Week in Political Cartoons ~ 2 W/E November 30th, 2019

Nevada Supreme Court holds hearing on Pahrump water order appeal | Pahrump Valley Times

A decision on water law and the extent of the Nevada State Engineer’s authority over domestic wells is one step closer to reality, with the Nevada Supreme Court recently holding a hearing to take oral arguments from both parties in the appeal lawsuit filed by the engineer’s office over water Order #1293(A).

A decision on water law and the extent of the Nevada State Engineer’s authority over domestic wells is one step closer to reality, with the Nevada Supreme Court recently holding a hearing to take oral arguments from both parties in the appeal lawsuit filed by the engineer’s office over water Order #1293(A).

The water order was issued in Dec. 2017 as a method of curbing the drilling of new domestic wells in Pahrump’s Basin #162. The order created a new requirement for property owners to purchase two-acre feet of water rights and relinquish them back to the state prior to drilling a new domestic well, unless water rights had already been relinquished or dedicated to the property for that purpose.

This prompted immediate resistance from local property owners, real estate agents and well-drilling companies. Together, those opposing the order formed Pahrump Fair Water LLC and filed a lawsuit with a Nevada district court to halt the order. That court decision late last year to overturn the water order, leading to the state engineer’s appeal of that decision.

The matter has been with the Nevada Supreme Court since early this year, with a stay on the lower court’s decision issued, keeping the order in effect until such time as the Supreme Court renders a decision. The case, #77722, has now been submitted for a final ruling.

Due to the significance of the subject at hand and the wide-ranging impact a decision on the case could have, the decision has been placed in the hands of the “en banc” court rather than a smaller panel. In typical cases, a panel of only three Nevada Supreme Court justices is used to make rulings but for the appeal on Order #1293(A) the entire court of all seven justices is being utilized.

Attorney David Rigdon of Taggart and Taggart, LTD, the law firm representing Pahrump Fair Water, explained that the hearing held on Nov. 5 focused primarily on two central arguments, whether the state engineer needed to provide notice and hold a hearing before issuing the order, and whether or not the state engineer had the authority to regulate domestic wells in this manner in the first place.

“Both sides had what we call in the business a ‘hot bench’ with judges regularly interrupting the presentation to ask questions,” Rigdon detailed when asked to provide a brief overview of what occurred at the hearing on Nov. 5. “Most of the questions about the notice were directed at the state engineer’s attorney, while most of the questions about legal authority were directed at us.”

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office, which is representing the state engineer’s office, declined to provide an overview of the Nov. 5 hearing.

However, Rigdon said he felt both sides had made good presentations but there was no way of telling which direction the justices would ultimately turn. He, Pahrump Fair Water and the state engineer’s office, as well as the many local property owners and other stakeholders involved, will simply have to wait to see how the Nevada Supreme Court rules.

For those who would like to listen to the oral arguments made during the Nevada Supreme Court hearing visit bit.ly/2QAokKH

Docket Number(s): 77722
Date: 11/05/2019 Time: 10:00 a.m. Location: Carson City
Before the En Banc Court
Appearances:
James N. Bolotin
Paul G. Taggart

Start Time Speaker Notes
10:03:42 AM Chief Justice Gibbons Voluntary Disclosure
10:05:11 AM Chief Justice Gibbons Case Called
10:05:44 AM James N. Bolotin As counsel for the Appellant
10:23:57 AM Paul G. Taggart As counsel for the Respondents
10:43:17 AM James N. Bolotin As counsel for the Appellant
10:48:49 AM Chief Justice Gibbons End Argument, Case Submitted

Source: Nevada Supreme Court holds hearing on Pahrump water order appeal | Pahrump Valley Times

Week in Political Cartoons ~ W/E November 10th, 2019

Editorial: Bill language should not allow water grab

by Thomas Mitchell

A growing number of public and private entities are joining a concerted effort to make sure a bill pending before Congress does not inadvertently create a means for Clark County to tap rural groundwater, though Clark County officials protest that is not the intent of the proposal.

According to Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) — a coalition of conservationists, rural officials, tribes and agricultural interests — there are fears that the wording in the proposed Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, whether intentional or not, could skirt a federal judge’s ruling blocking a proposed 300-mile right-of-way for a network of water pipelines.

The bulk of the bill, not yet introduced in Congress, proposes freeing up more than 40,000 acres of public land in Clark County for economic development, but two sections at the end of the 21-page bill call for the Interior Department to give the Southern Nevada Water Authority rights-of-way for an electric power line that “shall be subject only to the terms, conditions and stipulations identified in the existing rights-of-way, and shall not be subject to further administrative or judicial review. The right-of-way shall be granted in perpetuity and shall not require the payment of rental fees.” Opponents fear that a right-of-way for a power line could just as easily be used for pipelines.

Two years ago a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could grant the water agency right-of-way for its network of pipelines to take groundwater beneath White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties, but first it had to come up with plans to mitigate the potential loss of wildlife habitat due to a draw down of the water table, as is required by the CleanWater Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

That might prove to be impossible, since federal studies show the interconnected aquifers are already at equilibrium — meaning water that is now being drawn from the aquifers is being replaced gallon for gallon annually with no leeway for additional withdrawal. The water agency proposes to withdraw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year. The project is projected to cost more than $15 billion and could triple water rates in Clark County.

This past week more than a dozen entities joined in opposition to Congress approving the right-of-way proposal. These include several Nevada and Utah counties, three Indian tribes and a number of environmental groups.

Nevada State Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, discuss efforts by Clark County to tap rural groundwater. (Pix by Roger Moellendorf)

“What Clark County is proposing is a pro-pipeline bill,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the GBWN. “Elected officials, attorneys, and non-profit organizations that span Nevada, Utah and the region all agree: The SNWA wants the congressional delegation to carry its water by surreptitiously advancing a project that has consistently lost in federal and state courts. The Nevada delegation deserves better than sneaky end-runs masked as technicalities. For now, the name of the bill should be the Great Basin Water Grab Act of 2019.”

A resolution passed by the Duckwater Shosone Tribe warned, “Science has shown that the pipeline would ultimately destroy B

ashsahwahbee, killing off Swamp Cedars and drying up the Sacred Water Valley’s springs and aquifers that plant and wildlife currently depend upon.”

A spokesman for the water authority told the Las Vegas newspapers there is no intention to use the right-of-way for anything other than power lines. Though he thought the language was sufficiently clear, he said it has been modified recently. Another official offered that it might be further altered to allay concerns.

Clark County could use the economic development. Changing the language in the bill should satisfy the opposition.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Source: Editorial: Bill language should not allow water grab