Friday, May 11, 2012

Developing the desert

It is amazing how we, as a species, try to harness nature and control it for our own desires, even when what we're trying to do flies in the face of everything rational.  As we were returning from San Diego, driving about 45 miles north of Las Vegas out in the middle of the desert, I suddenly noticed groves of palm trees.  Very curious, we then encountered the stately concrete signs on either side of the entrance to what will soon be (developers hope, conservationists not) the new ritzy subdivision called Coyote Springs.  Why in the world these people can't just go a few miles outside of Vegas to build their little utopia in the desert is beyond me.  Here's an interesting article on it.  (Sorry for the formatting).

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Water pipeline faces another legal threat: snails

Officials with the Center for Biological Diversity have announced they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unless the agency acts on a 2009 petition to protect 35 spring snail species under the Endangered Species Act.
Posted: 04-26-2012 – 3:24 p.m. PDT

First it was tiny fish. Now conservationists hope to use snails no bigger than pinky fingernails to block the Southern Nevada Water Authority's plan to siphon groundwater from across eastern Nevada.
The Center for Biological Diversity has announced it will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unless the agency acts on a 2009 petition to protect 35 spring snail species under the Endangered Species Act.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based environmental group put the federal agency on notice Thursday. The lawsuit will be filed in 60 days unless the Fish and Wildlife Service takes appropriate action, said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based ecologist for the center.
He said the tiny snails - some barely the size of the head of a pushpin - could be wiped out if the water authority is allowed to pump groundwater to Las Vegas from across rural Clark, Lincoln and White Pine counties.
"The snails have a very narrow ecological window. If the springs are impacted, the spring snails are going to be the first to be affected," Mrowka said. "They're kind of an early warning (system) for other species."
The center already is locked in a lawsuit with the federal government over the Moapa dace, an endangered fish found only in the headwaters of the Muddy River, 60 miles north of Las Vegas.
Mrowka and company contend the dace could be wiped out by large-scale groundwater pumping in a neighboring valley by the water authority and the developers of Coyote Springs.
Dan Balduini, spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Nevada, said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Water authority spokesman J.C. Davis defended his agency's environmental record and questioned the motives behind the threatened lawsuit.
"Conducting the analyses associated with determining whether a species should be listed requires a tremendous level of scientific rigor, so the volume of work required to evaluate three dozen species is staggering," Davis said. "It is ironic that activists purportedly committed to thorough scientific review now seem to be pushing for a quick decision."
Last month, state regulators granted the authority permission to pump up to 27 billion gallons of groundwater a year from four valleys in Lincoln and White Pine counties.
On Monday, a coalition of conservationists, ranchers and rural residents - including the Center for Biological Diversity - appealed that decision in state District Court.
Las Vegas water officials want to tap rural groundwater to supply growth and insulate the community from shortages on the Colorado River, which supplies about 90 percent of the valley's drinking water.
To get the water to the Las Vegas Valley, the authority plans to build a multibillion-dollar network of pumps and pipelines stretching more than 300 miles.
Opponents of the project insist it will drain springs, draw down the water table, destroy native wildlife, ruin rangeland and trigger dust storms that will foul the air as far away as Salt Lake City.
There is no timeline for completion of the proposed pipeline.

Davis said right now the authority is concentrating on getting it through the permitting process so it is "shovel-ready" if needed.
The project is now in the midst of a lengthy federal environmental review.
Authority officials expect more lawsuits to follow.
"I would anticipate we're going to see litigation by a lot of opponents at every opportunity available to them," Davis said. "It's just the nature of these things."



Oh - and I should mention, it's going to be a GOLF course too.  Blah. What more ridiculous thing could you put in the desert? A quick google image search gives you a better understanding of the vision.  And here's a quick overview of the development.

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