U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
 
Spring Valley
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Spring Valley Water Rights 

Background

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.

Hearing/Protests

The Nevada State Engineer (NSE) held a hearing on SNWA’s Spring Valley water applications in September 2006. There were a total of 19 applications, totaling 91,224 afy. There were 163 protestants, and the NSE identified 44 issues. Several DOI agencies (BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs) were among the protestants. DOI and SNWA negotiated the Spring Valley Stipulated Agreement, and DOI subsequently withdrew its protest. The goals of the Agreement are to (1) manage the development of groundwater by SNWA without causing injury to federal water rights and/or unreasonable adverse effects to federal resources, including water-dependent ecosystems, (2) accurately characterize groundwater movement between Spring and Snake valleys, (3) avoid any effect on federal resources within the Great Basin National Park, including water-dependent ecosystems, and scenic values of and visibility from the park, and (4) avoid unreasonable adverse effects on water-dependent ecosystems and maintain biological integrity and ecological health. The agreement identifies a process for consultation by Parties (DOI and SNWA) to address concerns about adverse effects based upon monitoring results or predictions from groundwater modeling, and to determine mitigation actions that SNWA would take. The framework for developing hydrologic and biological monitoring, management, and mitigation plans were appended to the Agreement to meet the goals described above. Technical committees were formed and included subject experts from state agencies in Nevada and Utah. 

Stipulated Agreement Monitoring Plans

Initial detailed hydrologic and biological monitoring plans were completed in February 2009 and are available to the public at the following websites: http//www.fws.gov/nevada and http://www.snwa.com/

Hydrologic Monitoring Plan

The hydrologic monitoring plan calls for monitoring of several wells: (1) quarterly monitoring of 10 existing wells and continuous monitoring of 15 existing wells in Spring Valley and Hamlin Valley hydrographic areas, (2) six new wells in the Interbasin Monitoring Zone (a zone identified to characterize the hydraulic gradient between Spring, Hamlin, and Snake valleys), in addition to four existing wells in the Zone that will continue to be monitored, (3) two new wells between the Zone and future SNWA production wells, and (4) two new wells in the vicinity of Shoshone Ponds. Hydrologic monitoring will also occur at 13 spring locations:

 
4WD SpringBlind SpringKeegan SpringLayton Spring
Minerva SpringRock SpringSouth Millick SpringStonehouse Spring
Swallow SpringThe SeepWest Spring Valley Complex 1Willow Spring
Unnamed 5 Spring   

The plan also calls for monitoring at Big Springs, pending approval of private property access. Details of these monitoring activities, as well as descriptions of additional monitoring, are provided in detail in the hydrologic monitoring plan.

Biological Monitoring Plan

The biological monitoring plan calls for monitoring at 25 sites within the Initial Biological Monitoring Area (an area encompassing Spring Valley, as well as portions of Hamlin and Snake valleys):

Stonehouse Springs ComplexWillow SpringUnnamed 5 Spring4WD Spring
Keegan Ranch Springs ComplexSouth Millick SpringWillard SpringSwallow Spring
West Spring Valley ComplexMinerva Spring ComplexClay Spring-NorthUnnamed 1 Spring
North Little SpringShoshone PondsBig Spring ComplexThe Seep
Blind wetland/meadowBurbank wetland/meadow  
2 swamp cedar woodland locations in Spring Valley3 phreatophytic shrubland locations in Spring Valley1 phreatophytic shrubland location in Hamlin Valley1 phreatophytic shrubland location in Snake Valley

Details of what will be monitored at each site, as well as monitoring protocols and data management, are provided in the biological monitoring plan.

Spring Valley NSE Ruling

On April 16, 2007 the NSE issued a ruling on SNWA’s Spring Valley Applications (NSE Ruling 5726) in which SNWA was granted a total combined duty of 60,000 afy. SNWA must conduct a minimum of 5 years of baseline data collection before exporting any groundwater from Spring Valley. After that initial baseline period, SNWA can pump a maximum of 40,000 afy for a minimum of 10 years. After the 10-year pumping period, the NSE will evaluate the data collected during this time and make a determination regarding the remaining 20,000 afy. The ruling also addresses the issues brought by the protestants, and describes additional monitoring and mitigation required by the NSE.

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Last updated: 11-24-2009