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Health, Science & Environment

Panel Urges Herbert to Reconsider Snake Valley Deal

Dan Bammes

A legislative commission is asking Utah’s governor to take another look at an agreement with Nevada over water rights in the Snake Valley.  Federal law required the states of Utah and Nevada to work out an agreement before the Southern Nevada Water Authority could pump groundwater from the Snake Valley to Las Vegas.  The deal was worked out more than three years ago, but Governor Gary Herbert decided just last month he wouldn’t sign it based on opposition from residents living in the area.  

Warren Peterson, an attorney who reviewed the agreement for the governor, says that was a mistake.  He told the legislature’s Water Development Commission the deal would keep Nevada from taking any water that exceeded the water rights ranchers are using right now.

“It says when that balance point has been hit – has been reached – no further water will be taken," Peterson told the commission. "So the agreement that the news media trompled all over provided the very protection that was being said it did not provide.”

The commission voted to ask the governor to reconsider the agreement.

Millard County Commissioner Deron Smith says that would be pointless.

“Y’know, Utah shouldn’t have to sign anything that they don’t feel like is in their best interest, or the governor," Smith told KUER.  "And I think the governor’s done the right thing for the time being.”

Smith says Utah and Nevada have plenty of time to work out another agreement once more is known about the possible impact of pumping groundwater from valleys near the state line.

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