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For Immediate Release, April 13, 2009
Contact: Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-582,  rmrowka@biologicaldiversity.org

Water-rights Application for Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository Protested to Protect Habitat for Imperiled Amargosa Toad

LAS VEGAS, Nev.— Today the Center for Biological Diversity submitted to the Nevada State Engineer 11 protests of water-right applications filed by the Department of Energy for groundwater in the Oasis Valley Basin northeast of the town of Beatty, Nevada. The purpose of the protests is to protect spring and stream flow required for the survival of the Amargosa toad, a rare desert amphibian and a species the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility petitioned the Interior Department to list under the Endangered Species Act on February 26, 2008.

The water-right applications, filed by the Department of Energy in January 2009, are in support of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and associated proposed rail line. Each of the 11 applications sought 345 acre feet of water per year from a groundwater basin that is already at an annual deficit, according to a report by the U.S. Geological Service.

“While there is widespread opposition to the construction and operation of Yucca Mountain, there is not yet certainty that it will not move forward,” said Rob Mrowka, an ecologist and conservation advocate with the Center. “It is also possible that resulting water rights could end up in the hands of a third party, so opposition at all stages of permitting will be important for this vanishing species.”

The entire known geographic range of the Amargosa toad is restricted to wet areas, springs, and adjacent desert uplands in a 10-mile stretch of the Amargosa River and interconnected spring systems in the Oasis Valley in Nevada. Fewer than 20 breeding populations have been found near the Amargosa River and surrounding springs in the Bullfrog Hills in the Oasis Valley in Nye County, Nevada. The remaining habitat contains about 8,440 acres of riparian and adjacent upland habitat, which faces imminent decline due to numerous impacts.

Threats to the Amargosa toad include water diversions, ongoing destruction and modification of the animal’s remaining habitat by urban, residential, and recreational development, the introduction of nonnative predators, ground disturbance and vegetation removal from grading, grazing, and off-road use, and accelerated drying caused by global climate change.

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