Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Peter Cooke raised concern with Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s policies Monday after several rural Utahans appeared in court to protest a recent decision affecting Utah water supply.
After the Supreme Court struck down their original petition, The Southern Nevada Water Authority has received approval to mine water from Snake and Spring Valleys to replenish the Las Vegas area water supply. Four northern Nevada counties will also supply water for this project.
Deputy Chief of Staff Ally Isom said Governor Herbert will take “all reasonable action” to protect Utah’s water, including a tentative agreement prohibiting SNWA from pumping water from Snake Valley if it negatively impacts environmental and economic resources. However, groups such as the Utah Rivers Organization have voiced concerns over his defense of Utah’s water rights.
Cooke called the governor’s lack of defending Utah’s water rights “appalling.”
“We can’t just sit here and let things happen that are not right for Utah,” Cooke said.
According to the Utah Rivers Organization, the proposed pipeline would deliver 176,665 acre feet of water to Las Vegas residents, dropping Utah’s groundwater levels by as much as 200 feet. The organization and citizens throughout the state are protesting the project, which Cooke said could affect plant species, wildlife and Utah’s groundwater.
“It’s critical that we don’t neglect the rural part of this state,” Cooke said.
Cooke said this will be a prominent issue in the 2012 elections and plans to stand with counties that oppose SNWA, raising awareness throughout the state.
Isom said the governor is also looking forward to discussing the issue in the upcoming election because the SNWA proposal is of great concern to him.
“It will take wise and serious leadership, not political rhetoric, to protect Utah’s interests,” Isom said. “No one understands or cares about rural issues more than he does.”
This is not the first time Cooke has raised doubts with Governor Herbert’s leadership. Kicking off his campaign in February, Cooke said Herbert needed to do more with education and environmental issues.
“It’s leadership now, not salesmanship,” Cooke said. “It’s time we unite.”