The Sliver State is in the bull’s eye of some of the most unconscionable and environmentally destructive projects in the world. Nevadan’s are still paying with their lives from above-ground nuclear weapons explosions in the 50’s and 60’s. We’re proud that Nevadans rose up in the early 1980’s to defeat the military’s proposal to turn five million acres of our fragile Great Basin into an MX missile base. And we’re still winning our 30-year fight against the nuclear industry’s efforts to dump nuclear waste here. That fight, like others, requires that we continue to train and bring up new leaders who will be vigilant in the decades to come.
PLAN has opposed the Las Vegas Water Grab, which would create Owens Valley wasteland across a wide swath of the state, destroying the economy of rural Nevada and ranching as a way of life. Instead of drastically increasing monthly bills of ratepayers to finance the pipeline scheme, PLAN favors more stringent water conservation efforts that would save nearly as much water as the pipeline would bring in. (Link to PI report)
Many Nevadans are aware of the painful and bitter past and present history related to mining and the Western Shoshone people. Elder Carrie Dann and her family live next to Barrick’s Cortez Hills mine, one of the largest gold discoveries in North America. Barrick is currently mining beneath the white cliffs of Mt. Tenabo, a sacred place in the creation beliefs of the Western Shoshone. PLAN stands with the Western Shoshone in their efforts to reclaim their land and cultural resources.
Water Rights and the Las Vegas Water Grab
Nevada was the site of first major water diversion project in the US. Our own Senator Frances Newlands read the diaries of John Wesley Powell’s trip down the Colorado River, and convinced President Teddy Roosevelt to create the Bureau of Reclamation, which created the Newlands Project to divert water from the Truckee River to the Lahontan Valley shortly thereafter. The deserts around Fallon bloomed with melons and alf alfa, but the giant Pyramid Lake Trout became extinct and Lake Winnemucca, just east of and nearly as large as Pyramid Lake, became a dusty lake bed.
It was the end of the 19th century, and the 20th century seemed to hold in store limitless water and other natural resources available for plundering. The Las Vegas Water Grab is born out of these 19th-century ideas. Yet even in this 21st-century world, some still cling to the myths that water is infinite and that our only salvation lies in rampant development at any cost.
The current financial crisis provides an opportunity to take an honest look at what has proved to be an unsustainable economic model. Nevada can’t afford the water grab. Las Vegas is the second-most tax regressive city in the country. Increased fees to pay for the pipeline will add to the hardship of working class ratepayers and those on fixed incomes. And cash-strapped local governments, some on the verge of bankruptcy, don’t need additional liabilities.
We can afford to put our people back to work building public infrastructure, neighborhood by neighborhood, to make Las Vegas more livable and sustainable. Retrofitting southern Nevada with the most water-efficient devices and investing in public transit and energy efficiency would create far more jobs at less cost than the pipeline. Why not set our sights creating the first truly sustainable, 21st-century metropolis in the world?