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Time Line, Groundwater Development Project
1989 — Present

1989

Las Vegas Valley Water District files on all unappropriated water in Snake, Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys

1990

Protests filed by local residents, conservation interests, Great Basin National Park (GBNP) and the Bureau of Land Management(BLM)

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1999

Nevada Legislature adds interbasin water transfer requirements to Nevada's water law, thanks to the advocacy of knowledgeable water policy advocates

2004

Lincoln County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act (Public Law 108-424)) facilitates pipeline corridor. Also requires agreement between Nevada and Utah on the division of shared groundwater, EIS and BARCASS carbonate aquifer study

  • First road tour of Eastern Nevada areas targeted by SNWA project
  • Research into comparison between Nevada water grab and Owens Valley (Calif) initiated.
2005

First water strategy meeting in Baker is held and the need is identified to establish a separate group to work on water importation projects.

  • Pacific Institute study on water conservation in southern Nevada begins. The study (link below) was published on November 26, 2007 — Hidden Oasis: Water Conservation and Efficiency in Las Vegas.
  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping process is initated (first try); activists turn out hundreds to public meetings and generates thousands of comments.
  • Senator Harry Reid (NV) dedicates Great Basin National Park (GBNP) Visitors Center.
2006

Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) is founded.

  • Nevada State Engineer (NSE) holds hearing on 1989 Spring Valley protests.
  • Agreement by Souther Nevada Water Authority (SNWA), BLM, The National Park Service (NPS), the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the Bureau of Intian Affaires (BIA) [without tribes' consent] is signed. The agreement stipulates withdrawal of federal protests of SNWA applications in Spring Valley for future monitoring and mitigation program of groundwater pumping impacts. (This was a secret process — the public and White Pine County, NV were excluded.)
  • GBWN files due process lawsuit over NSE exclusion of protestant successors and new residents and lack of notification of protestants.
  • BLM re-scopes Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because project description changes. (more on EIS process)
  • Road tour initiated in June to show people the areas in Lincoln and White Pine Counties affected by the water grab.
2007

GBWN receives 501 (c) (3) tax exempt status.

  • NSE rules in favor of SNWA, approving 80,000 Acre Feet (afa) of annual pumping in Spring Valley following 3 periods of testing and monitoring (GBWN did not appeal the Spring Valley ruling).
  • Water Grabb receives expansion of media coverage nationally and internationally, and reports published by Defenders of Wildlife and The Pacific Institute are released
  • Spotlight report reveals secret negotiations between Nevada and Utah officials on shared water agreement
  • SNWA purchases ranches in Spring Valley Nevada ($78.9M).
2008

New allies join GBWN, including the Nevada agricultural community, Center for Biological Diversity, and National Parks Conservation Association

2009

First Snake Valley Festival is organized to raise awareness and funds to support GBWN's efforts.

2010

Nevada Supreme Court unanimously rules in GBWN's favor in challenge to Spring Valley protest process .

  • Utah Governor withdraws Utah negotiators from talks on water agreement after Supreme Court ruling.
  • NSE reopens protest period.
  • SNWA refiles all its applications.
  • GBWN and residents protest applications again; 2,300 protests filed. NSE does not combine the protests; filing fees cost $56,000.
  • GBWN and allies successfully defeat SNWA lobby efforts for a "legislative fix" to the Supreme Court ruling.
2011

NSE rehears Spring and CDD (Cave, Dry Lake, & Delamar Valleys) , a grueling and costly six week process. Attorneys for GBWN, LDS ranch in Spring Valley, Goshute Tribe, 2 Utah counties, and Eskdale present protest cases.

  • NSE receives over 23,000 public comments opposing the SNWA applications .In-person comments draw many tribal members and last an entire day
  • BLM releases Draft EIS for public comment, holds 9 hearings. GBWN turns out hundreds and gather 20,461 public comments.
  • GBWN publishes EIS guide to encourage participation. EIS discloses $15.7 Billion project cost, and devastating impacts to an area larger than Vermont.
2012

NSE approves a total of 84,000 afy from Spring, Cave, Dry Lake, & Delamar Valleys. Snake Valley applications remain in limbo pending bi-state negotiations

2013

Governor of Utah announces he will not sign the Nevada Utah Agreement, which was negotiated in secret between the states over the past five years. GBWN and Utah allies declare victory . . . for now.

2014

The NSE and SNWA appeal Judge Estes' ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court, and SNWA Board moves ahead with the "Water Grab."

2015

Nevada State Supreme Court Developments

  • All parties’ briefing on the merits of SNWA’s and the Nevada State Engineer’s appeals was completed during the fall, ending in December of 2014. Then, this past February, the Court issued an order dismissing SNWA’s and the State Engineer’s original appeals on the ground that Senior District Judge Estes’s 2013 ruling, which overturned the State Engineer’s approval of SNWA’s water rights for the Project, was a remand order and not a properly appealable final order.
  • It is important to recognize that the Supreme Court’s order dismissing the original appeals does not truly dispose of the issues on appeal because both SNWA and the State Engineer resubmitted all the same issues through Petitions for Writs of Mandamus that still are pending before the Court. [More Information]

2016

Time-line: Federal lawsuit against the Record of Decision (ROD) approving SNWA’s Pipeline Project.

New Federal Website - Colorado River Basin Insights using open data.

2017

(1) Advocates Celebrate Protection of Nevada Water Law as Nevada Legislature Adjourns

  • Assembly Bill 298 was a proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority [SNWA] to lay out the definitions of certain terms and a detailed monitoring, management and mitigation (or 3M) process in Nevada's water law. The bill died in the face of extensive opposition from environmentalists, sportsmen, ranchers, farmers, rural residents and governments, tribes, and businesses. This broad group of stakeholders argued the language was too permissive and would lead to more of the state's groundwater basins becoming over-allocated.
  • Read GBWN's testimony on Assembly Bill 298
  • See GBWN's webpage about this legislation

(2) Federal case against BLM challenging 2012 right of way decision in favor of SNWA's pipeline project

  • At oral arguments in Las Vegas, GBWN's attorney Simeon Herskovits presented arguments on behalf of a group of Plaintiffs, including GBWN, White Pine County, rural local governmental entities, and citizens groups. Attorneys for co-plaintiffs including the Goshute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Ely Shoshone Tribes, and the Center for Biological Diversity presented argument with Simeon. Arguments were made challenging the BLM's failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.

    While Judge Andrew Gordon did not stop the proposal, he ordered the BLM to take another look at possible environmental effects of SNWA's project, which included weather the project will meet Clean Water Act requirements and whether it will be possible to replace or restore remote wetlands if groundwater pumping begins in the Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys. Pipeline opponents say ancient natural water basins beneath the Nevada-Utah state line aren't naturally replenished in today's arid climate conditions. "There can be no question that drawing this much water from these desert aquifers will harm the ecosystem and impact cultural sites," the judge said.
  • Read the judge's ruling — 39 page PDF

(3) Fourth State Hearing on Controversial SNWA Water Pipeline Concludes

  • The Nevada State Engineer's Office held two weeks of hearings on the controversial plan by SNWA to take groundwater from eastern Nevada and pipe it over 250 miles to Las Vegas, after the Nevada District Court sided with White Pine County, Great Basin Water Network, and allies, finding that the previous 2012 rulings on the same applications granted more water than was available. The court also found SNWA did not have specific plans to monitor and mitigate predicted impacts, or guarantee that senior water rights and the environment would be protected.

    White Pine County and Great Basin Water Network, along with the Goshute, Ely Shoshone, and Duckwater Shoshone Tribes and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, presented evidence critical of the project to the State Engineer in this most recent hearing, the fourth round on water rights applications first filed in 1989. Before the State Engineer makes a decision, he's asked all parties to draft a proposal for how they'd like him to rule. A decision is not expected until February 2018 at the earliest, which will then likely go back to the court for review.
  • For additional details see GBWN's webpage on this issue

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