Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Water Grab in Eastern Nevada

We arrived in the old mining town of Pioche, 37°56', 114°27', on a bitterly cold afternoon. The local history museum provided a warm shelter and many interesting exhibits. It was staffed by Barbara Zelch, who told us her husband has been very involved in the battle over Las Vegas planning to export groundwater from eastern Nevada valleys. There are so many parallels to the Owens Valley/Mono Lake/Los Angeles Aqueduct history in this current water grab--family ranches being bought up for their water rights, local people overwhelmed by the big city movers-and-shakers, water to be moved hundreds of miles to fuel development and growth in a sprawling metropolis.
Glennan Zelch met us in the Pioche library, across the street from a building rented by Southern Nevada Water Authority (Las Vegas), but sitting empty with only pretty photos of Nevada in the windows. so far. Glennon is a retired civil engineer who had lived in Louisville, Kentucky and worked with water systems. The Zelch's moved to Pioche 8 years ago, not knowing about Las Vegas's pipeline plans. This project is complicated by the biggest water basin, in Snake Valley being shared between Utah and Nevada. Concern is building in Salt Lake City, not only about the depleted groundwater basin, but unhealthy particulate dust (shades of Mono and Owens Lake, again) should the groundwater table drop significantly. On the day we were in Pioche, a district judge in Gardnerville, NV, overturned a 2008 state ruling that had granted the Southern Nevada Water Authority permission to take groundwater from three other valleys in central Lincoln County (west of Pioche). This should slow things down, but stay tuned for much more on this issue. This water grab issue seemed to bring us full circle, as we approached our Mono Lake home.
After Pioche, we crossed Nevada, seeing wild horses and watching for aliens along the Extraterrestrial Highway. Our first view of Mono Lake was a thrill-- back home in the Basin after a month exploring our nation's communities and landscapes along the 38th parallel. The angle of light and the evening sky are the same along that latitude, but there's no place like home.

We are home for the winter, now, but we'll be out on the line again by next April to extend this exploration across Europe and Asia. Please take a look at the list of countries we'll visit in the August blog titled "Where in the world does 38°N take us?" We would appreciate any suggestions of contacts for those regions.

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