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K-LAS- TV, February 12, 2014

Federal Lawsuit Filed to Stop Rural Water Pipeline
By Caroline Bleakley

8 News NOW 

LAS VEGAS -- Environmentalists and Native American tribes filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday that could affect the future of Nevada's water supply.

The fight is over Southern Nevada Water Authority's controversial pipeline plan to pump water from rural areas and send it to Las Vegas.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, by the Center for Biological Diversity, against the BLM aims to strip the right of way SNWA needs to build the 265-mile pipeline.

Water engineers see the eastern Nevada valleys, 260 miles away from Las Vegas, and see the city's last hope from a thirsty future. Ranchers and environmentalists believe the valleys should be left untouched.

All of them are fighting over a proposed pipeline to drain those valleys of their water supply. Rob Mrowka and the Center for Biological Diversity hope the BLM will abandon it's support for the pipeline.

"The rural communities would lose groundwater they depend on for their local economies as well as maintaining their rural lifestyles. People in Las Vegas would be saddled with a $15.5 billion mortgage to pay for a pipeline that is going to pump groundwater that will run out," he said.

Environmental and land owner groups scored a victory in December when a rural Nevada judge declared the state engineer's water report incomplete and "arbitrary."

"I think we do have momentum. It's been a long journey and the groups that are opposed to the pipeline are persistent and refuse to be marginalized by the arrogance of the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the federal agencies," Mrowka said.

The SNWA responded with a written statement. 

"We will review (the) complaint over the next few weeks to determine our course of action."

They add that they're prepared for lawsuits from pipeline opposition groups. The BLM declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Environmentalists believe in alternatives to the water pipeline such as conservation, controlling growth, re-write Colorado River law to give Nevada more water or develop a plan to get water from the Pacific Ocean.

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This article originally appeared here.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton