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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense
BLM Support of SNWA Pipeline is "Pure Folly" and VERY Destructive
The decision last week by the BLM to support the SNWA pipeline shows their disregard for science and inability to protect species that are under their watch. The developers who plan projects like Coyote Springs 50 miles north of Las Vegas are dependent upon this pipeline, NOT Las Vegas. Just more hype so that some developers (Whittemore/Seeno/etc...) can profit at the expense of the desert spring ecosystems in Snake and Spring Valleys. There isn't enough water in these aquifers to support the suburban sprawl of Coyote Springs 100,000 homes, golf courses, etc...
Developers who advocate the SNWA pipeline have purchased cheap land far north of the urban core of Las Vegas and are planning on building 100,000 more homes near "Coyote Springs" development. There is no water there and they are far north of the Colorado River so they would need an alternative source of water. No coincidence the original proponent and funder of the SNWA pipeline was Harvey Whittemore, architect of the Coyote Springs pipedream in the desert.
This type of greed and useless water transfer happened during the Owens Valley water grab when developers in the San Fernando Valley profited from the aqueduct water taken from Owens Lake. As it turns out the claim that L.A. needed that water at that time was hyped up by the developers who profited immensely from turning the SFV into suburbia. The cost of the real estate boom in the SFV was borne on the backs of the birds who relied upon the Owens Lake brine shrimp for a migratory food source and by the remainder of the Owens Valley people and wildlife who began choking on dust after Owens Lake was drained dry by the DWP.
What ends up happening is that locals and environmentalist activists feel forced to act out physically and will vandalize the water transport infrastructure. This happened following the Owens Valley water theft and will probably happen again in Nevada if this SNWA pipeline goes through.
When people depend upon Democrats to be guardians of the ecosystem we are often very disappointed. In this case our beloved Sen. "Uncle Harry" Reid is responsible for encouraging the SNWA and developers into supporting this pipeline. Of course it is just coincidence that his son Rory Reid is in the employ of one Harvey Whittemore, the developer who planned Coyote Springs 100,000 homes and was the original funder and proponent of the SNWA pipeline. With friends like these who needs enemies?
"Pipeline pipe dream
Las Vegas water greed is too much"
First Published Jan 02 2013 12:02 am • Last Updated Jan 02 2013 12:02 am
Referring to the groundwater found in western Utah and eastern Nevada as a "renewable" resource, as the person in charge of finding ever more water for the fountains and golf courses of Las Vegas does, is like calling the Utah Legislature a Democratic stronghold.
It rains in the desert sometimes. And the Democratic Party has not been completely swept from the Utah Capitol. But counting on the strength of either one in the foreseeable future would be a hope devoid of realism.
That is why last week’s decision by the Bureau of Land Management to allow construction of a mammoth pipeline that would draw billions of gallons of water from the dry basins of eastern Nevada and pipe it 263 miles south to Las Vegas is just what one of the plan’s environmentalist activists called it: "Pure folly."
Officially, the ruling only allows the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pipe groundwater in Nevada, to which the water utility already has rights. The ruling specifically excludes, for now, water that SNWA has its eyes on in the Snake Valley area that straddles the Utah-Nevada border, water that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has been asked to sign away.
But the approval of the pipeline rightly raises alarm bells for those who are worried that there is nothing to stop the water hogs of the Sin City from getting their way. And it makes it harder for Utah, or any authority that might be asked to resolve any disputes between the states, to deny Las Vegas access to Snake Valley water.
Because the water Las Vegas wants is underground, it might seem there is nothing to be lost by allowing its plans to go forward. But even the environmental impact statement attached to the BLM’s pipeline approval contains a long and scary list of negative side-effects.
Even if the water that Utah has rights to isn’t technically taken away — even if the pipeline draws water only from aquifers on the Nevada side — removing so much water from an interconnected system runs a very high risk of irrevocably damaging the whole delicate ecosystem.
Drawing water from well below the surface of an arid land not only threatens human activities such as ranching and recreation. It also runs a high risk of so upsetting the subterranean environment that what water remains will fall far below the reach of wells, streams and plants. The land itself could collapse, and huge amounts of dust could blow away, much of it into the already clogged air of the Salt Lake Valley.
All to keep a city built in the desert artificially green. It is time that Utah, and the federal government, stopped playing pigeons for the water sharpies of Las Vegas."
Mead in 2012
by Emily Green
"WHAT western water managers preach and what western water managers do is often contradictory. This much can be relied on: inconsistency starts at the top. Only this month a long-awaited report issued by the federal Bureau of Reclamation emphasized the need for conservation over big infrastructure projects. And we can trust its conclusions in that pointlessly hyped McGuffin projects such as diverting the Mississippi to the dry West or towing Alaskan icebergs to San Diego will not happen any time soon. However, only weeks after the release of the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, during the dead time between Christmas and New Year, Reclamation’s parent agency, the US Department of Interior, green-lighted the driving of a massive pipeline from Las Vegas hundreds of miles north into the Great Basin. This is the opposite of conservation over big infrastructure and its approval comes in spite of clearly devastating implications for thousands of square miles across the Great Basin.
Where, you might wonder, were our vaunted environmental regulations in all this? The short answer is that these laws and the agencies meant to enforce them are every bit as successful protecting our natural resources as the Securities and Exchange Commission is policing Wall Street. The Southern Nevada Water Authority deputy general manager who for many years fronted the Vegas pipeline once bragged to a local television reporter that she could get anything permitted. To judge by this week’s Record of Decision, she appears to be right. Watch enough projects go through environmental impact review and it’s hard not to conclude that this notionally protective scrutiny is nothing more than a line item on an infrastructure project budget. While reviews too rarely protect the environment, the expense turns out to be valuable to prospectors such as Las Vegas. Feigning diligence proves a useful inoculant against liability.
For a look at how big infrastructure projects and not a new era of conservation is dominating wider thinking in the West, it’s worth revisiting the under-remarked June 2012 Natural Resources Defense Council report “Pipe Dreams.” Then let’s close 2012 with a look at Lake Mead. According to Reclamation, on Christmas day 2012 the Colorado River’s largest storage reservoir was 52% full."
In an arid land, we must manage our thirst
By Wade Graham
For The Los Angeles Times
First Published Jan 02 2013 12:02 am • Last Updated Jan 02 2013 12:02 am
A study released last month by the Bureau of Reclamation confirms what everyone already knows: We are sucking more water out of the Colorado River Basin than nature is putting in.
Like draining a savings account, water users in the seven basin states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California) and Mexico have been drawing down Lake Powell and Lake Mead by about a million more acre-feet of water than rain and snowmelt provide each year.
According to the bureau, users’ plans for yet more pipelines, combined with the effects of global warming, will push the annual deficit as high as 8 million acre-feet by 2060, a cataclysmic shortfall.
What’s the bureau’s answer? It includes some laudable conservation measures in cities and on farms, but also a number of schemes to "augment" the water supply; notably, a multibillion-dollar plan to pump water from the Missouri River 670 miles and a mile uphill from Kansas to Denver, and another plan to tow Arctic icebergs down the Pacific Coast.
Peddling such boondoggles has a long history. In decades past the bureau and other agencies have proposed tunneling through multiple mountain ranges to divert the Klamath and Columbia rivers southward. In the 1960s, a federal plan, Operation Ploughshare, considered using nuclear bombs to clear the way to divert the Yukon River to Los Angeles.
Fortunately, none of these schemes got off the drawing board, and the new crop shouldn’t either. Instead, we in the Colorado River Basin need to make do with the water we have. We can do it, now and well into the future, if we are willing to look beyond the traditional approach to managing the river.
First, cities can keep getting more efficient. Las Vegas has cut its per-capita water use from 348 gallons per day to 240 in 20 years; Tucson residents use just 100 gallons per day. Farmers can, too. Agriculture uses 85 percent to 90 percent of Colorado River water, water so heavily subsidized that most goes to grow thirsty, low-value cattle feed, including 50 billion gallons a year for alfalfa that is shipped to China.
What is lacking in the study’s options is the easiest and cheapest way to save water: cutting waste in the system itself. Lake Mead and Lake Powell lose huge volumes of water to evaporation in the desert sun and to seepage into the dry ground. By consolidating the water in Lake Mead, the bureau could save as much as 300,000 acre-feet a year — equal to the state of Nevada’s entire entitlement.
The bureau has failed to consider this approach, in part because it has collected data only on evaporation rates and concluded the savings don’t justify consolidation. But new studies show higher evaporation rates, and that the cracked sandstone underlying Lake Powell has sucked up 18 million acre-feet of water since the dam was built.
Maximizing storage in Lake Mead — and keeping Lake Powell for use only during rare wet years — faces a political battle because Powell is seen as holding upper-basin water and Mead as lower-basin water. In fact, the legal allocations among the two sets of users can be met and maintained without the need for both reservoirs.
Moreover, making the shift could be done at virtually no cost and with no need to change the laws that govern water in the basin. Indeed, the bureau is already prioritizing storage in Mead. With an equalization policy adopted in the last two years, extra water has been released from Powell to Mead to keep the latter from dropping low enough to trigger politically disastrous shortages among some lower-basin users. In November, an agreement was signed with Mexico allowing it to store some of its water in Mead, too.
Moving more water to Lake Mead would not only protect the water supply, it would also begin to heal the ecological damage that Lake Powell has wreaked on Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon.
Most of Glen Canyon’s 3,000 miles of side canyons would be uncovered, and diverting water from Powell would send downstream the warmer water and higher flood flows that the Grand Canyon’s ecosystem requires. (A way to move some of the sediment blocked by Glen Canyon Dam into the Grand Canyon would probably also be required to fully reverse the canyon’s precipitous ecological decline.)
The long-term problems of the Colorado River basin are enormous, complex and politically fraught. But in the short and medium terms, the Bureau of Reclamation ought to take the immediate, reasonable, doable steps that would save water and begin the restoration of Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon, nearly 400 miles of irreplaceable landscape at the heart of the Colorado Plateau.
Wade Graham is an adjunct professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, a trustee of the Glen Canyon Institute and the author of "American Eden."
The BLM has failed the ecosystems that they were charged to protect. What good is a regulatory agency if they only are capable of policing individuals on BLM land yet cannot stand up to the SNWA and their cabal of developers? We tried the legal route yet our science was ignored and ridiculed by the SNWA and federal regulatory agencies.
What other options remain other than ELF sabotage against the SNWA water theft infrastructure?
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