Blockchains Inc Wanted a Massive ‘Smart City’ in Nevada but Couldn’t Muster the Water Rights

California Forever isn’t the only tech-investor-driven mega-project to make news in recent weeks. Blockchains Inc had designs on remaking a massive swath of land near Reno until water got in the way.

2 minute read

September 19, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A hot springs in a low-lying desert area, with mountains in the distant background.

Trego Hot Springs in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada. | neillockhart / Adobe Stock

A private cryptocurrency company called Blockchains Inc spent years amassing land near the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center—even going so far as to request permission to create a local government, known as an Innovation Zone, in 2021.

Blockchains wanted to use the 67,000-acre property to create its own version of a “smart city”—a common vision of tech companies in recent years, most infamously exemplified by a failed attempt by Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, to remake a section of Toronto waterfront into a smart city. Even more recently, a master-planned development known as California Forever, complete with AI-generated renderings and a vision of solar-powered neighborhoods and local jobs, has attracted a steady stream of commentary and criticism.

According to an October 2021 article by Daniel Rothberg for the Nevada Independent, Blockchains intended to use the Reno-area Innovation Zone “as an incubator for how blockchain technology could be used in a physical setting.” Former Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak even touted the project during his 2021 State of the State address.

While detractors cited numerous concerns about the development, it was water that eventually derailed the idea, according to a new article by Rothberg, published last week. The water issue turned out to be much more complicated than amassing 67,000 acres, as it it turns out.

“Before briefing lawmakers on its plans, Blockchains quietly purchased a portfolio of water rights valued at about $35 million hundreds of miles away from its land north of Reno-Sparks,” writes Rothberg. “In order to get the water to the city, it would have had to pipe it across a region of Nevada that included the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s reservation and the Black Rock Desert, home to Burning Man.”

“Such a pipeline would likely face permitting challenges, including opposition from environmental groups and rural communities. Yet another big hurdle unfolded throughout 2021: A title dispute,” adds Rothberg.

Eventually Blockchains ended up suing the state for failing to grant the needed title, while pointing the finger of blame at then-Gov. Sisolak. More details on the whole complicated saga can be found in the article below.

Thursday, September 14, 2023 in The Nevada Independent

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