The water level at Lake Mead stands at 1,094 feet, a mere 19 feet above what local water officials call a critical point. If the lake level drops to 1,075 feet, water agencies say they will have no choice but to authorize a multi-billion dollar pipeline to bring water from rural Nevada. More>>
Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp and Photojournalist Matt Adams
U.S. Senator Harry Reid heard the lament of the business owners and called an assortment of agencies and stakeholders and told them to all sit down at the table. The result could mean some extra water for the lake. More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 6:09 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:09:31 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital will maintain its federal funding despite not meeting some of the government's requirements. The hospital came under scrutiny for its discharging procedures.More>>
The Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital will maintain its federal funding despite not meeting some of the government's requirements.More>>
Thursday, May 23 2013 7:36 PM EDT2013-05-23 23:36:46 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- Air Force pilot Scott Powell returned home three weeks early from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, surprising his children at school. Two hours after landing in Las Vegas, Maj. PowellMore>>
Air Force pilot Scott Powell returned home three weeks early from a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, surprising his children at school.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 7:29 PM EDT2013-05-24 23:29:52 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- A family is in awe of how many lives their son touched. The funeral for Marcos Arenas, a 15-year-old boy apparently killed over an iPad was held Friday. Marcos was a freshman at BonanzaMore>>
The funeral for Marcos Arenas, a 15-year-old boy apparently killed over an iPad was held Friday. More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 6:40 PM EDT2013-05-24 22:40:58 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the Clark County school board may have opened itself up to legal problems in appointing a new superintendent late Tuesday. A private citizenMore>>
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the Clark County school board may have opened itself up to legal problems in appointing a new superintendent late Tuesday.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 5:05 PM EDT2013-05-24 21:05:30 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- The Clark County Grand Jury has indicted Michael Smith on murder and assault charges in the shooting death of a man in January. Michael Smith is accused of killing Carlos Bell on Jan. 14,More>>
The Clark County Grand Jury has indicted Michael Smith on murder and assault charges in the shooting death of a man in January.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 3:15 PM EDT2013-05-24 19:15:13 GMT
LAS VEGAS - The wolf pack is back in theaters this week with the release of "The Hangover 3". The film series returns to Las Vegas, and Caesars Palace is making the most of its role. "The Hangover" fansMore>>
The wolf pack is back in theaters this week with the release of "The Hangover 3". The film series returns to Las Vegas, and Caesars Palace is making the most of its role.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 2:36 PM EDT2013-05-24 18:36:32 GMT
LAS VEGAS - Nevada Highway Patrol says two people were injured from a crash on southbound I-15 at Blue Diamond Road. A work truck rear-ended a car. Both drivers were transported to University MedicalMore>>
TheNevada Highway Patrol has reopened a busy stretch of I-15 south of Las Vegas following a two-vehicle crash Friday morning.More>>
Friday, May 24 2013 1:30 PM EDT2013-05-24 17:30:23 GMT
LAS VEGAS -- Salvation Army Family Services is in need of baby products for distribution. The office gives out between 60 to 150 food boxes to families in need every weekday. Salvation Army officialsMore>>
Salvation Army Family Services is in need of baby products for distribution. The office gives out between 60 to 150 food boxes to families in need every weekday.More>>
Persistently dry conditions over the past 10 years have made life miserable for businesses operating at Lake Mead and all along the Colorado River. Marina operators and concessionaires have lost millions of dollars because of dropping water levels, but those losses ripple throughout the local economy.
The marina operators on Lake Mead understand the vagaries of nature. One year the water is up, the next it's down. It comes with the territory. But what's happened to them since April 1, 2009 is unlike anything they've ever experienced. Predictions about water levels for the coming year went right out the window.
The costs and losses have been enormous, and not just for them, but for all of us.
The shorelines may have moved, but Lake Mead is still enormous, covering 157,000 acres, and it's open for business. In some ways, less water is a positive. "It's a new adventure on Lake Mead. It's not the same lake as last year -- new coves, new places to look at," said Gail Kayser with the Lake Mead Marina.
Kayser's family has operated marinas on Lake Mead for decades and understands nature's ups and downs. A few years ago, her family spent more than $1 million to move its entire marina from the Las Vegas Wash to Hemenway Harbor. They knew they would have to move further out into the lake sometime this summer, but suddenly, government predictions of water levels changed.
"Up until March, they told us it would stay equal. Then all of the sudden in April they told us it would drop 14 feet," she said. "This summer, we move, and then we start gearing up for the next move. We have a crew that does nothing but set up to move the marina."
Moving a marina isn't simple. Hundreds of anchors weighing three tons each must be picked up. Water and power lines must be extended. The costs are huge. "I could not even begin to tell you. Millions of dollars worth on one move alone. Cost us over a million," said Darla Cook with Forever Resorts.
The Callville Bay Marina hoped to offset business losses by rolling out its fleet of modernized houseboats for rent. There is plenty of water in the lake for the slick behemoths. The trouble is with smaller boats.
Dropping water levels mean boat ramps are high and dry. It creates a huge crunch on busy weekends or for lucrative fishing tournaments such as the U.S. Open Bass Tourney scheduled for later this year. It can take hours to get all the boats launched and big tournaments don't want that.
"So far they haven't cancelled, but they're talking about it moving it to California or somewhere else," said Randy Roundtree with Callville Bay Marina.
It's already happened to an even larger fishing tournament -- the FLW. This year it moved to Arizona because of the boat ramp problem at Lake Mead.
Licensed fishing guides like Vern Price know the loss of a tournament ripples throughout the economy. "First place is $100,000. Anglers come here from all over -- the U.S., Japan, Spain. The amount of money they spend in town is unbelievable," he said.
"These tournament and weekend boaters pump a lot of money into this economy. They buy food and lodging and when they're not coming, those who sell that and tax revenue are really in trouble," said outgoing Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson.
Mayor Gibson has offered to help the lake-related businesses because the dropping water levels are not entirely a natural phenomena. They're also the result of a political decision, an agreement that keeps huge amounts of Colorado River water bottled up in Lake Powell, even as Lake Mead suffers.
"Originally they were going to bring Powell up 15 and take us down 15. We could live with that. Then they changed it to take Powell up 30 and bring us down more. That's creating havoc," said Price.
The agreement, signed by seven states on the Colorado, says that the water level in Powell must top 3,600 feet before additional water can be released to Lake Mead. It came close but just missed.
The result is that Powell has risen by more than 30 feet in recent weeks while Lake Mead has dwindled. Roundtree and other marina operators have asked the federal government to release more water to help them through this tough time. The answer, so far, is no.
"We're not asking for extra water, we're just asking for water that we normally get in October through January to give it to us now," he said.
The agreement was reached two years ago in response to conditions in 2005 that saw Lake Powell nearly evaporate. The pact was supposed to equalize water levels at the lakes but it sure hasn't worked out that way this year. "Lake Mead seems to be the one to be sacrificed. Powell is now the holding ground," said Roundtree.
"Not sure there's anything we can do. The negotiated agreements are what's driving the levels of the lakes," said Mayor Gibson.
The mayor says other entities that signed the pact are not likely to budge, but he acknowledges there is no practical reason why Powell couldn't release more water to help Mead.
The Bureau of Reclamation, in charge of federal water projects, agrees that Powell would not be hurt by releasing more water and even a few inches would be a great help to Lake Mead. But they also think it's important to uphold the agreement.
"It probably will not be balanced in any given year in the future under the new guidelines, but overall, it will be a better balance," said Terry Fulp with the Bureau of Reclamation.
That's not much consolation on Lake Mead, where marina owners are wondering why Nevada ever agreed to such an arrangement. "They were representing somebody's interests, but it wasn't Lake Mead's," said Kayser.
The person who signed the agreement on behalf of Nevada is Pat Mulroy, head of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Last week, Mulory's agency announced that if water levels at Lake Mead fall to 1,075 feet, it will trigger the start of that agency's long-sought plan to build a pipeline to take groundwater from rural Nevada.
The business owners recently met with Senator Harry Reid to see if he can help. Reid has called for a meeting later this month of all the key stakeholders to see if something can be worked out.