Delamar, Dry Lake, and Cave Valleys (DDC) Water Rights
In 1989 the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) submitted water rights applications in five hydrographic basins (Spring, Snake, Delamar, Dry Lake, and Cave valleys) as part of a proposed project to develop a water conveyance system through Clark, Lincoln, and White Pine counties. The purpose of the project is to convey up to 155,000 acre-feet per year (afy) of groundwater from Lincoln and White Pine counties to help meet Southern Nevada’s water needs. Of this amount, up to 122,000 afy would be developed by SNWA and the remaining capacity would be reserved for Lincoln County. Population growth, drought, Southern Nevada’s reliance on the Colorado River, concerns about the effects of climate change, and other circumstances are among the reasons that SNWA is seeking to diversify its water resources portfolio to meet water supply obligations. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently being prepared for this right-of-way.
The Nevada State Engineer (NSE) held a hearing on SNWA’s DDC water applications in February 2008. There were a total of 6 applications totaling approximately 34,750 afy: 2 applications in Cave Valley for approximately 11,584 afy; 2 applications in Dry Lake Valley for approximately 11,584 afy; and 2 applications in Delamar Valley for approximately 11,584 afy. There were several protestants, including some DOI agencies (BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs). DOI and SNWA negotiated the DDC Stipulated Agreement, and DOI subsequently withdrew its protest. The main goal of the Agreement is to manage groundwater development by SNWA without causing injury to federal water rights and/or unreasonable adverse effects to the federal resources and special status species within the Area of Interest, which includes Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave, and Pahranagat valleys, as well as southern White River Valley south of Hardy Spring. The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, is included in this area. Within the Agreement, special status species are defined in the agreement as groundwater-dependent species that are proposed for listed, listed, endangered, threatened, candidate, state listed, BLM sensitive, and TNC G1/G2. For more information on these categories, visit Nevada's Natural Heritage website (http://heritage.nv.gov/spelists.htm) or the NatureServe website (http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/ranking.htm).
The framework for developing hydrologic and biological monitoring, management, and mitigation plans were appended to the Agreement. Technical committees were formed and included subject experts from state agencies in Nevada. The technical committees are currently drafting the detailed initial monitoring plans.
DDC NSE Ruling
On July 9, 2008 the NSE issued a ruling on SNWA’s DDC Applications (NSE Ruling 5875) in which SNWA was granted a total combined duty of 18,755 afy (4,678 afy from Cave Valley; 11,584 afy from Dry Lake Valley; 2,493 afy from Delamar Valley). SNWA must conduct a minimum of 2 years of baseline data collection before exporting any groundwater from the DDC valleys. The ruling also addresses the issues brought by the protestants, and describes additional monitoring and mitigation required by the NSE.
On October 15, 2009, the Seventh Judicial District Court of Nevada issued an Order vacating and remanding the NSE's DDC ruling. On November 19, 2009, the SNWA Board of Directors decided to appeal this decision to the Nevada Supreme Court.
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