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NV State Engineer Rules Against Goshute Tribe and in Favor of SNWA Pipeline

by Great Basin Water Network Friday, Mar. 30, 2012 at 1:13 PM

The Nevada State Engineer's decision last week supports the SNWA proposed pipeline despite numerous objections from the indigenous Goshute Nation and many other scientists who warn that the finite aquifers of the Snake and Spring Valley targeted by the SNWA pipeline would not sustain this amount of extraction without causing ecosystem collapse as springs dry and species become extinct. It could be said that removal of water from the sovereign Goshute Nation by the SNWA is a form of cultural genocide.

Goshute Tribe: Nevada State Engineer Over-allocates Water to Las Vegas

Jason King published a decision today on the most important water rights battle ever decided by any Nevada State Engineer. The ruling could allow for 83,988 acre feet of water to be removed from four valleys in the Great Salt Lake Desert aquifer to send to Las Vegas under a proposal made by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. SNWA had applied for 125,976 acre-feet from these valleys and plans to request more from Snake Valley.

Details on the ruling can be found online

The Goshute Tribe has been defending itself from the threat of this project for nine years, but with little support from the federal government, which has a trust responsibility to protect the tribe’s interests. On its own, the tribe interviewed almost every one of its tribal elders to document cultural uses and sites they consider sacred within its ancestral landscape in preparation for this hearing. The tribe detailed its hunting and gathering areas, massacre sites, historic villages, burial sites, sacred springs, and more as part of this process. This substantive information was presented to the State Engineer during the six week hearing (see cultural map online which is available for media use), but does not appear to have influenced the decision in any meaningful way.

Tribal Chairman Ed Naranjo stated, “I fear Mr. King’s decision today might literally wipe out our tribe. What is most frustrating though, is that millions of people who will be severely impacted by this project, have never even heard of it. Goshute people never damaged the earth, we never messed with the balance, but others are out to destroy us, and seemingly for only one reason, the almighty dollar.”

Additionally, six Goshute witnesses testified and detailed the Goshute’s strong cultural ties to this area and spiritual beliefs about the importance of water. During this testimony, SNWA’s attorney asked the Goshute witness to explain the difference between Goshute spiritual beliefs, and his own childhood belief in the bogeyman. The were numerous protestants arguing against SNWA’s proposal during the hearing, including the LDS Church, Salt Lake, Millard, Juab, and Tooele Counties in Utah, Great Basin Water Network, and the Ely and Duckwater Shoshone Tribes.
The Goshute tribe has 30 days to decide whether to appeal of the State Engineers decision in court.

Vice-Chair of the Goshute Tribal Council, Madeline Greymountain says, “Las Vegas might believe it has hit the jackpot with today’s decision, but the tribe has no intentions of letting this go without more fight. Goshute People are determined to protect the abundant life that exists in Spring Valley. These natural resources are vital to our existence, spiritual balance and well-being. This land is part of our ancestral lineage. It is as important to our people today, as it was to our past, and will be to our future generations. So we must protect it in every way we can.

NEWS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE________________________MARCH 23, 2012

CONTACT: Paul Echohawk- 208-478-1624, or Asher Koles- 801-633-7201

Nevada Pipeline Opponents Slam State Engineer Grant of Rural Water Rights to Southern Nevada Water Authority

by Abigail Johnson Kcsg Television Published - 03/22/12 - 08:15 PM

(Carson City, NV) - Nevada State Engineer Jason King Thursday granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority rights to pump up to 83,988 acre-feet of the groundwater from four eastern Nevada valleys drew a swift and stern response from pipeline opponents, who called the ruling “excessive and ill-considered.”

Simeon Herskovits, attorney for the pipeline opponents, said the ruling will be attacked in state courts.

“We believe that the State Engineer has ignored or dismissed compelling hydrological evidence that we and other protestants submitted – evidence that clearly showed that there is no unappropriated water available in Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys. Pumping the granted water rights from Spring Valley would be unsustainable, environmentally destructive and illegal groundwater mining,” said Susan Lynn, coordinator of the Great Basin Water Network. “We will consider our options carefully but this ruling will not go without challenge.”

“Pumping and exporting 12 billion gallons of groundwater annually from Spring Valley will dry up springs and harm existing water rights both in Spring Valley and down-gradient in Snake Valley, into which the groundwater flows,” said protestant Abigail Johnson. “The amount of pumping this decision allows would lower the groundwater table by up to 200 feet, and equilibrium in the water table will not reached for centuries, with strong likelihood of irreparably harming Nevada’s only national park.”

Simeon Herskovits, attorney for Great Basin Water Network and other pipeline opponents, said the acceptance of the so-called “monitoring and mitigation” process promised by the SNWA was particularly problematic given that few, if any, specifics exist for how that would be done.

“The supposed monitoring provides no assurance of protection for water rights holders, communities or habitat in the region,” he noted.

Tom Myers, a hydrologist who has studied the Great Basin in detail, predicted that it would not be possible for SNWA to pump the billions of gallons annually from the well locations specified by the water agency. That means SNWA will have to “file countless change applications to drill additional wells,” he said.

Las Vegan Launce Rake noted that SNWA has said repeatedly that they won’t proceed with the pipeline project until they absolutely must have water for use in Las Vegas, which could be decades in the future. “This begs the question of whether SNWA has fully established a need for this water, and whether they have the ability to finance this enormously expensive project,” Rake said.

“My biggest concern is that this will be an incentive to further degrade Las Vegas’ already struggling water conservation programs in an effort to boost water use and justify the project,” he said. “We can’t afford the pipeline, fiscally or environmentally.”

A businesswoman in the Snake Valley, near Great Basin National Park, agreed.

“Holding on to these water rights for 25 to 50 years without putting them to beneficial use not only flouts the prohibition against speculation in Nevada water law, but it unfairly inhibits opportunities for future growth and development in the affected basins in Lincoln and White Pine Counties,” said Denys Koyle, Baker businesswoman.

And Native Americans who would be affected by pumping also were concerned with the ruling.

“The ruling brushes aside the need to protect the public trust, ignoring the negative effects of excessive pumping upon Great Basin National Park, tribal sacred and cultural sites, threatened and endangered species, and national wildlife refuges and wetlands,” tribal member Delaine Spilsbury stated.

“Great Basin National Park, which adjoins Spring Valley, faces great peril with the decision to ultimately pump over 61,000 acre feet each year,” said Lynn Davis, Nevada Field Office Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. The national park’s historic and unusual caves are threatened because they are hydrologically linked to Spring Valley’s groundwater, according to Davis.

GBWN Utah Coordinator Steve Erickson said that Utahns should also oppose this ruling because of its impact on the ranching communities in Utah’s portion of Snake Valley. “Thousands of acre feet of groundwater that now flows down into Snake Valley each year from Spring Valley will be pumped away before it can get there, and that will have negative impacts on farming, wildlife, and possibly air quality in the Wasatch Front.

"It is especially heart-breaking that we learned of this decision on World Water Day, a day that is supposed to be about human needs and the environment," said Ann Brauer of Indian Springs. "Instead, this decision, if it stands, gives a green light to SNWA to defoliate the Great Basin, destroy Native American communities, dismantle conservation programs, plant water-hungry turf, encourage unneeded development and stick the ratepayers of Clark County with a $15 billion bill."

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