April 21, 2019

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Environmentalists, lawmakers find compromise on pipeline bill

Apr 15, 2019 | , ,


Environmental groups have dropped their opposition to a bill they had originally blasted as a way for the state to green-light a controversial plan to pipe water from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas after the bill was amended last week.

In its original form, Assembly Bill 30 would have laid out an easier path for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s long-standing proposal to build a 300-mile pipeline to pump groundwater from eastern Nevada to Las Vegas that would come with an estimated price tag of $15 billion, according to groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Great Basin Water Network and Nevada Conservation League.

But AB30 was altered significantly enough on Wednesday to allow those groups to feel comfortable enough to now say they are neutral on the bill.

“This bill does not authorize the Las Vegas pipeline,” Patrick Donnelly, director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a legislative committee hearing for the bill last week.“This is a win for the environment because sometimes you win by not losing.”

With those groups, and some rural governmental bodies such as Eureka County and the Central Nevada Water Authority, no longer opposed to the proposal, AB30 was voted out of committee by lawmakers in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, thus surviving a key deadline that passed Friday.

For Donnelly and the other groups, a slight wording change was the biggest reason for their change of position.

The bill originally called for the state engineer to eliminate conflicts between junior and senior water rights holders in the state. That would have meant that longtime rights holders might have lost access to some of their granted water if someone were to challenge it.

But the amended version instead calls on the state engineer to avoid those conflicts in areas where there is still water left to appropriate, effectively keeping intact the process that has historically governed Nevada’s water rights laws for more than a century.

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