Henry “Hank” Vogler speaks during public comment at a joint White Pine County Commission meeting with The Ely City Council to discuss and upcoming hearing Nov. 12 in Ely
KayLynn Roberts-McMurray

A special White Pine County Commission and Ely City Council meeting was held last Wednesday to discuss White Pine County’s continuous efforts to protect the water as well as the land.  

The battle began in 1989 and has continued on for decades, making this year the 30 year mark of this water war with Southern Nevada Water Authority.  

The war? 

SNWA’s plans for a pipeline that would travel from White Pine County to Clark County as an additional water resource for Las Vegas if approved.  

Several local residents stood up and spoke out about the proposed pipeline. Many were ranchers and farmers,who have relied on their land as an economic opportunity. 

Henry “Hank” Vogler was first up during public comment. He said,  “I live in north Spring Valley. Every morning I get up and I see where Southern Nevada Water Authority starts.  They are the worst neighbors on this earth, very arrogant, bully culprits.  

“They go to the BLM meetings with their entire coterie of lawyers, and the BLM is scared of them, and let them do anything they want. I do know this, our aquifers are going down, and if they want to spend 15 billion on a pipeline, they ought to spend that much money to open up and put more water into the recharge so we can remain whole.  

“I think it’s the biggest boondoggle, it’s the biggest holocaust bar none.  And I hope I get to live to see my words come true. It’s only taken me 50 years to put a little success together and I would like to continue in White Pine County, I’ve been here for 35 years, and this is my home, and what time I’ve got left on this earth I’d like to be able to enjoy it.”  

Delaine Spilsbury,  a Great Basin Water Network board member, said, “I want to congratulate the community on this gathering tonight, we got all these people together, it’s the first time I’ve seen cooperation like this and I was born her 82 years ago.”

Rick Spilsbury said, “I’ve been watching this for a while now, desalination  is a better idea.”

Several other residents spoke during public comment, all with similar comments, “don’t let them take our water.” 

Kyle Roernik, executive director for the Great Basin Water Network,  thanked everyone for attending.  

“There has been undeniable opposition in this fight, from officials here and I think we are all here, to say keep up the work on that,” he said. “ The one thing we have seen is that we may not agree on everything, but one thing we can agree on is that the water grab is bad news for the future, and the lands and the resources of White Pine County. “

Roernik went on the explain how he was 2 years old when the Las Vegas Valley water district filed for the applications.  

“They came in here and probably thought they were going to steam roll White Pine County,” he said. “But they haven’t done it and that’s why we are going to be in court Nov. 12. and 13.”

Roernik stressed the need for everyone to remain united around this issue, noting that White Pine should never be a water colony of Las Vegas.  He thanked everyone again for all of the support and effort that the people of White Pine have made in this 30 year battle.

President of the Great Basin Water Network Abby Johnson thanked all of the elected officials and the public for attending the meeting.   

“I have been the president since 2011,” she said. “I am thrilled to be in the position of being able to pass the baton to the next generation. The most important thing that has happened? Thirty years, and no pipeline.”

Johnson explained how her son was a year old when this started, and there still is no pipeline, exclaiming that’s a big deal, and the thanks go to everyone in White Pine. The White Pine commission, present and past, and other elected officials, have pulled together, through thick and thin. 

“We are upping our game, because we have Kyle on board and he is doing so much for all of us.” Johnson said. 

Simeon Herskovits. counsel for the Great Basin Water Network, explained the victories in the court, and the upcoming one in November. Johnson described Herskovits’ efforts, noting he has been with the network since the start, how he has worked hard to win every fight, while thinking about every strategy to make the legal magic happen. 

Herskovits said, “Where we are in the legal fight? What some of you may not know, is that we have won repeatedly in the courts, despite that we have had to continually go back before the state engineer and re-litigate if you will because SNWA applications for this big pipeline project.

“This last time, which was the fourth time we were in front of the state engineer. We received a ruling from the State Engineer, denying the SNWA’s  application of Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys. It’s a great outcome, the courts have described as this is the standard of why, this is the law, and SNWA cannot produce the evidence to demonstrate that the water is actually available and that they can develop it without conflicting with higher appropriators.

“The State Engineer was unsatisfied, with having to deny the applications. We feel it’s a reflection of political pressure, and SNWA’s political allies. Engineer denied it but included in this ruling a argument as to why maybe the courts should be interpreting the law differently and changing the law so he could approve these applications.” 

The hearing on Nov. 12-13 will have six teams of lawyers. The county commission has done an exemplary job in resisting the temptations of the SNWA.  

“The State Engineers will have their lawyers, SNWA will have their counsel, and the native American tribes will have counsel working with us. I hope people who are interested will come to the hearing.  To be able to witness the process.” 

The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12 at the White Pine County Courthouse, located at 801 Clark St, in Ely, at 9 a.m. in the District Courtroom.  

Vindicating how strong the Great Basin Water Network and White Pine County’s position has been, Herskovits notes he feels they are in a good position, being in line with the law, he is hoping they get a good outcome this time.  

“This would be a huge victory for all us, you folks, and your allies,” he said. “I’m here to let you know we have not let up. I want you to take some part for the 15 years we have been defeating them over and over, and lets see if we can’t do it one more time.”