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complaining about because these reservations have already been made and about 90 percent of all the water in the Western States is on public land.
Senator WATKINS. What I was trying to do is stop any more reserving without giving the people an opportunity.
I have in mind the famous Dinosaur Monument situation and a few others. If a record had been made in those occasions, it would have been a far different story with respect to them.
Mr. SHAMBERGER. Of the approximately 70 million acres of land in Nevada, almost 60 million acres, or about 85 percent, is owned by the Federal Government. Furthermore, about 12 million acres of the Federally owned land is reserved land.
Under the Pelton decision, as interpreted by the Navy, the Government would not need to comply with State water law on these 12 million acres of reserved lands. We are also aware that such reserved area can be increased by Executive order. This would further decrease the effectiveness and extent of the operation of State water law, if the Department of Navy is correct in its interpretation of the Pelton Dam case.
If the Department of Navy's decision is upheld, it will make it virtually impossible for the State engineer to control the orderly development of ground water to its optimum extent. The Hawthorne case will illustrate the illogical stand taken by the Department of Navy.
The town of Hawthorne, the county seat of Mineral County, with a population of 2,000, occupies an area of 1 square mile near the center of the depot area. The town's water supply is partly furnished from two deep wells drawing water from the same groundwater basin as the Navy wells.
Permits to appropriate ground water were obtained on both wells. One permit, which has been perfected, was earlier in priority than the Navy permits and the other permit was junior in priority. As the town grows, undoubtedly other wells will be needed.
Recently the Navy drilled two additional wells. Because all the wells are drawing water from the same basin, the amount of water withdrawn by any one well or group of wells depletes the total amount of water available to the other wells in the basin.
Senator WATKINS. Have you had any difficulty now in getting enough water out of the well to satisfy the needs?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. Not up to date, sir.
Senator WATKINS. Well, is there any noticeable effect on the water supply, by reason of the fact that you have these wells competing with each other?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. Not in this particular basin at this time.
Mr. SHAMBERGER. The town of Hawthorne wells are between 300 and 400 feet, if I remember, and I think the Navy wells are about the same. They are deep wells.
Senator WATKINS. Are they pump wells?
Do I understand that you anticipate possibly that the town of Hawthorne and other private sources may have difficulty with their water supply, and under the State of Nevada you could regulate everybody using these underground supplies except the Navy Department; is that right?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is right, sir.
Senator BARRETT. So the upshot of this position taken by the Navy Department might possibly result in a situation where they could have unrestricted use of the underground water, whereas anyone else with right to that water would necessarily be restricted by nature and possibly later by the State?
Mr. ŠHAMBERGER. That is correct.
Now, the town of Hawthorne, of course, is limited in size. It may be that there will not be any conflict in water between the town and the Navy for some time or it could never happen. The point there is that if the situation were somewhat different and there was more private area adjoining the depot area, you could have a definite conflict between rights developed under the State law and the unrestricted use by a Government agency.
Senator BARRETT. I was going to ask one question.
Do I understand, too, that the conservation of that water by everyone else except the Navy could be adequately protected by the State officials and by State law whereas, under the philosophy and theory of the Navy Department, they would not necessarily be required to comply with any conservation uses of that supply of water?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is correct. We would have difficulty in protecting all of the interests in the area. We would have difficulty in protecting the interests who had developed their water rights under State law if we had no control over the unrestricted development by the Government agency and, conversely, we could not protect the Government operations unless we had control.
Senator WATKINS. Does Nevada have any laws governing the use of underground water?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. We have a very definite law enacted in 1939, and it has been amended a number of times to where we have a very comprehensive law now. Our Ground Water Act in its original setup was modeled after the New Mexico law and the Utah law to some extent.
Senator ANDERSON. It must be very good.
Senator BARRETT. Senator Bible was probably attorney general when it was worked out.
Mr. SHAMBERGER. We had a good deal of help from him at that time.
Senator BIBLE. Mr. Chairman, I was going to develop the point which Mr. Shamberger pointed out about the converse effect of this. I have particularly in mind Mr. Shamberger, and I want to publicly state that I worked with Mr. Shamberger for many years during the time I was deputy attorney general and during the time I was attorney general, from 1942 to 1950. Mr. Shamberger was first chief deputy State engineer and later became the State engineer of the State of Nevada, one of the best qualified and most efficient of our State engineers.
I find in getting into this Hawthorne case that it brings back a great many memories because it was my opinion back in about 1945, when
I insisted that the Navy comply with the State water law, and I now find that that is one of the issues in the bill now pending.
Senator WATKINS. Maybe the Senator can tell us whether they did comply with the State water law.
Senator BIBLE. They did until the Pelton case.
I did want to develop, before I develop the converse of this proposition, one further point.
I would like to ask Mr. Shamberger how much it would cost the Navy to perfect their rights under these underground water applications which have been pending since, as I understand it, 1945?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. Senator Bible, all that remained for the Navy to perfect these 6 permits was the filing of proofs of beneficial use and each proof required a fee of $1, so the cost of protecting the right would have been $6.
Senator ANDERSON. And they are going through court and taking the State of Nevada through court?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. We are taking them through court.
Senator ANDERSON. But if they had gone ahead and filed proofs, you would not have to do that?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is true.
Senator BIBLE. Six dollars, and it will cost the United States Government $60,000 before it is through, and maybe more than that.
May I develop one further point?
One of the best developed underground basins in the State of Nevada is in the Las Vegas Basin in Clark County?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is true.
Senator BIBLE. As I understand, the Air Force operating in Nellis Air Force Base, and with justifiable pride we can say it is the greatest
Senator ANDERSON. Be careful, Senator.
Senator BIBLE. This will hold up, Mr. Chairman. I think it is the busiest Air Force base in the world by the latest statistics. It is one of the last training grounds for the jet pilots before they go
If I understand correctly, at the Nellis Air Force Base they have developed underground water?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is correct; all of it comes from the underground basin in Clark County.
Senator BIBLE. Have they filed applications to appropriate underground water?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. They have filed applications and received permits on all of their wells that they have drilled. On some of those wells they are perfected, and they have received certificates of appropriation and that is the end as far as they have to go under the State law. They have the water right, and it has been completed on these wells.
Senator BIBLE. They paid the dollar on the permit?
Senator BIBLE. And they do have a perfected water right under the State water law?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is right.
Mr. SHAMBERGER. As I recall, we had to remind them about the same time that we reminded the Navy that they should comply with the law.
Senator BIBLE. And they complied ?
Senator BIBLE. I am trying to develop one more point, Mr. Chairman, because I think it is important and it is illustrated in the Las Vegas underground water basin.
Is it true that if there was not an orderly development and an orderly administration of the entire underground water basin of that area, that some pumpers and some underground wells could materially harm other areas?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is correct. It is all one basin and it is being depleted now about 20,000 acre-feet a year. The average annual replenishment to the basin is about 25,000 acre-feet and last year the use out of the groundwater basin was 40,000 acre-feet and we estimate another 5,000 acre-feet that we could not measure. That is a designated area under our underground water act and we have complete control over the drilling of wells and the use of water.
Realizing that the basin is being depleted, we have ceased issuing permits for such uses as irrigation, which takes a great deal of water, and are still continuing to issue temporary permits which will be subject to revocation when we can furnish Lake Mead water for these areas. We are keeping a very close control over the area.
Now, if the Air Force could have unrestricted use, and I might say that we so far have allowed all the permits that they apply for, but if we did not have complete control we could not work out the orderly development of the area nor could we curtail unnecessary uses.
Senator BIBLE. Conversely, though, is it not true that the State water law does actually protect the Air Force base at Nellis ?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is correct.
Senator BIBLE. Because if you were to allow a great many permits off of the reserved area, is it not possible that it could dry up the underground water uses of Nellis ?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. It would draw the water from beneath that area and would certainly harm and interfere with their rights.
Senator BIBLE. So, actually, by your orderly development of that area, you are in effect protecting their rights to certain underground water?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is correct.
a Do I understand now that they could get everything by the payment of $6 that they may get if they win this lawsuit?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. Yes, sir.
Senator ANDERSON. I must say; that only the armed services could pay $60,000 for what they could get for $6." I think I would prefer to save money by giving a dollar now.
There must be more to it than that. There must be a reason why they want to do it this way.
Nr. SHAMBERGER. I want to say that our relationship with the Navy people at Hawthorne has been very fine and I will come to that later.
Senator ANDERSON. I have no doubt, but there must be something more to this than just the payment of $6, is there not?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. There certainly must be.
Senator BARRETT. Well, of course, Mr. Shamberger, the idea that prompted the Navy Department to withdraw their application for a water right out there under State law was predicated entirely upon the position taken by the Justice Department and the Legal Department of the Navy purspant to the Pelton case, and they want to stand on the supremacy of Federal rights on the reserved lands in the 17 Western States; is that not a fact?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is a fact.
Senator BARRETT. There is just one other point I wanted to develop. I think that the colloquy between yourself and Senator Bible was very illuminating.
Would you say that the development of the underground water supplies is comparable to the development of an oil field on a unit basis?
Do you know what I am speaking of?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. I think I do.
Senator ANDERSON. Unitization.
Now, the United States, starting about 25 years ago, required the unitization of oil fields in which it had a major interest arising out of the public lands and the objective back of that is to conserve the oil and bring it out in an orderly fashion and protect all of the rights, and, consequently, the same theory prevails as far as underground water is concerned and the same philosophy prevails and it seems to me that the Federal Government, having taken that position 25 years ago with reference to oil, should recognize that that is precisely the best policy so far as protecting the underground water supplies is concerned. And I think it follows necessarily, as Senator Bible pointed out, that the only protection that the United States will have in the underground waters under its reserve lands is the fact that there is State law that can protect them with reference to the wells that may be drilled in the same basin or the same structure outside the reservation; is that right?
Mr. SHAMBERGER. That is correct.
I am sure the committee realizes that the pumps from the underground water basin, well, it is just like pumping from a surface reservoir; no matter what part you pump from, it has an effect on the whole reservoir.
Senator ANDERSON. Is there anybody here from the Department of Defense that can illustrate why the Navy is insisting on going through court?
Maj. HAL H. BOOKOUT (Legislative Liaison Division, Department of the Army). Our witnesses are not present today. Mr. Roderick is scheduled for the Department of Defense.
Senator ANDERSON. Could he not clear this point up easily? Major BOOKOUT. I will mention it to him so he will be prepared when he comes before the committee.
Senator WATKINS. A very valuable principle is involved here. It is not just a question of $6.
After the Pelton case, they probably feel they are bound not to recognize the State ownership.