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ACTION TIMELINE

1989 – The Las Vegas Valley Water Department (now the Southern Nevada Water Authority) filed 146 water-rights applications for ancient groundwater in eastern and central Nevada.

August 2004 – The Water Authority applied for a right-of-way to build a pipeline to pump more than 150,000 acre-feet of groundwater to Las Vegas.

April 8, 2005 – The Bureau of Land Management published the first of two notices in the Federal Register of its intention to begin the environmental compliance and approval process for the Water Authority’s pipeline.

December 2005 – The Great Basin Water Network — a coalition of environmentalists, ranchers, farmers, scientists and rural communities opposed to the pipeline project — was incorporated.

August 2006 – The Center and other opponents of the Water Authority’s groundwater development filed a petition for judicial review in Nevada district court to force the state engineer to consider updated protests to the Authority’s water-rights applications.

May 2007 – The district court denied our petition for judicial review.

June 2007 – The Network appealed the district court decision in the Nevada Supreme Court.

February 25, 2008 – The Center hired a conservation advocate for Nevada and became an active member group in the Network.

January 28 and June 17, 2010 – The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the state engineer had violated citizen due process in not considering updated protests to the Water Authority’s water-rights applications. The court ordered hearings on the water-rights applications re-opened.

February 2010 – The Authority re-filed its 1989 and other water-rights applications.

April 22, 2010 – The Center filed 130 protests of the re-filed water-rights applications.

June 17, 2010 – Nevada District Court remanded its decision on the Authority’s water rights back to the state engineer, rendering the previously issued water rights invalid and compelling the state engineer to restart the water-rights granting process.

August 22, 2010 – The Network went back to Nevada district court to clarify the scope of the remand to the state engineer as well as the status of previously filed protests.

March 24, 2011 – The Center and allies filed protests of water-rights applications filed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority in Cave, Dry, Delamar and Spring valleys

June 10, 2011 – The Bureau of Land Management released a 4,000-page draft environmental impact statement analyzing the environmental impacts from the groundwater pipeline requested by the Southern Nevada Water Authority — specifically, the groundwater development and needed pipeline that would send 57 billion gallons a year of nonrenewable groundwater to the Las Vegas Valley to support unsustainable growth. The Center’s Nevada advocate appeared on three television news commentary shows, two radio broadcasts and several newspaper articles calling attention to the severe impacts that would result from the Water Authority’s project.

October 4, 2011 – The Center submitted detailed and extensive comments on the BLM’s draft environmental impact statement on the groundwater pipeline. Our comments documented the dire and severe impacts on aquatic and riparian species such as springnails, desert fish and amphibians, sage grouse and many other species, as well as on the environment as a whole, including human health and welfare.

September-November 2011 – The Nevada state engineer held exhaustive hearings on the question of whether or not to approve water-rights applications in Cave, Dry, Delamar and Spring valleys. The Center was represented at the hearings by the attorney for the Great Basin Water Network, who aggressively questioned experts and materials supplied by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, as well as presenting our own experts and research showing why approval of the applications would be gravely detrimental to the Great Basin ecosystem, particularly imperiled species living there.

November 30, 2011 – The Center submitted detailed comments to the state engineer specifically addressing our concerns about the granting of water rights requested by the Water Authority and the catastrophic impacts this would have on the environment. The Center’s Nevada advocate appeared before the Water Authority’s board of directors and presented 21,063 comments submitted by the Center’s online advocates opposing the water-rights applications and requesting that the applications be withdrawn — to no avail. The comments were also submitted to the Nevada state engineer, expected to issue a ruling on the applications in spring 2012.

March 22, 2012 – The state engineer issued a ruling partially granting water rights to the Water Authority in four central Nevada groundwater basins. While the authority had originally requested 125,000 acre feet per year, the state engineer granted 60,861 acre feet (19.8 billion gallons per year), with another 23,000 acre feet per year contingent on trial pumping showing no negative impacts on the environment. The Center and others in the Great Basin Water Network believe that even these amounts are excessive and will cause dire harm to native species and ecosystems. An appeal and litigation of the state engineer’s decision are highly likely.

April 24, 2012 – The Center and allies in the Great Basin Water Network appealed the recent decision by the Nevada state engineer to allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump and pipe away up to 27 billion gallons of water annually from four rural valleys to feed urban development in Las Vegas.

April 26, 2012 – The Center filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to make a decision on a petition to protect 35 springsnail species threatened by groundwater development in Nevada.

December 27, 2012 –  The Bureau of Land Management approved a pipeline right-of-way for the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s “groundwater development project,” setting in motion a project that will severely imperil dozens of species and likely send many to extinction.

December 11, 2013  In a historic decision regarding groundwater in the West, Senior Judge Robert Estes of the Seventh Judicial District Court of Nevada rejected the Nevada state engineer’s 2011 allocation of approximately 84,000 acre-feet of ancient groundwater per year to the Southern Nevada Water Authority for export to Las Vegas. The decision was a huge blow to the Water Authority’s plan to suck massive amounts of water out of the Nevada-Utah desert to feed urban sprawl in and around Las Vegas.

Photo by Rob Mrowka