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ELKO — Denying access to underground water puts a damper on development in Elko County, and a local Realtors group wants to challenge the state’s system for deciding on water right allocations.

That was the point that Paul Bottari, representing the Elko County Association of Realtors, presented to the Elko County Board of Commissioners Jan. 7.

Bottari said he recently proposed permitting a well, but the Nevada Division of Water Resources rejected the request partly because the new well would interfere with existing senior water rights of those downstream.

Disappointed with the outcome and concerned about the state’s water modeling formula, he proposed the formation of a coalition to challenge the division. Limiting access to wells, he said, could limit new farm, ranch or business operations in the Humboldt River Basin.

“Every little creek that comes out of the mountain, whether it reaches the river or not, is going to be identified as a tributary, so you can imagine how much country is going to be blocked if this formula is allowed to stand,” he said.

Bottari asked the commissioners to voice their support for the fledgling Humboldt River Coalition, which he hopes will “demand that the [state] prove that there is truly an interconnective flow to the Humboldt River from underground sources,” according to the county agenda item.

He envisions the coalition someday hiring a hydrologist to do an independent study or review the state’s findings.

“We need to have as good or better information than the state does,” Bottari said.

Commissioner Demar Dahl said the “state has kicked the can down the road for far too long” and that the system is “just so far out of balance now.” He made a motion — unanimously approved by his fellow commissioners —to support the coalition.

Rex Steninger, Elko County Board of Commissioners chairman, said he would support the coalition but could not promise that the county would be able to provide any funding to hire a hydrologist.

The state is in the midst of a four-year study to model the region’s hydrogeology so the state can better govern the resource. The U.S. Geological Survey and Desert Research Institute are conducting the studies.

The studies are in response to a writ petition filed by the Pershing County Water Conservation District in 2015 requesting that the state curtail water in over-appropriated basins. The litigation is ongoing.

A workshop to provide an update on progress and technical details of the studies is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Jan. 16, at the Elko County Library. Representatives from the USGS and DRI will conduct the presentation.

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Mining Quarterly - Mining, state and county reporter

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