Gov. will not sign Snake Valley water agreement

Posted at 1:31 PM, Apr 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-03 15:32:04-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Governor Gary Herbert has chosen not to sign an agreement that would have allowed Nevada to take 40 billion gallons of water every year from Utah's Snake Valley.

The decision hurts Nevada's plan for a pipeline that would supply water to Las Vegas, but Herbert said it could be devastating to agriculture along the Utah-Nevada border.

"At the end of the day, the people that are most impacted, it's their water we're talking about. Their livelihood, their lifestyle and water rights they've proved up for a hundred years," Herbert said.

The decision comes after a protest from local farmers who said the pipeline would not only hurt their livelihood, but could also result in ecological problems for decades.

Herbert says Las Vegas does have legitimate needs and Nevada water officials try to be responsible, but his priority is Utah.

"We on the other hand are just saying, 'Nevada, God love you. Whatever you need to do, do. But in your doing, don't take any of Utah's water,'" he said. "So I'm sure there's anxiety, frustration. So as I talked to Governor Sandoval, he's very cordial, very friendly. He's a good guy, a friend of mine."

Herbert says it was the local communities who swayed his decision, but environmentalists are leading the applause at his decision.

"We are so grateful to Governor Herbert for making the right decision and refusing to sign this agreement," said Zach Frankel, executive director for the Utah Rivers Council.

So far, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Nevada's governor and Nevada media have been silent on Herbert's decision.

Related story:
Protesters oppose water pipeline to Nevada