U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS -- A developer-lobbyist hoping to build 50,000
homes in a desert valley 50 miles north of here is committed to a
project with minimal environmental impact, a representative says.
Coyote Springs Investments, headed by Harvey Whittemore, seeks to
build upscale residential communities in Coyote Springs Valley, which
straddles the Clark County-Lincoln County line.
The company recently held the first of two ``scoping'' meetings
designed to get feedback on environmental issues that could block the
Robert Derck, Coyote Springs Investments general manager, made the
low-environmental impact pledge -- and said other developers might
not do the same.
But some of the dozen or so people who attended the meeting,
hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the project is so
big there's no way to avoid harm to the sparse, high-desert ecology
of the area.
``I think they're kidding themselves to say they're going to put
in a 50,000-home development in an ecologically sensitive area
without destroying the natural habitat,'' said Sheila Stirling, a Las
Vegas resident who works for a construction company.
``It has the potential to destroy a whole desert ecosystem, an
already strained ecosystem.''
The project faces several hurdles before construction can begin.
The developer must submit an environmental impact statement and draft
a plan to protect the habitats of several indigenous species,
including the threatened desert tortoise.
If those documents pass muster with the Fish and Wildlife Service,
the developer still must find water for the homes. The company has
proposed using underground water at the site, but faces competition
for the same water from the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
Environmentalists fear that using the water could deplete springs
in nearby areas, affecting rare birds, plants and animals in the
Derck said his company has an extensive plan to drill test wells
and monitor the impact the draw-off has on the local environment. The
testing could help answer a long-standing question for the area: How
much water is there.
State Engineer Hugh Ricci is evaluating the competing claims for
groundwater in the Coyote Springs area and could make a decision on
who gets the water, and how much they will get, next year.
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