Officials worried about Snake Valley deal
U.S. Water News Online
SALT LAKE CITY — Local officials are worried about a pending deal between Utah and Nevada to pipe water from Snake Valley to Las Vegas.
The deal would split the shared Snake Valley aquifer, eventually allowing water to be piped south to Las Vegas. Environmentalists are concerned that the project could dry up the valley around Great Basin National Park and send dust storms toward Utah's Wasatch Front.
The Utah Department of Natural Resources says a draft agreement on the plan is likely by August or September, but officials from counties in both state are already wary of the deal.
“By the time they realize what the impacts are, it'll be too late,” Millard County Commissioner Daron Smith said.
Mike Styler, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, said the plan protects existing water users, air quality, and fish and wildlife.
Nevada officials aren't scheduled to hear the Southern Nevada Water Authority's case for the pipeline until 2011, so opponents want Utah to hold off on an agreement.
Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said scientists still need to resolve how the pumping would affect the aquifer, desert vegetation and the potential for dust pollution if the region becomes even drier.
“It might hurt our air quality and our pocketbook,” Corroon said.
Officials on the Nevada side of the border are also concerned.
Gary Perea, a White Pine County, Nev., commissioner, wants the states to hold off for at least another year and wait for the groundwater studies.
Utah Association of Counties attorney Mark Ward, who represents Juab, Millard and Salt Lake counties in the issue, said county officials fear the agreement will protect water currently used by Utah residents and allow the remainder to be pumped to Nevada.
“The counties have pressed this repeatedly with the state, that they should slow way down on the negotiations,” Ward said.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority argues the fear is overblown. Spokesman J.C. Davis said the sooner the details can be worked out, the better the agreement will be for everybody involved.
Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who is set to take over when Gov. Jon Huntsman resigns his post once he is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China, plans to discuss the plan with the public once he is more familiar with it.
“We want to make sure we understand this issue well,” said Jason Perry, Herbert's transition director. “It's going to require a lot of public participation.”