Proposed Faraday factory's water needs drag special session into weekend

CARSON CITY (KSNV News3LV) -- No one-and-done up in Carson City.

It looks like Nevada's 29th special session of the legislature - this one called to approve legislation and incentives to bring a high tech car maker to Southern Nevada - will stretch into the weekend.

Last week, Faraday Future said it had chosen North Las Vegas for its new factory for, as yet, an unseen product.

There are big issues on the table: a tax incentive and investment package worth $335 million dollars. Plus, the thorniest issue of all in our drought-stricken state: water.

UNLV's Robert Lang says lawmakers need to think big.

"The most important thing that could happen up in Carson City right now is that we don't remember this session as the Faraday special session, but the Apex special session," Lang said in an interview today.

Faraday chose the dusty desert industrial site in North Las Vegas to build its billion dollar plant that, when fully-built, is estimated to employ about 4,500 workers. Lang was a consultant for the city.

Apex, with its 20,000 acres, sits untapped. Faraday, North Las Vegas hopes, would be just one tenant, with more to come. There's already interest: on December 8th, the high-tech transportation company Hyperloop Technologies said it was building a facility there.

The money to bring Faraday is just one issue on the table. The other is water, and it is a crucial and complicated one in a state racked by a brutal drought. Faraday would be fed, initially, by basin water from the Sheep Range.

"How much water is in the basin? Can you borrow from other basins? Can you swap basins?" Lang asks. "The minute you start introducing the idea of liberalizing basin movement, then there's central and northern Nevada concerns about Las Vegas' acquisition of water."

"People go into these and they were worried about the size of the tax incentive deal and the package, and all of that," Lang says. "Everybody thinks that's where the game's going to be. They go over - and there's the water."

It's a crucial discussion because, if Apex takes off, its thirst for water grows. A limited supply would limit the kinds of businesses that would be able to locate there. That's why the long-range plan is to pipe Lake Mead water to the site.

Legislation dealing with water had not been filed on the legislative website by 5:30 Friday evening. Under the proposal, Lang tells me, control over water would rest with the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

"A firm had to come into Apex and turn on the lights, turn on the water, turn on the spigot. Once that gets going, then others follow more smoothly," Lang told me. "They don't require special sessions; you don't have to fix the water again and again and again."

There are some conservatives who argue incentives interfere with the free market, and that the economic projections of projects like Faraday - and its Northern Nevada predecessor - Tesla - are overblown. Yet North Las Vegas is banking on the potential of Apex to turn around the financial fortunes of a city that was only a few steps away from state receivership. No city in Nevada was as ravaged by the Great Recession.

The Faraday factory is estimated to pump $87 billion into the economy. A built-out Apex, Lang says, would be a half-trillion dollar economic jolt. Already there are rumors other companies are eyeing the location, including Google, which reportedly wants to build a huge data center there, and another company, which would build a hydroponic facility to grow plants and vegetables for local resorts. Lang would not reveal who that is, but tells me it would actually save water with its high-tech process. How many companies are seriously interested? "More than five, less than 10," he said.

"The bigger picture, the more important prize, is that Apex is open for business large-scale, and that firm after firm for a conga line into that space," he said.

For a region that has too long been dependent on tourism - and paid the price for it in the last downturn, it's a necessity, he says.

"We would be far better off with Apex built out in the next cycle of recession, because we'd have something else to do other than sell you a drink."

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