LAS VEGAS (CN) – The Interior Department failed to protect the rare Moapa dace, a fish found only in southeastern Nevada, in the weeks leading up to plans to test-pump groundwater and deliver it to the parched Las Vegas Valley, The Center for Biological Diversity claims in Federal Court.
“The Interior Department has completely dropped the ball in Nevada in carrying out its mandate to protect this rare fish,” Rob Mrowka, the Center for Biological Diversity’s ecologist, said in a statement. “It has failed both in its role as manager of the Moapa Valley Wildlife Refuge and as the guardian of endangered species, and the Moapa dace may face extinction as a result.”
The environmental watch-dog group says the Interior Department gave up its federal rights for the refuge in 2001 and 2006, thereby allowing the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pump groundwater and deliver it to the parched Las Vegas Valley.
It claims the federal government failed to conduct meaningful environmental impact surveys on the impacts of groundwater pumping.
“The proposed pumping tests are the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with the survival of an endangered species,” Mrowka said. “The Interior Department should be defending the water rights of the refuge, not sacrificing them to fuel unsustainable growth in Vegas.”
The Moapa dace was listed as an endangered species in 1967. Only about 534 of the fish were counted in 2009; 1,172 were counted in 2007.
The lawsuit was filed by Julie Cavanaugh-Bill.