Beaver County Democrats

Governor Herbert hits accelerator on giving away Utah water to Nevada

Republished From: Utah Democratic Environmental Caucus

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Gov. Gary Herbert supports reaching a deal with Nevada on how to divide Snake Valley water, but not necessarily the proposal officials from the two states have presented.

Herbert believes it is in Utah's best interest to be "proactive" on a water-sharing plan rather than risk lawsuits, spokeswoman Angie Welling said Thursday.

The governor is reviewing a draft agreement made public in mid-August after four years of secret negotiations. Although he likes the idea, Welling said, he hasn't decided if that's the way to go.

"Obviously he doesn't want to rush," she said. "He wants to do this in a thoughtful way."

Yet parties involved with the agreement or interested in its outcome were taken by surprise when Herbert scheduled meetings for this afternoon in Baker, Nev., and, later, in Delta, Utah, to talk about the proposal.

The Nevada meeting will be the first time the Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council will huddle since a law setting it up took effect July 1. Its members were named in the past week; the governor's office announced the meetings Thursday afternoon.

"Here we sit all this time, now we've got to have a hurry-up meeting in Baker," Erickson said. "Why are we rushing this agreement when there's no urgency in Nevada?"

Rep. Brad Winn, R-Ephraim, who sponsored the bill establishing the advisory council, welcomed the meeting. "I am very pleased that the governor's office has moved quickly to organize this council," he said, "and especially pleased they're going to kick off their first meeting expeditiously."

But he added, "a bad agreement is not better than no agreement."

Mike Styler, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, reaffirmed Thursday that the draft accord he helped negotiate "protects the people in Snake Valley."

Styler also said he had decided to reverse a partial denial issued Sept. 8 of the water network's request to see prior drafts of the agreement. "We've decided we have nothing to hide. We're going to give them all they asked for," he said, probably within a week to 10 days.

The state missed the deadline for replying to the Aug. 14 records request. On Monday, the water network filed an appeal of the denial.

Mark Ward, an attorney for the Utah Association of Counties who is representing Millard County in its opposition to the water-sharing proposal, said County Commissioners Kathy Walker and Daron Smith got word just two days ago that not only are they on the new Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council but also that they were scheduled to attend the meeting at the Border Inn, a restaurant-motel-casino straddling the Utah-Nevada line.

Millard County recently offered a counterproposal that would divide the water in the context of the entire Great Salt Lake groundwater flow system, as required by a 2004 federal law.

Herbert listened to the idea, Ward said. "He's mulling it over. He hasn't said yes or no."

Steve Erickson -- a spokesman for the Great Basin Water Network, a coalition of conservation groups opposing Nevada's plan to build a 300-mile pipeline to funnel water from the state's northern valleys to feed Las Vegas growth -- questioned Herbert's seeming haste after he declined to attend earlier public hearings on the matter.

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Citation

Taylor, T. (2009). Governor Herbert hits accelerator on giving away Utah water to Nevada. Retrieved from http://beaver.utdem.org/view/article/51cbeb797896bb431f688a8b

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