Vegas Water Board Offers to Pay White Pine County

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Lawmakers in White Pine County are considering
whether to accept in-lieu payments from the Southern Nevada Water
Authority for ranches the authority owns in east-central Nevada.

The Las Vegas-based water authority is exempt from taxes, but officials say they've agreed after more than a year of negotiations to pay $156,400 this year and $45,000 annually in what amount to goodwill payments to the cash-strapped rural county.

White Pine County commissioners were due to consider the deal Wednesday. The water authority board signed off on the proposal last week, some 14 months after General Manager Pat Mulroy first floated the idea.

The water authority has since 2006 acquired seven ranches and more than 23,000 acres in White Pine County, with water rights, to support a plan to pump groundwater and pipe it some 250 miles to Las Vegas.

White Pine County Commissioner RaLeene Makley, who helped negotiate the payments, said her county remained opposed to a water
authority pump-and-pipe proposal. But she said she expected approval for the deal.

The agreement specifies that White Pine County and the Southern Nevada Water Authority "do not compromise or concede their respective positions on any other issue."

The initial $156,400 represents just over 1 percent of the general fund budget of about $11.6 million for White Pine County, which declared a fiscal emergency in 2005 and remains under state Department of Taxation control.

The water district ranches are in Spring Valley, which authority officials see as the start point for the $2 billion-plus pipeline project.

The water authority hopes to begin delivering rural groundwater to Las Vegas by 2015, eventually supplying more than 230,000 homes. The agency now supplies about 400,000 customers.

The Las Vegas area currently gets almost all its water from the drought-stricken Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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