Nevada and Eastern California
PO Box 8096
Reno, NV 89507
WILL FEDERAL STUDY SAVE GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK?
Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Photo by Howard Goldbaum
Great Basin National Park in far eastern Nevada is famous for
its scenery, both its extensive underground limestone caves and its
stunning mountains and cliffs filled with bristlecone pine and aspen
forests, a rock-ice glacier, and sparkling trout-filled steams.
Nevada's only National Park is bordered by Spring Valley on
the west and Snake Valley on the east, both prime targets of the
proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to pump and
export up to 110,000 acre-feet of groundwater through hundreds of miles
of pipelines south to Las Vegas to support growth and development.
In 2007, the Nevada State Engineer approved SNWA's
applications to take 40,000 acre-feet from Spring Valley and has
required monitoring to determine pumping impacts before another 20,000
acre-feet could be taken. Scientific studies have shown that
Spring Valley is hydrologically connected to Snake Valley, but the
impacts of SNWA pumping on underground flows from Spring to Snake is
not known. The Engineer has set September, 2009 for the last
major protest hearing for SNWA applications in Snake Valley - another
Will SNWA pumping and removal of groundwater from the valleys
surrounding the Park affect the hydrology which currently results in
the very slow creation of the stalactites, stalagmites, helecites,
shields, and many other unusual shapes, drop by drop? Will
dropping water tables caused by pumping groundwater in SNWA wells, some
directly adjacent to the Park, dry up springs, creeks and
meadows? Will SNWA pumping in Spring Valley capture groundwater
currently flowing east to Snake Valley and into Utah?
A new 3-year study by four federal agencies, the US Geological
Survey, and Desert Research Institute will collect and analyze data on
the connections between groundwater and surface water, water-dependent
ecological features, and the regional carbonate aquifer, the known
source of many of the high-discharge springs.
Will the study results come too late to save the Great Basin
National Park is the question confronting Sierra Club leaders and local
residents and Park-supporters?
The study details can be found at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2008/3071.