OVERTON, Nevada (CN) — With the water level on Lake Mead dropping each year, an unincorporated community near the lake has seen its tourism dollars dry up as well.
“That grocery parking lot on the weekends used to be full of boats and trailers. Now it’s nothing. It’s nothing,” said Mark Hopkins, 48, one of the owners of the Ace Hardware in Overton.
The sixth-generation Moapa Valley resident said his community is “highly impacted by the lack of tourists and lack of the people utilizing the lake.”
At his hardware store, Hopkins has adjusted the fishing section, stocking gear targeted at trout fisherman headed northeast to Utah rather than gear for Lake Mead fisherman.
“I don’t know if it’s as much climate as it is political in my view. I get upset about it. They’ve done a lot of things out here that really restricted things in multiple ways,” said Hopkins.
He mentioned the shuttered Reid Gardner Generating Station, a 557-megawatt coal-fired plant on nearly 500 acres nearby. It was co-owned by NV Energy and the California Department of Water Resources. The demolition of the plant was completed in 2019.
The power plant sat adjacent to the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians reservation, and concern over detrimental effects on residents doomed it.
“Every year it’s something new that we have to worry about that’s going to affect life in the Moapa Valley,” said Hopkins, who has owned the hardware store for 21 years.
“I am a concerned businessman. I’m definitely concerned what our valley’s going to look like in the next 10 years.”
One of the community’s current tourist draws includes off-highway vehicle recreation. There are vast areas for people to recreate with OHVs near the rural town of 4,500 residents 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Hopkins said he thinks they will start shutting down access for the OHVs. “They” are government entities, including the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.
In a statement, the bureau said it has seen increases in the local population and recreation-based activities have amplified the need for improved recreation management at Logandale Trails, which is within a few miles of Overton.
Preserving the trails along with protecting plants, wildlife and native art are part of the agency’s effort to designate Logandale Trails as a Special Recreation Management Area.
The plan will provide site-specific management that will enhance recreation opportunities within Logandale Trails and reduce conflicts between recreation users, other resource uses, and biological and cultural resources, according to the bureau.
There will be some closures, such as unauthorized trails into Valley of Fire State Park, but the 15,300-acre trail area will remain. A final decision on the plan has not been made.
About 25 miles from Overton, the Echo Bay boat launch has been closed all winter. Hopkins said he has heard talks of it reopening but said he's skeptical. To open the launch ramps, the National Park Service would have to make them longer to meet the receding water.
“Lake Mead is currently at 28% of capacity due to a 23-year-long drought and overuse. Climate change will further exacerbate the imbalance between supply and demand on the Colorado River. Currently, users need to cut by 2 to 4 million acre-feet per year to stabilize major reservoirs, including Lake Mead,” said Colby Pellegrino, deputy general manager for resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
The Bureau of Reclamation, as part of a supplemental environmental impact statement, asked Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California to come up with a consensus plan to save the 2 to 4 million acre-feet. One acre-foot equals 326,000 gallons, enough to cover an acre of land, about the size of a football field, one foot deep.