For Immediate Release, November 25, 2008
Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity, (702) 249-5821
Susan Lynn, Great Basin Water Network, (775) 786-9955
Steve Erickson, Great Basin Water Network, (801) 554-9029
Conservation Groups Seek Transparency,
Openness for Snake Valley Water Hearings
LAS VEGAS— The Center for Biological Diversity, the Great Basin Water Network, Southern Nevada Sierra Club, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, and 19 other conservation groups from Nevada and Utah sent a letter Monday to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne asking that federal agencies in the Department be allowed to openly and fully participate in upcoming water hearings for a groundwater application filed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, or SNWA, in the Snake Valley of Nevada and Utah.
Previously, under the watchful presence of the Department, the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service all signed Stipulated Agreements with SNWA that included dropping their protests of water applications in Nevada’s Cave, Delamar and Dry Lakes valleys.
“Federal agencies put politics before science when they abandoned their protests and signed the agreements,” said Rob Mrowka, Nevada conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. “They abrogated their rights and responsibilities under federal laws to protect both the environmental values within their jurisdictions and the interests of the affected tribes.”
The water hearings before the State Engineer are scheduled for September and October 2009. The conservation watchdog groups fear that the Secretary will order the agencies to stipulate their participation out of the Snake Valley hearings as a last-minute legacy of the Bush Administration.
The groundwater withdrawals amount to the mining of a scarce and non-renewable resource in the face of climate change and a hotter, drier Nevada. The consequences will likely drive ranchers from their lands, change favored hunting and fishing grounds forever, dry up seeps and springs, imperil the resources of Great Basin National Park and Fish Springs Wildlife Refuge, and push dozens of water-dependent imperiled species such as the Snake Valley Least Chub toward extinction.