LAS VEGAS (CN) – A federal judge has given the go-ahead for a planned 263-mile water pipeline from central Nevada to Las Vegas, pending a further look at how to mitigate habitat loss.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority intends to open the pipeline sometime between 2035 and 2050, depending on local water needs.
The federal Bureau of Land Management recently approved the first phase of the plan to lay out the pipeline’s pathway, which drew legal challenges.
The Center for Biological Diversity and several Nevada tribes and local units want the pipeline halted and the BLM to redo its environmental impact statement and reconsider its approval of the project. On Aug. 23, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon largely upheld the BLM’s approval of the first phase.
“There can be no question that drawing this much water from these desert aquifers will harm the ecosystem and impact cultural sites,” Gordon wrote in the 39-page ruling. “On the other hand, southern Nevada faces an intractable water shortage.”
Gordon said no evidence suggests the BLM violated federal review policies. The pipeline is an ongoing project that will take many years to complete and is subject to further review and revisions, he said.
However, Gordon said the BLM did not meet its obligations regarding mitigating local habitat loss. That violates the National Environmental Protection Act’s requirement that the environmental impact statement at least discuss how the project would comply with environmental protection rules, he wrote.
He remanded that portion of the plan to the BLM for further consideration, but OK’d the rest of the project.
Although the pipeline mostly cleared the federal court hurdle, a similar complaint in Clark County District Court awaits action.