Court overturns Eureka water permit

The Nevada Supreme Court has overturned the state engineer’s decision to grant the Mount Hope Mine in Eureka more than 11,000 acre feet of water saying the planned pumping would damage existing senior water rights in the area.

General Moly is seeking to establish the mine and needs a huge amount of water to process the ore. State Engineer Jason King granted the permit and District Court Judge Dan Papez refused to overturn the decision.

The high court pointed out a monitoring study by the company stated, “the vast majority of this water for the Mount Hope Mine will be consumptively used in processing activities of the project.

“No water will be returned to the aquifer,” the study states.

Eureka County and ranching families in the Kobeh and Diamond Valley basins protested saying huge amount of pumping would dramatically lower the water table and dry up springs they need and have rights to for livestock watering.

But King granted the application, ruling Kobeh Valley Ranch LLC “could fully mitigate any impact” of the pumping.

King and KVR argue the state engineer can “conditionally grant proposed use or change applications on the basis of future successful mitigation.”

But the high court disagreed.

“The very evidence upon which the state engineer relied demonstrates that KVR’s appropriation would cause the complete depletion of the source of existing water rights,” the court wrote in its unanimous decision.

In addition, the court found no explanation as to what the company’s mitigation plan would be, where the water to offset the pumping would come from and argued the company itself had no details as to what it would do to offset the large drawdown of the water table.

The court said any decision to grant an application requires the state engineer determine it wouldn’t conflict with existing rights and that determination “must be made upon presently known, substantial evidence rather than information to be determined in the future.”

Without that information, the court wrote those with existing water rights don’t have the data to challenge the application.

“The state engineer thus may not defer the determination of what mitigation would encompass to a later date,” the order states.

“In sum, substantial evidence does not support the state engineer’s finding that KVR would be able to ‘adequately and fully’ mitigate the fact that its groundwater appropriations will cause Kobeh Valley springs … to cease to flow.”

The court concluded the finding:

“Violates the legislature’s directive that the state engineer must deny use or change applications when the use or change would conflict with existing rights.”

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