Thursday, February 28, 2008

CityLife Continues Water Grab Scrutiny

By native Las Vegas, growth skeptic, smarty pants and one of my favorite writers, Andrew Kiraly. Like a good stew, the tasty bits (and I'm all deliciously caramelized) are at the bottom:

"These aquifers are all connected, and they're the source for surface water, including rivers that feed Lake Mead, and springs and seeps that are critical habitat for rare plants and animals," says Launce Rake of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, a foe of the rural pipeline plan. "We don't understand what's happening out there. Some scientists are getting a grasp, and the more we know, the more fragile those interconnected environments look."

Even scientists who worked on the study tend to concur.

"One of the big question marks is if you start to pump, are there going to be impacts around the Great Basin into lowering water levels?" says Dan Bright, assistant state director for the USGS's Nevada Water Science Center; he's also an editor on the BARCASS study. "If that's a concern, we need to do little bit more looking at groundwater flow from basin to another. You can't put a well in a basin and say we're just going to look at [the effects on] the basin. We have to look on a regional scale, not just a basin-to-basin scale. There's concern that if you pump from one basin, you may impact another basin. There's concern about how much to pump because the system has never been stressed before, and we don't know how the aquifers will react if you pump it."

As the scientific tools for finding water underground become sharper, it seems the knife can cut both ways.

"I would love to be convinced on the merits of the science that we can go in there and double or quadruple the size of Las Vegas on the back of rural water," says Rake. "If we could do that without threatening the environment and the rural economy, I'd be jumping on board. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch. The more we know, the worse it looks."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

They Wanted Him to OK A Pipeline...

Gubantor sez "no, no, no."
OK, Amy Winehouse references are officially banned on this website, forever and ever, amen. The real news buried behind my clever lead is that Silver State Gov. Jim Gibbons told a Rotary Club somewhere in the frozen tundra up north that the pipeline was a craptastic waste of time. Or something to that effect.
He has made such statements before, but this time, he's not running from them. Over at the Southern Nevada Water Authority's cleverly concealed secret bunker headquarters, officials are wondering whether the governor got the memo that said the future of rural Nevada is irrelevant to the grab and grow schemes of Las Vegas developers.
But go Gibbons! More of that and I'll start voting Republican! It does remind me, however, that one of the strongest voices for moderating the growth fever in Southern Nevada is also a Republican, Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury.
And sincere kudos to Las Vegas Sun intrepid reporter Phoebe Sweet, who actually seemed to read the Lohantan Valley newspaper that originally printed the gubernator's anti-pipeline comments - and understood the importance of the comments. She picked up the story and ran with it. This is one of the reasons why the Sun has become indispensable for its reporting and writing. Find the full story, and find quotes from yours truly, here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

RJ on Water Rate Issue

The RJ on Clark County Commission discussion, including quotes from yours truly,

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Water Rate Decision

The Clark County Commission today tackled the thorny issue of water rates and came back with an increase for Las Vegas users that wasn’t everything it could be, but kicked up the rates for the heaviest volume users by more than 32 percent. I served on the advisory committee and worked to increase the rates for high-volume users as much as possible to encourage conservation.
The down side is that the commission, acting as the board of the Las Vegas Valley Water District, also increased rates for minimal users – those who really can’t do much to cut back any more than they already have – by more than 10 percent. Increasing the rates for minimal users just reduced the pressure on high volume users as the water district worked to increase revenue by 23 percent overall.
I took the opportunity to praise the idea that conservation is a good idea, and noted more must be done, but I also scolded the commission for not dealing with the bottom line: Growth. I pointed out what conservationists throughout the Colorado River Basin States and water customers from all over the Las Vegas Valley know: Every drop we save in Las Vegas through conservation will go to new development.
And since we are using price as a mechanism to conserve, growth is directly impacting the pocketbooks of every residential and business customer of Las Vegas. We are subsidizing the growth machine, “feeding the beast.”
I encouraged the commission to start an open, honest discussion about growth. Commissioner Tom Collins argued that growth is paying for growth and the county’s “growth task force” several years back proved it and so there is endless room for more tract houses and non-union neighborhood casinos and growth is good so there.
Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani – who deserves a medal or something for standing up to the growth industry – pointed out that more could be done. She particularly spotlighted the golf course industry. (If her car blows up like Lefty’s in the movie Casino, look for golf tees scattered around the scene of the crime.)
Giunchiliani, who valiantly worked to eliminate service-fee increases for minimal users, was the only “no” vote on the final package.
Commission Chairman Rory Reid deserves a nod, however, for granting the conservation community what may be the most important win of the day: Simply keeping the conversation open. He joined Chris G. and Susan Brager in requesting that the water district staff come back with info on the effectiveness of the conservation pricing and for discussion of changes to pricing to commercial customers – including, significantly, multi-family housing.
PLAN joins other conservationists and the business community – an uncommon pairing – in concern about the impact the new rates will have on some institutional users. Right now, apartment complexes and similar multi-family units are charged at the highest (fourth tier) rate, even though on a per person basis, the residents of those communities are among the thriftiest water consumers in Las Vegas or, for that matter, in the country. So PLAN plans to submit suggestions in the near future for easing the impact on those folks as part of the ongoing discussion on water, growth and conservation issues.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Water Hearings

The Nevada State Engineer opened the floodgates today to public comment on the SNWA's reckless and environmentally catastrophic plan to defoliate rural Nevada. Comment came in from Caliente, Ely, Carson City and Las Vegas. Most of the comment was in opposition to the Water Grab. The usual gang of do-gooder conservationists, ranchers whose families have lived in rural Nevada for generations, American Indians who value the land, and others who for some reason don't understand why tract housing and neighborhood casinos down here are more important than the environment and livelihoods up yonder.

The exception was in Las Vegas, where the Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Associated General Contractors and numerous (non-union) developers joined trade unions in arguing that rural Nevada has to die so that Vegas can continue growing and wasting water. Anything else would jeopardize the profits down hereabouts and so, you know, screw the environment, Native Americans, agriculture, science and law.

It was actually pretty impressive, if lining up every profit-motivated interest in the service of dumping science and law counts as "impressive." But hey, you can't stop progress, right?

Go, George!

Once again, George Knapp has skewered the bad science and self-serving platitudes of the Southern Nevada Water Authority with a sharp column in CityLife. He deserves to be credited as a journalist who not only is reporting what needs to be reported, but is providing a road map for other Las Vegas media outlets - not to mention national bretheren - on covering what might be one of the most important environmental stories emerging in this country.

The water stuff is sandwiched between tasty bits about a political opportunist gone belly-up in Vegas and a note on the continued non-viability of the Las Vegas Monorail, or as I like to view it, the model for the SNWA's Water Grab.

Attaboy, George!