks Mayor Geno Martini, and Washoe County Commission Chairman Bob Larkin had all supported the idea of the new agency.

Amodei said Thursday that he’ll revive the water authority bill in the Senate by attaching it to AB331, a water conservation bill.

Amodei already has revived another water bill, SB405, which died without a hearing in the Assembly. The bill would have cemented the state engineer’s role as the “full, exclusive and final authority” with respect to how water is used in this arid state. It has been amended into AB285, which requires the water engineer to republish notices on water leasing applications if a decision is not made in five years.

Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, which opposed the water authority plan, said Amodei is using Assembly water bills with widespread support to revive his more controversial bills.

“Amodei is scrapping these so he can get his horrible water bills passed that are only supported by developers,” Fulkerson said.