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Know the West

Latest: A setback for a Las Vegas pipeline

Judge tells BLM to redo plans for compensating for wildlife habitat that would be lost to massive groundwater project.


Nevada has the smallest share of the Colorado River — just 300,000 acre-feet. As Las Vegas boomed in the 1990s, the Southern Nevada Water Authority proposed piping groundwater from eastern Nevada, home to several national wildlife refuges and a national park. The project, which would siphon up to 84,000 acre-feet annually, has spent more than a decade in court. Its projected cost has soared from $1.5 billion to at least $15.5 billion (“The water czar who reshaped Colorado River politics,” HCN, 3/2/15).

In late August, a federal court ruled on a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, tribes and local governments over the BLM’s granting of a right of way for the 250-plus-mile pipeline. The judge said the agency had fulfilled its duties “for the most part,” but needed to provide better plans for mitigating wildlife habitat lost to pipeline construction. A separate lawsuit challenges the amount of groundwater involved; the state engineer will take public comment until Oct. 20.