Sen. Heller remains firmly astraddle the fence on water pipeline issue

On Friday the Ely Times editorially called on statewide leaders to get off the fence and take a stand on the issue of what is being called in rural Nevada “the water grab.”

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is in the process of attempting to obtain permission from both the Bureau of Land Management and the state engineer to construct a network of groundwater wells and pipelines to convey water from Spring Valley in White Pine County and Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys in Lincoln County.

Sen. Dean Heller

I would venture to speculate a majority of the population in those counties oppose the project because they fear it will draw down the water table and damage grazing land, alfalfa farmers and hunting and fishing — inalterably changing their lifestyle for the worse.

The reason the Las Vegas Valley water agency is seeking the groundwater is that the state was only allowed 300,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado River back in the 1920s when Hoover Dam was being built to create Lake Mead. Other states get millions of acre feet of water from the pond in Las Vegas’ backyard.

The Times editorial argued, “Sparsely populated rural Nevada needs help from Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller and Sen. Harry Reid. We need them to stop weighing the political consequences of who has the most votes and start providing leadership regarding this proposal.”

The editorial implored, “This is a moment in time in which you can transcend politics of the moment and secure your position as true Nevada leaders.”

Since Sen. Heller was the final speaker at the Western Republican Leadership Conference at the Venetian on Friday, I pulled him aside and asked whether he would heed the admonition.

“Actually there isn’t a role. That’s why we haven’t gotten involved on the issue. This is an issue that’s going to be decided and determined by the state,” Heller said. “In fact I think if you got the federal government involved. You’re going to screw this thing up more than it is already. I don’t want the federal government involved.

“That’s why I’ve said this is a state issue. The state engineer is going to decide and determine the water rights going up and down, and to get the federal government involved is not a plus. It’s negative.”

Even when I noted — after three days of hearing Republican elected officials from across the West talk about free markets — that the Colorado River Compact, an interstate agreement, creates the absurd consequence that farmers in Arizona and California are often paying well less than $20 an acre foot for water, while the groundwater infrastructure will make the cost of that water more than $2,000 an acre foot, the senator remained firmly astraddle the fence.

In a free market, the water would flow to where the money is.

2 comments on “Sen. Heller remains firmly astraddle the fence on water pipeline issue

  1. […] no one is willing to treat water like a commodity so it can be bought and sold on the open market by its rightful […]

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