Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Gov. Jim Gibbons is again saying he opposes Southern Nevada’s plan to get water from rural Nevada.
On Tuesday, Gibbons told the Fallon Rotary Club that the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which has proposed a multibillion-dollar pipeline to eastern Nevada to supply Las Vegas with a backup source of drinking water, should instead build a desalination plant in California and trade that plant’s water for some of California’s allocation of the Colorado River, according to the Lahontan Valley News.
During his nearly 45-minute speech Tuesday, which focused mostly on the state budget crisis, Gibbons pitched the desalination proposal as “a better plan than what Clark County has,” according to reporter Christy Lattin.
On Wednesday Melissa Subbotin, a spokeswoman for the governor, confirmed that Gibbons “wants to bring water to Southern Nevada without taking it straight from Northern Nevada.”
Subbotin said the governor has made no formal proposal of an alternative to the pipeline, but thinks Southern Nevada could meet its water needs “utilizing water from the Colorado River and a desalination plant.”
She would not speculate on whether the governor would formally propose an alternative to the pipeline.
A spokesman for the Water Authority said the agency would have to review the governor’s comments, and possibly seek clarification from his office, before responding to the speech.
The state engineer’s office, which is considering the Water Authority’s application for water rights in rural Nevada, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Conservationists noted this is not the first time the governor has questioned pursuing the 250-mile pipeline, which environmentalists and ranchers say would destroy the ecology and rural way of life of eastern Nevada.
“The governor has expressed his concern about the wisdom of this reckless and environmentally irresponsible plan before,” said Launce Rake, spokesman for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, which opposes the pipeline. “Conservationists, ranchers, anyone concerned with rural Nevada will be happy to hear that the governor is once again expressing his doubts about the wisdom of the Water Authority scheme.”
Last February, during a closed-door meeting with environmentalists, Gibbons questioned the need for the pipeline. Scot Rutledge, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League, told the Sun Gibbons prefaced his statement with: “The Southern Nevada Water Authority is not going to like what I’m about to say.”
A week later, an aide for the governor said Gibbons’ comments were only theoretical and had been misinterpreted. Steve Robinson, who was deputy chief of staff and natural resources adviser to the governor at the time, said: “He knows the reality is that the pipeline is the way Southern Nevada is going to have to go to get water.”