A plan by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump 83,000 acre feet of water from two rural counties has been denied by state Engineer Jason King in the continuing battle that started in 1989.
This is the third ruling by the state in which the water authority sought the ground water from White Pine and Lincoln counties.
The case was protested by the two counties, ranchers, environmental groups, tribes and even the Mormon Church which owns a ranch in Nevada.
Simeon Herskovits, the attorney who represented the opposition, called it a victory and said King followed the law.
An acre foot of water is equal to about 325,000 gallons and the water authority said it needed the resource for its expanding population.
King had originally approved allowing the water authority to drill wells in four valleys — Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar. The opposition filed suit and Senior Judge Robert Estes ordered King to take another look at the decision.
The case will now return to Estes and will probably end up in the Nevada Supreme Court which has issued two prior rulings.
The proposed project would cost an estimated $15 billion and carry the water 300 miles.
King’s decision says the project would threaten water rights in this rural area.
Paul Taggat, attorney for the water authority, couldn’t be reached immediately.
King said his division “is dedicated to protecting, managing and enhancing Nevada’s precious water resources.”
The state engineer intends to appeal the ruling of Estes over the method to be used in measuring the available underground water. King said the judge’s decision in that area would set a precedent inconsistent “with the long-standing application of Nevada law.”
Bradley Crowell, director of the state Department of Conservation, said in the press release, “As the driest state in the nation, protecting Nevada’s limited water resources for the benefit of all Nevadans is the foremost responsibility of our state engineer and the Nevada Division of Water Resources.”
Abby Johnson of the Great Basin Water Network, said “this ill-conceived multibillion dollar boondoggle is now dead in the water.”
She said the decision shows “that the water is not available for this project without hurting the area’s existing water rights and environment.”