Farming in Callao

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Chalk one for David over Goliath

Chalk one for David over Goliath

In Justices find argument for raiding Sandy Valley Basin doesn't hold water (Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nov. 29, 2006) John L. Smith reported a Nevada Supreme Court decision overturning a Nevada State Engineer decision approving an interbasin transfer of water for development in Primm. Residents of Sandy Valley, from which the water was to have been exported, rejoiced after their seven-year, against-the-odds victory.

The developer, Primm South Real Estate Company, had hired Vidler Water Company to handle their water applications. State Engineer Hugh Ricci (since retired) granted Vidler 415 acre-feet of water (out of Vidler's original request for 1,400 AF) based on Primm South's assertions they needed the full amount of water even though they could not currently use it all. Some was for future development. (During the water rights hearing, a Primm South executive stated, "if we can't use it we'll sell it".)

The state Supreme Court rejected the idea of speculation. District Judge David Wall upheld the state Engineer's decision, forcing Sandy Valley residents to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Along the way, the residents' original attorney died after a lengthy illness. Al Marquis, who owns the Kingston Ranch in the valley, stepped up and represented the community's successful appeal. The community raised $60,000 to fight the giant.

The justices found Ricci had, "failed to properly consider the evidence in determining the need for water in the import basin" and "failed to make the appropriate findings, his decision to grant Vidler Water's interbasin groundwater transfer application was not supported by substantial evidence."

Perhaps the NV State Engineer will invest a little extra time and thought into the decisions before him, related to SNWA's proposal. SNWA has requested 90,000 AF from Spring Valley (adjacent to Snake Valley) and almost 200,000 AF from all the basins from which it wants to export water. Southern Nevada won't need that much water until mid-century, however, even at their current out-of-control growth rate and their excessively high per capita water usage.

The Supreme Court's opinion quoted above could just as easily apply to SNWA's scheme for mining water from eastern Nevada and Western Utah.

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