Watch Desert Wars September 25, 2006 at 8 pm on KUED Channel 7
Interviewer: Lets start out by talking about the role of the BLM in this process.
Penny Woods: The role of the BLM is to process the right-of-way application that Southern Nevada Water Authority presented to us in 2004. Our role is to do an E.I.S. (Environmental Impact Statement) in order to assess the impacts of this pipeline and the wells and all the pertinent facilities to decide whether the right-of-way should be granted.
Interviewer: What's the purpose of the E.I.S.?
Penny Woods: The E.I.S. will assess all impacts and this would be scientific impacts or environmental impacts and also social and economic impacts of the pipeline to the communities, to the lands.
Interviewer: How is this research collected? Who is responsible for the research?
Penny Woods: Essentially BLM will be responsible for the research but we collect it from a number of sources and some of our sister agencies will be helping us hand in hand, USGS is one. The company has been collecting data for a number of years and they will be turning their research over to us and we will assess it to see if it's acceptable to us. We have scientists on our staff.
Interviewer: Lets talk about the pipeline itself. How does building of the pipeline relate to the E.I.S. and what kind of criteria will you look at as far as building this pipeline?
Penny Woods: It's the NEPA process, the National Environmental Policy Act, and that requires us to write an E.I.S. on this pipeline and all the wells and all of the other facilities. We will assess whether some of the normal things like the digging of the trench and what that will do to the lands and can we mitigate it and also some of the other more diverse ideas like the wells. Will the drilling of the wells affect the water sources that already exist on the surface of the land right now?
Interviewer: Talk about the timetable. What kind of time frame are we looking at for this E.I.S.? How does this process work in terms of time?
Penny Woods: The time frames that we are working on are… there is a several step process and we go through scoping, which is where we go out into the public and ask their opinions. We do the draft E.I.S. and then the final E.I.S. and then we render a decision. Right now we've done scoping but the company is reassessing their proposal so what we need to do now is go back out into the public and find out if there is anything new and then the ultimate time frame that I'm working with right now is the end of 2008.
Interviewer: Tell me how you work with Hugh Ricci, the Nevada State Engineer. What is the process between the BLM and the Nevada State Engineer?
Penny Woods: We don't really overlap. What happens in the State Engineer renders decisions on how much water he is going to grant these and then we're responsible for the granting of the rights to use the land. Once he grants a water right to a certain amount of water, then the proponent will come in and ask us for a right of way to drill wells and put pipelines in.
Interviewer: How do you work with the ranchers on their concerns? You mentioned for example, that you were going to meet with Dean Baker. What does the BLM do with these rancher concerns?
Penny Woods: We have a local office and also we interface with the ranchers concerns through scoping and then we meet with them off and on throughout the process. We do make a real effort to incorporate their concerns into the draft E.I.S.
Interviewer: What is scoping?
Penny Woods: Scoping is collecting information on what issues we need to concern ourselves with in the E.I.S.
Interviewer: Why don't you tell me again about scoping? When you're talking to the ranchers about alleviating their concerns, how does the BLM go about doing that?
Penny Woods: Well it's a lot of discussions. We talk to the ranchers a lot, and everybody else. The environmental community also has concerns. The communities do. There is an inordinate amount of people that are concerned about this project and we're making a real attempt to talking to them all to make sure that we have collected all of the information from them. A number of the people talk to us about how much they don't know about the project so we're making a real effort to clarify the proposal and get as much information as necessary.
Interviewer: If this E.I.S. comes up with a negative response, what is the protocol at that point? If you go through this process, for example with the pipeline, and the E.I.S. says that there would be impacts, either environmental or otherwise, what is the process at that point?
Penny Woods: As part of the E.I.S. process we do make proposals for mitigation and monitoring and one of the things that we will be doing in this process is working with our other D.O.I. (Department of Interior) agencies and try to come up with a good proposal to mitigate whatever impacts arise from this. So we do a number of alternatives, a range of alternatives that the decision maker can look at to render a decision.
Interviewer: Penny we were talking about the future of how this issue might be resolved and you were talking about some of the legal ramifications and the protocol of that. What do you think is going to happen here in the future?
Penny Woods: I do believe that as Lincoln County had a land act in 2004 that defined the corridor for water pipelines, I do believe it will go north and White Pine County will also have their own land act to establish wilderness, define recreation and also perhaps to define water issues.