U.S. Water News Online
RENO, Nev. -- President Bush has signed into law a measure
creating what conservationists say will be the largest piece of
federally protected wilderness in Nevada -- an area about half the
size of the state of Delaware.
The measure is seen as a compromise between environmentalists and
developers who want to tap more water for the Las Vegas area. It
creates 14 wilderness areas measuring a total of about 1,200 square
miles, but also establishes a utility corridor that would allow
authorities to build a pipeline to tap into groundwater in the
Officials want to eventually draw as much as 200,000 acre-feet of
water per year -- enough for more than half a million households.
"It is a good compromise that ensures that our public lands will
be used for the public good," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Nevada's
entire congressional delegation supported the measure.
J.C. Davis, spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority,
said the new law is critical to the proposed pipeline but that
construction is still a long way off.
Officials will now begin analyzing the potential environmental
impacts of the groundwater withdrawal. The state water engineer also
must rule on applications for groundwater and make sure it would not
harm existing water rights, Davis said.
Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's
Wilderness, said the new wilderness areas include habitats for the
desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, golden eagles, goshawks elk and deer.
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