Federal agency not fighting developer’s water plan
CARSON CITY – The federal government has dropped its opposition to a bid by wealthy Reno businessman and powerbroker Harvey Whittemore to get rural Nevada water for a huge development he’s building about 50 miles north of Las Vegas.
The Bureau of Land Management dropped its challenge after working out a detailed agreement with Whittemore’s Tuffy Ranch Properties LLC to ensure that BLM resources won’t be harmed by piping Lake Valley water more than 100 miles south to Whittemore’s Coyote Springs project.
The agreement filed this week with the state water engineer’s office, which scheduled a two-day hearing on the plan starting March 31, calls for elaborate monitoring to detect any declines in groundwater levels in Lake Valley as a result of the water transfers to Coyote Springs.
Whittemore’s company would cover costs of improving a BLM well in Lake Valley if it dries up because of the water transfers. Also, the company agreed to “environmentally sound” pumping that won’t be excessive or “unduly limit growth and development” in the Lake Valley area.
Tuffy Ranch Properties filed about 50 applications with the state water engineer to change its existing underground water rights in Lake Valley from irrigation to domestic use. About 11,000 to 12,000 acre-feet of water per year would go to Coyote Springs.
The applications also were protested by White Pine County and by Louis Benezet of Pioche and Jo Anne Garrett of Baker, both opponents of efforts to export rural Nevada groundwater.
Benezet and Garrett have questioned whether there will be enough water for the environment and outlying ranches given the efforts by Whittemore and also by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which is planning a big pipeline to carry rural water to Las Vegas.
Whittemore has said the applications represent “a substantial chunk” of what he needs for Coyote Springs. They amount to more than 20 percent of the estimated 50,000 acre-feet of water per year that would eventually be used for the project.
Tuffy Ranch Properties representatives have said approval of the applications won’t hurt neighboring ranchers in Lake Valley or even the farms and ranches that Tuffy bought up and operates there. The valley is mainly in Lincoln County, although it stretches north into White Pine County.
Whittemore plans to build more than 150,000 homes in Coyote Springs, where he already owns extensive water rights. He has predicted the golf-oriented development will produce $100 million per year in tax revenue for every 40,000 homes constructed.
An acre-foot of water is 326,000 gallons, almost enough to serve two households for a year.
On the Internet: http://www.coyotesprings.com