On Jan. 7, the Bureau of Land Management officially released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the Pine Valley Water Supply Project, a dangerous groundwater pumping and pipeline proposal that will harm a swath of groundwater basins, ecosystems and economies in Nevada and Utah.
The multi-tiered project will begin in Beaver County’s Pine Valley and then expand to Wah Wah Valley and Hamlin Valley for the benefit of the fast-growing community of Cedar City, a prolific water waster in the nation’s second driest state.
“This project will have a dangerous ripple effect in Nevada. Our analysis shows that groundwater flow between Pine Valley and basins in Nevada will be irreparably harmed, resulting in groundwater mining,” said Gary Perea, a member of the White Pine County Water Advisory Committee, former County Commissioner and a small business owner in Snake Valley. “The project will facilitate groundwater mining and, therefore, must be stopped.”
The heart of the project borders the Snake Valley groundwater basin, home to Great Basin National Park, agricultural operations, small businesses and other vital water sources for the region.
The project jeopardizes rural economies, wildlife and the underground flow systems that feed the Great Salt Lake. The project also imperils tribal sacred sites and more than a dozen interconnected groundwater basins in Nevada.
“This project will siphon away water from Spring Valley, home to the Swamp Cedars, and Snake Valley, which holds much significance to my people,” said Delaine Spilsbury, Great Basin Water Network Board Member and a Senior Tribal Representative with the Ely Shoshone Tribe. “If Cedar City wants to steal this water, there will be damning environmental, spiritual and cultural consequences that will harm native people.”
The release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement occurs as the West grapples with drought and aridification.
“This project will be a disaster for ratepayers and taxpayers in Iron County and will drain important valleys for Beaver County’s economy, wildlife and future,” said Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney. “The water CICWCD wants doesn’t exist now and it won’t exist in the future.”
The project proponent, the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District (CICWCD), has no meaningful incentives to conserve water such as ripping up useless turf or penalizing water waste. Water officials proclaim they need the project because the aquifer in Cedar City is being over-drafted – a claim that underscores an existing pattern of poor management that will only be exacerbated by this project.
“Our coalition of rural governments, tribes, conservation groups, agricultural interests and other businesses has a clear message to the Bureau of Land Management: Do not approve a right of way for a water wasting community,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network. “The project will only lead to more water waste in Cedar City, exorbitant water rates, and major impacts on important groundwater supplies in the Great Basin.”
Ultimately, ratepayers and taxpayers in Cedar City will pay hundreds of millions for a project that won’t deliver a reliable supply of water and will harm the Great Basin. CICWCD estimates water rates will increase by more than 700 percent for some customers in the coming years in order to build the project.
CICWCD erroneously received 26,000 acre feet of annual water rights (afa) appropriated by the Utah State Engineer. However, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the perennial yield between Pine and Wah Wah Valleys is 11,000-14,000 acre-feet annually (AFA). The USGS estimates that the project will cause significant hydrologic harm in groundwater basins along the Nevada-Utah border if groundwater pumping occurs at those rates.
Counties, cities and tribes are working with the Great Basin Water Network to stop the project. White Pine County, Nevada, along with Beaver County, Millard County and Juab County in Utah are all committed to stopping this project.