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Keep our sacred water

Published October 2, 2011 11:34 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Las Vegas is thirsty. So thirsty, in fact, that the state of Nevada has been engaged in a 30-year, multi-billion dollar campaign to buy, barter, and obtain groundwater to maintain its rapid growth. Opposition runs deep to Vegas' proposal to suck millions of gallons of groundwater from the Great Basin watershed.

Opponents warn of the effects of a lowered water table, dry wetlands and springs, the death of deep-rooted plants, and dust-laden air swept up from the parched ground.

The people who live in this vast region, including my small Indian tribe on a grassy oasis on the Utah-Nevada border, consider ourselves at the center of this battle. We are the Goshutes of Deep Creek Valley and it is our hope that, with help from our allies, we may be able to put a plug in this idea to pipe groundwater from the aquifer that straddles both states south to Las Vegas.

We have lived in this region for thousands of years by learning how to survive and thrive in this harsh, dry landscape. Our people today and our ancestors before us reside on a 109,000-acre reservation at the base of the Deep Creek Mountains. Historically, we occupied millions of acres surrounding this land, where we retain treaty rights and conduct hunting, gathering, and ceremonial and spiritual activities. We hold many springs, meadows, and wetland areas as integral to our cultural and spiritual way of life.

For almost every aspect of our livelihood, we are dependent on the sparse water resources of the Great Basin. Additionally, we use water for irrigation of fruit orchards and freshwater fisheries that propagate pure strains of Bonneville cutthroat trout. The Goshute people and the Great Basin ecosystem are inseparable, and holding onto our water is essential to our future.

We have challenged this project since its inception but have largely been ignored and told not to be concerned, as the aquifer surely ends at our reservation boundary and this pipeline will not affect us. We are not convinced.

First, Goshute interests and rights do not stop at our reservation boundary, but rather cover all of our ancestral lands.

Second, the Great Basin aquifer is really a system of dozens of poorly studied groundwater basins interconnected through underground flows deep in the carbonate rock layer that stretches from Salt Lake to California.

The human, economic and ecological impacts of this project will not be limited to the valleys where the pipe is buried. Due to slow flows of these archaic waters, huge drawdowns will occur around each well, lowering water tables across entire valleys, and the impacts will expand long after pumping ends.

On Oct. 7 in Carson City, Nev., the public is invited to present oral comments to Nevada's state engineer. Written comments can also be submitted until Dec. 2. Goshutes ask that Vegas not be allowed to transfer water out of the Great Basin.

The BLM is also studying approval of the pipeline right of way, which would be necessary for the project to advance. The public can submit comments to the BLM before Oct. 11.

Given the devastating impacts that the project will have on the Goshute, and other rural communities, the transfer of water rights and pipeline right of way should be denied. Great Basin water serves a much higher purpose than providing water for golf courses or water fountains. People must be informed of the devastating effects of this water grab and support our people and other Great Basin residents to help us maintain these culturally rich landscapes.

Please join us in contesting this ill-conceived plan.

Madeline Greymountain is vice-chair of the Goshute Tribal Council, Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, in Ibapah.






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