Last year, the Western Land Exchange Project discovered that two NLRC employees were working inside the Carson City BLM office to expedite land trades between their company and the feds, including the trade of public land to NLRC for the Toquop power plant project. Identified to the public as “volunteers” but actually paid by NLRC, these gentlemen had full access to BLM land files and even penned feasibility (go/no-go) studies BLM must do for every major land trade.
Why was Toquop such a high priority? Apparently not because of the land BLM would acquire in the trade, which the Nevada Division of Wildlife concluded had little habitat value. The impetus was Toquop/NLRC’s need to establish a market (i.e., beneficial use) for Vidler/NLRC’s water. It is no wonder that BLM didn’t want to analyze an air-cooled alternative to the proposed water-cooled power plant, nor that BLM remains adamant about the need for the project despite the cancellation of other power projects throughout Nevada.
The commodification of water has the all-too-familiar feel of the grabs and giveaways that put public lands into the hands of extractors and developers. Companies like Vidler/NLRC are creating a kind of hybrid land and water deal that first seizes public land, then sucks it dry. If the BLM and other federal agencies aid and abet these water grabs as they have the land grabs, we’ll be in real trouble.
Janine Blaeloch and Chris Krupp