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Two federal lawsuits target SNWA’s plans to pipe water from Northern Nevada

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 | 11:20 a.m.

Two federal lawsuits filed today in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas seek to stop plans by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump millions of gallons of water each year from rural Nevada to Las Vegas.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity, along with the Great Basin Water Network, Indian tribes, the Sierra Club and White Pine County filed suits listing many of the same issues with the proposed $6.5 billion, 10-year project to ship groundwater from Lincoln and White Pine counties to take care of a growing population in Southern Nevada.

The diversity center, in its 32-page suit, says the pipeline project would “result in severe and irreversible impact to natural resources, wildlife, fish and the imperiled sage grouse.”

Defendants are the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Interior, which authorized the 263-mile pipeline to be built on federal lands in Nevada.

Nevada Senior Judge Robert Estes ruled in December the decision of state engineer Jason King was flawed in permitting the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pipe 83,988 acre-feet of water a year from valleys in White and Lincoln counties. The state is appealing the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.

An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.

Rob Mrowka, senior scientist for the Tucson, Ariz.-based diversity center, said approval of the project would dry up or adversely affect more than 5,000 acres of meadows, more than 200 springs, 33 miles of trout streams and 136,000 of sagebrush habitat for sage grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn as water tables plunge by 200 feet.

Both lawsuits say the decision by the BLM violates the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

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