The Ely Times

Southern Nevada Water Authorities pipeline efforts fail once again when Nevada’s Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Robert Estes denied an appeal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Monday, March 9.  

Estes upheld a 2018 ruling from the former state engineer that blocked the water authority’s plans to pump billions of gallons of groundwater a year from four rural valleys in White Pine and other counties through a  300-mile pipeline. 

The resultant declines in the water table would decimate hundreds of springs, thousands of acres of wetlands, and impact Great Basin National Park and numerous National Wildlife Refuges.

Estes went one step further by overturning older rulings from the state engineer that previously granted the water authority the right to pump water out of Spring, Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar Valleys. 

Residents of Eastern Nevada and lovers of the Great Basin have been fighting the pipeline proposal for more than 30 years. The Great Basin Water Network has partnered with White Pine County to fight the project in court, represented by public interest water attorney Simeon Herskovits with Advocates for Community and Environment.

“Judge Estes saw clearly through the various subterfuges and false reasoning advanced by both SNWA and the State Engineer, and he systematically ruled against them on every significant point in contention,” said Herskovits. “In our view, the rigor and care in Judge Estes’s ruling makes it highly unlikely that any part of this ruling would be subject to reversal on appeal.  Under any reasonable reading, this powerful ruling should sound the death knell for this fatally misguided and potentially devastating groundwater export proposal.” 

Gary Perea a former White County Commissioner who was a integral part of the battle with SNWA said, “Judge Estes’ decision is a tremendous victory for White Pine County, Great Basin Water Network, and all who have opposed the SNWA project. Judge Estes confirms what we have been saying for 30 years, there is little or no water available in these valleys for this project. This should be the end of the road for the project, but if SNWA chooses to fight on to the Supreme Court, I am confident that we will win again.  

The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s pipeline proposal has lost repeatedly in both state and federal courts. 

In 2013, Judge Estes remanded the water rights applications back to the Nevada Division of Water Resources, finding many conflicts under the law. Following through on the remand, in 2018, the Division denied the water rights applications. Southern Nevada Water Authority then appealed the remand, resulting in today’s order from Judge Estes.

Additionally, in 2017 a federal district court judge remanded portions of the federal Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline’s right of way back to BLM, finding it insufficient in its proposed mitigation measures and suggesting that some impacts may not be mitigated.

“SNWA has no right-of-way for the pipeline, and no rights to water with which to fill the pipeline,” said Kyle Roerink, GBWN executive director. “This project is dead in the water. It’s time for SNWA to finally move on.”