Las Vegas Sun

January 20, 2018

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Mormon church asks Supreme Court to rule in water-rights case

CARSON CITY — The Mormon church, which has a large ranch in White Pine County, has asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal of a ruling giving the Las Vegas area millions of gallons of water annually from two rural counties.

The Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owns the beef-producing Cleveland Ranch and says the state’s ruling will dry up its water resources, according to court documents.

The Supreme Court has put on hold the filing of briefs from other parties until it decides the motion by the church.

State Engineer Jason King, after extensive hearings, allowed the Southern Nevada Water Authority the right to pump 84,000 acre feet of water from White Pine and Lincoln counties.

But Senior District Judge Robert Estes ruled the state order was defective. His ruling was appealed by the state to the Supreme Court.

The Mormon church said in its Supreme Court motion filed earlier this month that the King ruling would conflict with the existing water rights of the ranch.

The church says its 7,000-acre ranch in Spring Valley has an estimated 60,000 acres of grazing rights and is a major source of beef for the church’s welfare program.

The ranch runs about 1,750 head of cattle a year and has been in operation since at least the 1870s. The church, in its motion, says it has more than 40,000 acre feet of water rights. An acre foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons.

The decision by the state engineer “directly conflicts with the ranch’s vested water rights and will cause all of the ranch’s springs and sub-irrigated pastures to go dry,” the church in its motion.

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