Skip to comments.Desert Connections (Harry Reid aids Coyote Springs developer)
Posted on 08/20/2006 1:47:06 AM PDT by calcowgirl
One of the most inhospitable places in the country, Coyote Springs Valley is so barren that, until recently, its best use was thought to be as a weapons test range.
Yet the valley an hour northeast of Las Vegas is on its way to becoming a real estate development of historic proportions, with as many as 159,000 homes, 16 golf courses and a full complement of stores and service facilities. At nearly 43,000 acres, Coyote Springs covers almost twice as much space as the next-largest development in a state famous for outsized building projects.
Helping make Coyote Springs come alive was an alliance between a multimillionaire developer and one of the highest-ranking members of Congress: Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader and a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
The relationship between developers such as Harvey Whittemore and politicians such as Reid is especially close in Nevada, home to a small fraternity of movers and shakers, powerful demands of rapid population growth and a huge amount of federally owned land.
Over the last four years, Reid has used his influence in Washington to help the developer, Nevada super-lobbyist Whittemore, clear obstacles from Coyote Springs' path.
At one point, Reid proposed opening the way for Whittemore to develop part of the site for free something for which the developer later agreed to pay the government $10 million.
As the project advanced, Reid received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Whittemore. The contributions not only went to Reid's Senate campaigns, but also to his leadership fund, which he used to help bankroll the campaigns of Democratic colleagues.
Whittemore also helped advance the legal careers of two of Reid's four sons. . . .
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
I won't read the whole article but will say that what it implies does not surprise me. You can be sure that nothing will hurt Reid, dems are excellent liars.
It's the frontpage article of the Business Section.
I re-read. Thought I saw a 'page 5' somewhere in the article the first breeze through. 5:10 AM at the time, no coffee yet.
Is Nevada getting tired of ol' Dingy yet?
And just where will they find water and power for this nonsense?
Maybe if there's something in oil drilling for old Dingy Harry, we'll have more oil exploration.
Desolate is one thing, but this is ridiculous.
By LAUNCE RAKE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS COYOTE SPRINGS - The Coyote Springs Valley sprawls between three southern Nevada mountain ranges in a remote area rich with cactus, purple sage, jack rabbits and tortoises. Soon, thousands of homes will be built in this classically Western setting.
Already, workers are carving out a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course to help entice residents. Harvey Whittemore, the powerful lobbyist-turned-developer, says he's as proud of the natural elements of Coyote Springs as he is of the golf course.
The work under way is the product of a decade of study, planning, cajoling governments and sometimes acrimonious debate over something once seen as impossible: a new city in the desert, 55 miles north of Las Vegas, halfway to just about nothing at all.
``People said I was crazy,'' Whittemore said during a recent tour of the nascent development. ``What I said was: You have all this land, the best land in southern Nevada, and you've got water.''
Whittemore says most people still believe the project is confined to blueprints, but the movement of heavy equipment on the site belies that.
``When people talk about it, they think it's another four or five years. I tell them, 'no, it's another four or five months,''' he adds.
While land and water provide the essential ingredients for desert development, Coyote Springs would not be possible without federal and local governments.
The project's roots date to a land swap Congress approved in 1988 for a rocket-production company. In the swap, Aerojet traded land in the environmentally sensitive Florida Everglades for 29,000 acres at Coyote Springs and a 100-year lease on an additional 14,000 acres.
In 1996, the company agreed to sell the land to Whittemore's holding company. Two years later, Coyote Springs Investment completed the deal and began trying to win federal and local approval for the development.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an interest because the land included habitat for the endangered desert tortoise. The Bureau of Land Management had oversight of the leased acreage and surrounding land.
Both Lincoln and Clark counties also had zoning oversight, and wanted to ensure that municipal services would be provided without charging existing taxpayers. Whittemore and a small army of consultants overcame the permitting challenges, in part by creating self-funding districts for the municipal services and by providing land and water for habitat protection.
Among the agreements, Coyote Springs Investment will provide 460 acre-feet of water annually - about 150 million gallons - to sustain the endangered Moapa dace, a 3-inch fish found in northeast Clark County.
The dace would receive the water through releases within Coyote Springs' Pahranagat Wash, which feeds the Muddy River 15 miles downstream. The wash is part of the land set aside from development, and the set-aside and agreement to release water for the dace helped the project win an award from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Water is a crucial element, and Whittemore is working to win state approval to import water from Lincoln County for the project.
In 1998, he sold part of the water he controlled. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, the water wholesaler for all of urban Las Vegas and its suburbs, paid him $25 million for 7,500 acre-feet.
The money was helpful, and so was the strategic alliance with the Water Authority, Whittemore says. Even with the sale and the water going to sustain the Moapa dace, he says Coyote Springs still has 4,140 acre-feet - more than 1.3 billion gallons annually - for the project. That's more than enough to support thousands of homes and the first golf course.
That water already is pumping to the project, filling lakes on the golf course and watering thousands of plants in the project's greenhouses.
Pardee Homes is among the homebuilders who have dived into the project. Klif Andrews, Pardee's division president, says his company and four other builders will begin selling custom lots later this year. Homes in the master-planned community will go on sale in August 2007, and people can open their front doors by the end of that year.
Andrews anticipates selling ``1,000 to 1,200 homes a year for the first two, three years.'' Once it's built out, decades from now, the development could have 159,000 homes, including condominiums.
Some environmentalists oppose the project, including Sierra Club activist Jane Feldman, who served on a technical committee that advised Whittemore on ways to limit environmental impacts.
The basic problem is the remote location, Feldman says, adding, ``We have tremendous concerns about what's going on out there. Leapfrog urban development is just not smart by any definition of the word.''
While Feldman says federal and local governments should have blocked the development, she still credits Whittemore with providing natural space in the development.
Whittemore says he's done everything he can to make the project environmentally friendly. He adds he was under no obligation to provide 13,000 acres for green space.
``The land is going to be developed,'' he says. ``Don't you want it done to the highest standard? We have a true commitment to protecting the natural resources.''
Whittemore also says he realizes that some opposition will always be there because of his history as a lobbyist.
``I think people are a little bit jealous,'' he adds. ``I am very blessed. I am the luckiest guy in America.''
On the Net: Coyote Springs: www.coyotesprings.com/
U.S. Water News Online
CARSON CITY, Nev. -- A state engineer's decision on Coyote Springs Valley could slow a powerful lobbyist's development plans and thwart efforts by Las Vegas to get water from the valley.
Hugh Ricci says no new water rights will be issued in Coyote Springs Valley for at least five years, although those with existing rights can begin pumping water in the area about 50 miles north of Las Vegas.
A study will be made over the next five years to see if drawing the 50,465 acre feet already claimed will hurt the environment or other water rights.
The decision allows lobbyist and developer Harvey Whittemore to start the initial phases of his proposed golf course community in the valley that straddles the Clark-Nye County line.
But without more water, Whittemore, who already owns rights to 6,100 acre-feet in Coyote Springs, may have to scale back his plans. The developer had sought an additional 16,000 acre-feet to build a community of 50,000 homes.
An acre foot is enough to supply a family of four for a year.
The decision also dampens plans by the Las Vegas Valley Water District to draw 27,500 acre-feet from the Coyote Springs Basin; and delays an agreement between Whittemore, the Water District, the Southern Nevada Water Authority and the Moapa Valley Water District that set ratios on how much water each would get from the Coyote Springs Valley.
Ricci noted little solid information exists on the amount of water in the area's deep carbonate aquifers, and he wants more data before allowing additional pumping.
Environmentalists praised the decision as a way to ensure future water decisions in the valley are based on science.
John Hiatt, conservation chairman of the Red Rock Audubon Society, called the Ricci ruling ``great news,'' though he would have rather seen the applications denied.
The Red Rock Audubon Society had protested the application, as did the Sierra Club and the federal government.
Whittemore said Ricci's decision was expected.
``We have always advocated a go-slow approach,'' he said.
Whittemore said he could still proceed with the initial phases of his development in 12 to 18 months, which include 2,000 homes. Besides the 5,000 acre-feet of water he will retain, Whittemore said he has 8,600 acre-feet for temporary use from the Las Vegas Valley Water District.
Vince Alberta, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, called the decision responsible.
OK, this has to be the final answer.
Thanks, I forgot to refresh before my last, so I'm redundant.
No you're not... my link was bad. Thanks for adding it.
Thanks to you, I didn't check the link, but was referring to the map, which I had attempted to place instead of the link, but didn't get it done with the copy/paste method. Copy seemed to work but it wouldn't paste. How did you manage? I did notice a size difference between the article and the posted map.
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