I-TEAM: Ranchers say they are ‘being bullied and run out of business’ by SNWA

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Southern Nevada water customers may not know it, but we’re all part owners in a vast ranching operation, hundreds of miles outside the Las Vegas valley.

Ranchers in east-central Nevada say they are being bullied and run out of business by a ranching competitor with unlimited resources — the government.

Hank Vogler, a spring valley rancher says, “They’re bullying me. They’re pulling all this kind of crap which they have no right to do…they’re a state agency for god’s sake.

Rancher Hank Vogler and his sheep have survived brutal winters, extended drought, predators, poachers, you name it.

But Vogler isn’t sure he can survive the ongoing onslaught from one of his neighbors — the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA).

SNWA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a failed plan to siphon billions of gallons of groundwater from rural Nevada and ship it to Las Vegas via a $15 billion dollar, 300-mile long pipeline.

As part of that plan, the agency spent close to $100 million dollars to buy up at inflated prices large ranches in white pine county. The plan was demolished in federal court largely because removing the groundwater would create a dead zone in central Nevada, and the plan was officially declared dead, but Vogler suspects the actions against him mean the water grab is still on the table.

Hank Vogler said, “And I think. They’re just trying to hold their deal. They think they’re going to be able to build the pipeline.”

For years, Vogler was one of the most outspoken critics of the water grab.

Now, he thinks, he’s being targeted for payback.

There have been multiple clashes between longtime ranchers and the properties operated by SNWA employees.

Vogler says SNWA has filed for additional water permits, including the same ones he’s used to raise sheep for the past 21 years. He suspects SNWA is behind the $28,000 dollar fine imposed on him by the BLM for trespassing, that is, for using the water that’s been his since 2000.

“I get a $28,000 dollar willful trespass. They’re trying to put 50 years of my life out the window. They’re trying to destroy my business,” Hank Vogler said.

Vogler alleges that SNWA personnel vandalized his water system, disabled the pumps, poked holes in his troughs, and left his sheep to die.

Hank Vogler says, “They tore out my water troughs? They dismantled the control box on a well. They knocked holes in the waterfront George. If you and I did that, we’d be in charlie Manson’s cell.”

Vogler says it’s not just his ranch in the crosshairs, but others are being targeted as SNWA’s ranch as it expands its operations.

The legal bills are already draining him dry, while SNWA has a huge legal team funded by water customers in las vegas.

Why is a state agency in the ranching business at all?

Vogler says that federal policies prohibit government agencies from getting grazing permits, but SNWA has them.

The Great Basin Water Network says the intent is obvious.

The SNWA maintains its massive farming and ranching operation in Eastern Nevada for one reason: To export water for sprawl growth in Las Vegas at the expense of communities and the environment.

Great Basin Water Network

Vogler says state agencies shouldn’t be allowed to drive people like him out of business.

Vogler adds, “They have no business in direct competition with private enterprise raising sheep, cows, or alfalfa.”

A spokesperson for SNWA, Bronson Mack, told 8 News Now SNWA believes it is eligible to receive grazing permits, given the BLM has approved such permits over the years.

Mack added that there are no plans to pump any water to Las Vegas from the authority-owned properties.

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