Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Threatened Pahranagat

The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, located north of Las Vegas off US93, is an oasis of marshlands, ponds, and lakes. Part of its wonder is the dichotomy of its existence – on the refuge side of the US93, a lush wetlands beckons with grasses as tall as a man, huge cottonwoods, and birds in abundance. On the desert side of the highway, only yards away, stand cacti, Joshua trees, and open desert to the horizon..

The water level at the Lower Pahranagat Lake appears to be extremely low, and blossoms of some kind of orange algae mar the lake’s edges. Dried up ponds are visible everywhere. One has to wonder what effect the Las Vegas Valley Water District’s plan to pump water from the northern counties will have on this area. Global warming appears to have started the job, but the exploding population of Las Vegas may finish it off. Dr. Jim Deacon’s letter to the editor in the RJ’s June 29th issue says that the proposed pumping will affect water levels in the entire region – some as far as 1,600 feet.

At the Upper Pahranagat Lake, we saw campers and fishermen. A huge blue heron flew past us and settled into one of the massive cottonwood trees that line the lake. Trails are abundant everywhere in the area, but be careful – hunting is allowed in the preserve.

On the way to Pahranagat NWR, we passed Coyote Springs, Pardee’s planned community out in the middle of nowhere. Harvey Whittemore, the developer, is sticking to his story that this community is online and not being affected by the slow housing market. Things looked pretty deserted to me, but it was Saturday when we drove past. We saw part of a golf course, lots of construction equipment, and possibly one house in the distance. Interestingly enough, the RJ carried a couple of articles about Coyote Springs in late May. With our current water woes doing nothing but getting worse, I would think that the water availability might be more of a problem than the depressed housing market.

Coyote Springs has been controversial since its inception, and I expect we’ll be reading more about this development. Since Jim Rhodes’ Pravada in Northern Arizona has halted construction, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that Coyote Springs may run into similar problems, although our legislators are far more agreeable to questionable development deals than Arizona.

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