I-Team: Critics, Supporters Turn Out for Pipeline Hearing - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Critics, Supporters Turn Out for Pipeline Hearing

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LAS VEGAS - Living in Las Vegas, it's sometimes easy to forget that all Nevada once had were pastures, livestock and Hank Vogler.

The outspoken rural landowner made the long, dusty trek down into what he calls "The Lion's Mouth", sharing his mind with 100 others who are debating the water pipeline.

"The one endangered species you missed when you did your wonderful environmental impact statement was me - sheep herders," he said.

While science is still part of the planning, Monday night's meeting regarding the BLM's environmental impact study on the proposed pipeline was about emotion, anger and finger-pointing.

Read the Environmental Impact Study

Brian Unguren spoke harshly about fear of the pipeline among rural counties.

"It amazes me that people in the rural counties who benefit from my tax dollars are complaining so much about sending water where it is needed most," he said. "Their trivial concerns are based on emotion and rhetoric."

Unguren isn't alone. The possible 300-mile pipeline would bring years of consistent jobs, many in the construction sector. That makes unions push for support.

"Without this project moving forward, the entire economy of the State of Nevada is at risk," said Nevada AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Danny Thompson.

Science, however, isn't helping the pipeline. The impact statement paints a stark picture of barren ranches and fleeing wildlife.

The recession has slowed growth in Las Vegas, but the SNWA wants a long-term plan in which worries are answered.

"The project opponents treat it like it's a free-for-all, and that's just not the case," said SNWA spokesman J.C. Davis.

The authority faces a public relations problem as the environmental justification and the project's cost - which reaches billions of dollars - don't seem to match up with the state's economic reality.

"It's a case of the Southern Nevada Water Authority feeding at the trough of public funding," said pipeline opponent Rob Mrowka.

Pipeline or no pipeline, ranchers and herders like Vogler feel the change is here. After a lifetime of work, it may be tough to accept that there are more days in the past than the future for Vogler.

"I'm collateral damage," he said. "Yet, I'm the canary in the coal mine. It'll be my sheepherder that comes off the mountain and says, ‘No puede.' We don't have any water up there. I can't do her."

The Bureau of Land Management is scheduled to hold a few more hearings on the report. The BLM is expected to help decide if the pipeline should go forward.

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