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Record low water levels predicted for Lake Mead

LAS VEGAS -- California may be dealing with a statewide drought, but judging by a meeting held Tuesday by the Colorado River Commission, it looks like Nevada is the state that's in trouble.

A report released Tuesday predicts record lows for Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which is where the state gets 90 percent of its water. The water Nevada receives from the Colorado River also isn't helping much, and a lot of that has to do with the water rules that were established in the last century.

"We get the least allocation of the Colorado River, and that is based on treaties that are a century old and that's never going to change," said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

The treaty didn't account Nevada's population growth. Even though Nevada's population has exploded in the past 30 years, the state only gets a 1.8 percent share of the water.

I-Team: Ex-officer suffers ill effects of asbestos

LAS VEGAS -- Public health officials in Nevada haven't always been candid about possible risks.

Decades ago, people were told that fallout from above ground nuclear tests was not causing disease, and the state was slow to react to reports about secondhand smoking.

High-ranking health officials have assured people in recent years that there is nothing to fear from naturally-occurring asbestos in the southern Nevada rocks, soil, and air, but new research is casting considerable doubt on that viewpoint.

There's a lot of gray area between "no risk" on one hand and "public panic" on the other.

The study that found asbestos deposits is largely the work of just three people, and they could use some help.

Picturesque Libby, Montana is finally bouncing back from its unwelcome status as the asbestos capital of the country. The air is clean. Teams are monitoring the water. The sick are being treated.

I-Team: Asbestos fibers found near school, park and homes

BOULDER CITY, Nev. -- A controversial research project investigating possible health effects from natural asbestos was the hot topic this week at a national science conference in California. 

I-Team: UNLV geologists ordered to keep quiet over asbestos

LAS VEGAS -- Two UNLV professors say they were intimidated by state health officials who ordered them to keep quiet about evidence of a possible threat to public health.

The initial discovery was made almost five years ago.

A research team that included two UNLV geologists found hints that asbestos deposits might be making people sick, but the findings were kept quiet after state officials threatened to drop the hammer on the researchers.

Was it scientific censorship? 

The I-Team put that question to state health officials as part of a week-long project, Nevada's Toxic Threat.

What was uncovered by these researchers could represent a major threat to public health. The evidence, so far, is preliminary but it is being taken seriously by other government entities.

Boat renters not required to take online boater safety test

LAS VEGAS -- Boat rentals are expected to rise as temperatures get hotter, which means more boaters on Lake Mead.

Since 2003, people operating their own boats are required to have an education card. An online test must be passed in order to get the card. Nevada residents born in 1983, or after, have to take the test, but people renting boats don't have to.

Gail Kaiser, manager of the Las Vegas Boat Harbor, explains that renters are only required to watch a 10 minute safety video before they can head out on the lake. She says renters vary from highly qualified boaters, to ones with no experience at all.

"I've boated before," said one boat renter. "I think the big thing the video taught me was to wait the 10 seconds after you turn off the motor because the propeller will still be spinning."

Ranger offers life-saving advice to Lake Mead boaters

LAS VEGAS -- Memorial Day weekend is just a few weeks away and Lake Mead will be packed with visitors as they kick off the summer season.

Summer can also be a dangerous season at the lake because of inexperienced boaters. Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard show 80 percent of people in boating accidents never took a class to prepare them for handling a boat.

From land to water, the laws get looser. 

Lt. Michael Maynard, a Nevada Fish and Wildlife warden, says added elements like wind and waves can make boating harder than driving a car. On a lake, a minor accident can end with a drowning.

"A completely survivable boat accident, if someone gets ejected overboard, can become a fatality," Maynard said.

8 News NOW joined the game warden for the ride as he patrolled Lake Mead.

Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1983 needs to pass an online test and carry an education card.

Boaters are also required to have safety equipment on-board.

Construction on Lake Mead launch ramps to begin in May

BOULDER CITY, Nev. – The National Park Service says construction to extend Lake Mead launch ramps will begin in mid-May.

The Bureau of Reclamation is projecting Lake Mead's elevation will decline to a record low 1,073 feet by the end of June. Officials say to maintain access to the lake, the launch ramps will be extended this summer.

“With nearly 7 million annual visitors, Lake Mead National Recreation Area is one of America's most popular recreation destinations. We are committed to maintaining lake access at all of our open launch ramps,” said Patrick Gubbins, acting superintendent.

During construction portions of the launch ramps will be closed, so crews can pour new concrete. Officials say at least one lane will remain open at all locations.

Officials say the best launch ramps for deep water launching are Echo Bay, Callville Bay and Boulder Harbor. While Hemenway Harbor, Temple Bar and South Cove are better for launching smaller boats.