Seniors Group Granted Appeal
Against Mega-Water Project

   By Steve Miller
copyright 1996, Electric Nevada

A seniors alliance opposed to a $1.7 billion Southern Nevada water project has won an initial appeal against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's approval of the plan.
The Las Vegas-based Nevada Seniors Coalition --- which says there are serious flaws in the environmental impact statement filed for the project by the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the federal agency --- learned Friday afternoon its appeal had been granted.
"We got word from Interior this afternoon," Dr. Larry J. Paulson, a Colorado River water quality expert who donates his consulting services to the Coalition, told Electric Nevada.
"We're finally getting on a more level playing field," he said.
The Nevada Seniors Coalition is a nonprofit organization of Las Vegas senior citizens concerned about quality of life issues.
L. Kenneth Mahal, Coalition president, filed the notice of appeal --- prepared by Paulson --- with the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Hearings and Appeals December 19. That had followed months of controversy over the $1.7 billion project, which, Mahal and Paulson say, would almost triple the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) water treatment



and transmission capacity --- taking it from an average capacity of 400 million gallons of water a day (mgd) to 1.1 billion mgd.
A level of growth that massive, says Mahal, will destroy the quality of life in Las Vegas -- pulling in extra cars, extra crowding, extra pollution -- and only benefit developers and casino magnates, who will then, he says, take their gains and move their own homes somewhere else, somewhere still unspoiled.
"It's my contention," said Mahal, "that if they're so god-awful bent [on] spending this money ... then what the casino industry and the developers should do is ... put their net worth on the line, one hundred percent, and go out for a bond issue and finance it -- since it's for their growth, and their profitability."
Instead, he noted, the Southern Nevada Water Authority board voted to seek a 1/4-cent hike in the state sales tax in Clark County, surcharge fees on existing water


 
users, higher connection fees for future houses, and a phased-in building plan.
Aside from the growth issue, says Mahal, another problem with the project is that its capacity far exceeds the amount of water Nevada is permitted under its Colorado River water allotment.
Presently that allotment is set at 300 mgd, expandable --- adding in the cleansed replenishment of used Las Vegas water --- up to 450 mgd.
"Having no water locked up at all, [it would be] the most stupid thing you could ever do [to] spend money in advance and think you're going to negotiate a deal with somebody to fill in the product you need later," he said.
Mahal said when he and Paulson attended a SNWA meeting, Nevada Resort Association director Richard Bunker, who sits on the funding committee, took notice.
"The first thing that Mr. Bunker said, when Larry and I went to the meeting [was] "I don't understand these Nevada




Seniors Coalition [people]. This is really a terrible thing they're trying to do -- they're trying to stop growth by not wanting to pay this quarter-percent sales tax to pay for getting this water plant going."
"And I said," reports Mahal, "'Well, you guys are movers and shakers in this state, and you do do things like this. And you will for a while, but it's going to change too, you need to understand that.
"You think we should pay for the growth that's going on in this community, to destroy our quality of life here ... and have the developers and casinos make a profit. You're absolutely right then: we're against it. Because we don't think we should pay for it. We don't think the community that lives here should pay for it."
Accord to Mahal, Bunker didn't have much to say after that.


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