Yucca Mountain

Abby Johnson related to the Commissioners that on Aug. 13, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to decide to license the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project or reject the application.

As reported by Lawrence Hurley of Reuters, the states of Washington and South Carolina, which host nuclear waste storage facilities, as well as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and others had sued the NRC over its inaction.

With almost $15 billion spent on Yucca Mountain over the years, funding has dropped under the Obama administration with no alternative in place. The plaintiffs argued the commission must continue to work on the Energy Department’s Yucca application regardless of the Obama Administration desire to abandon the project and Congress’ lack of appropriated funds.

In the ruling, D.C. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh said the commission “has not acted, and Congress has not altered the legal landscape.” He characterized the commission as “simply flouting the law,” referencing the 1983 Nuclear Waste Policy Act that directs the commission to approve or disapprove an application from the Energy Department for a nuclear waste repository.

The dissenting judge, Chief Judge Merrick Garland, said the lack of funds limits the impact of the court’s ruling which he said does “little more than ordering the commission to spend part of those funds unpacking its boxes, and the remainder packing them up again.” The commission has around $11 million to spend on the project.

The Las Vegas Sun, in an article by Cy Ryan on Aug. 20, related that the State of Nevada is considering using the nearly $5 million it has left to continue the fight against the licensing of Yucca Mountain.
In addition, the Sun related that Bob Halstead, director of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency, is also considering asking for an appeal of the case in front of the full U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., rather than just before the three-judge panel.

Abby Johnson likewise told the Eureka County Commissioners an appeal is likely from the NRC and the State of Nevada.

Johnson recently participated in an Effected Units of Local Government conference call, of which Eureka is one of 10 counties. While the State remains opposed to Yucca Mountain, some counties are interested in seeing the project go forward.

Johnson and other Eureka County officials will be travelling to Washington, D.C. on a Yucca Mountain and other federal issues trip in late September. Johnson said, “The timing couldn’t be better with a new law being proposed to rewrite the Nuclear Regulatory Policy Act with ideas that came out of the Blue Ribbon Commission being considered.”

Barrick Gold update

Melanie Lawson, Community Relations for Barrick Gold gave the Commission an update on Barrick Gold’s exploration drilling in Horse Canyon.

Lawson related that Barrick currently has 1 exploration drill rig in Pine Valley and 1 in Horse Canyon but will have 9 rigs running by mid September. In addition, Lawson said that everything is “moving forward” with the Lodge at Pine Valley, with a tour taking place on the Aug. 27 at 1 p.m.  Lawson said the Lodge should be up and running by the end of August.

Asked by Chairman Goicoechea whether it will be mandatory to live at the Lodge when working at Horse Canyon, Lawson said it will be considered on a case by case basis to accommodate someone within a reasonable travel distance; however, Lawson said, “Most folks coming from Elko will be required to stay at the Lodge” as “our main concern is the fatigue management issue which is why we’re doing this in the first place.”

In further Barrick news, later in the meeting, Jake Tibbitts, Natural Resource Manager, said there are a lot of rumors circulating about what Barrick’s Ruby Hill mine is doing with the intent of the Ruby Hill Advisory Committee being to get information directly from the mine to determine what’s true. Tibbitts asked interested parties to contact either him or Commissioner Ithurralde to get accurate information. Tibbitts noted Ruby Hill’s permitting lasts through the end of 2014 and Barrick continues to envision a long-term presence at the site with the company “looking forward many years down the road.” Tibbitts said the plan is to transition employees who want to stay to Bald Mountain and as of Aug. 7, the mine intends to keep all employees.” The mine is talking about leaving water levels where they are to accommodate future mining.

Asked about Barrick’s intentions for all their residential properties, Tibbitts said an individual has been promoted from within who will oversee the sale or offering of properties. Tibbitts said “not to be surprised to see ‘shingles for sale’ signs hung on some of their properties” as Barrick takes “a hard look at what they want to do,” having said they “want to get out of the real estate business.”

On the 13th, Tibbitts met with Barrick Gold “to start discussions to resolve the issues related to the Pine Valley water applications where Barrick had applied for all the remaining water rights” in the basin.

With nine drill outfits moving into Horse Canyon in September, Barrick will be working to define deposits and then move forward with a feasibility study. As the Chairman noted, “The best case scenario is 2021” as Barrick hasn’t “even triggered the process with the BLM to permit anything” and it will be 10 to 12 years before any associated mining occurs.

Devils Gate water application

An analysis of the Devil’s Gate G.I.D. water system’s supply, storage, distribution and water rates as if completely built out determined that in order to serve the residents, in particular applicants on the east side of 278 (with approximately 378 acres on the east side and approximately 206 lots), there are several deficiencies within District 1 and 2. It was determined that if water were extended to the east side of 278, it would also be wise to provide fire flow. Currently, the water system cannot provide fire flow to all areas of District 1 and 2. The analysis also evaluated storage if Devil’s Gate 1 and 2 were completely built and developed with 206 lots and found that a new well would be required as well as another 400,000 tank and a 3-way junction from Sharrow Circle, the proposed General Moly RV park, and the intersection of 278 and 3rd Street.

Public Works Director Damele related, “The bottom line and the recommendation in the executive summary” is to not expand the system until the deficiencies within the existing system are addressed first and “that would be already a considerable expense to peck away at that, which we are doing.” Damele said the County has “made great strides” and with the gravity system and two pressure zones there “it’s actually working quite well.”

To address fire flow there are dead-end lines that need to be looped in and hydrants installed. In addition, the County will likely have to upgrade or treat the well with high levels of arsenic in Devil’s Gate. Damele recommended pilot testing that well to identify the type of treatment to use. Damele believes pilot testing can be accomplished for about $15,000.

Damele’s cost estimate to get the “system dialed in” is a “few million dollars.”

With Devil’s Gate water applications in-hand from Suburban Propane, David & Robin Blanco, Phyllis LaRose, Larry & Patricia Etter, Wayne Robinson, Martin Etcheverry, and Paula Oliver,  the Commission, sitting as the Devil’s Gate G.I.D. Board, moved to deny the water applications and offer up a copy of the report with a letter explaining the decision to the applicants “so they’re on the same page as we are.”

Eureka Canyon housing project

In considering a request from Nevada Rural Housing Authority regarding refinancing for the Multifamily Project (townhomes) at the Eureka Canyon Subdivision, Jack White of Nevada Rural Housing related to the Commission that when NRH started leasing the Multifamily townhomes at the Eureka Canyon Subdivision, they initially achieved occupancy and stabilization about March of 2013 and stayed at that occupancy for 90 days until they achieved 100 percent occupancy which dropped off  when the General Moly mine “had to rethink financing,” at which point occupancy fell down to 82 percent. White anticipates occupancy moving up to 88 percent “come this weekend” taking all current leases into effect. White reminded the Commission that during planning the project was not counting on the mines to provide tenants.

In April of 2013, NRH hired Dennis Downey of Downey Capital to look for long-term permanent financing for the townhomes. Downey told the Commission he reached out to HUD lenders, “knowing HUD would be the most likely lender in the long-run. We were told immediately that we could not fit into the program because did not use HUD 221B4 to finance from the start.” NRH had thought “we could get a waiver and go for permanent financing” but new changes made last year by HUD will not allow submission of a HUD application until the end of 2015.

Downey reached out to Wells Fargo, the largest Fannie Mae and Freddie mac lenders and was told upon review of the summary that Fannie and Freddie “would not look at a project with a population of less than 20,000 people” and in addition they don’t like to depend on certain employment opportunities for worker housing; and lenders won’t look at a project unless it’s $5 million and above and the pay-off on the Eureka Canyon housing is $4 million+.

White reiterated that “there is no financing available;” and since there was no provision built-in for affordability for low income persons, the 223F loan through HUD is not available, meaning the HUD loan that requires 3 years of operation, able to be applied for in 2015, is the only financing program available. That loan application for non-profits, which NRH is, will require a minimum of 10 percent down as opposed to the previous 100 percent down.

District Attorney Beutel explained to the Commission, “NRH has to come every two years and say, ‘Here’s the efforts we made to find financing.’”

White asked the Commission to recommend any “avenue you think we haven’t looked at” and Chairman Goicoechea asked for a list of whom NRH has contacted and the Commission authorized the Clerk/Treasurer and County Editor to finalize a letter to NRH regarding NRH’s request for refinancing the project.

NDEP/EPA cleanup

Representatives from NDEP and the EPA, Colleen Cripps, Administrator for NDEP, and Jeff Collins the project supervisor overseeing the work going on in Eureka, and Tom Dunkelman, EPA, Region 5 Coordinator, came before the Commission to discuss the proposed work plan for cleanup of certain residential properties in the Town of Eureka exceeding 600 mg/kg arsenic and 3,000 mg/kg lead.

The next phase will be cleaning up residential yards in Eureka as well as the reinstatement of blood level sampling at the Eureka Medical Clinic after Sept. 30, working with Nevada Rural Health in Las Vegas to purchase the requisite equipment and then provide the service.

NDEP first sampled about 120 properties with property owner permission and then another 19 in May of this year. Of the 140 properties, 15 properties are scheduled for clean-up. NDEP’s team came to Eureka and met with “folks about their shrubs, lawns, and treasures” as to what could and couldn’t be removed and how it’s going to go. NDEP plans to return in two weeks with a work plan for each property which will include removal of the top foot of material to be returned with clean material. Until the contract is signed, the property owner “can tell us this isn’t working out for us and we’re not going to do it” but there is a point, Cripps acknowledged, at which the work plan has to be agreed to. Cripps assured the Commission NDEP is “going to be working with each individual property owner with a site specific plan so they have input on how it’s going to be done” and are in agreement before the work starts.

Commission Ithurralde asked whether adjoining neighbors will be notified as well and Cripps said, “We can.”

Cripps said NDEP is putting together another mailing to all Eureka residents letting them know what the work is going to look like and how long they’ll be in town.

Commissioner Sharkozy expressed concern about possible disruption of foundations and footings and was assured there will be no straight-edge cut along foundations and that the clean-up contractor for a year will go in and fix any problems created by the work. Digging will be by hand around shrubs and planters.

Chairman Goicoechea pointed out that there has not been a health risk in Eureka identified to date.

Cripps reiterated that NDEP would prefer to have all the children in Eureka’s blood sampled for lead since that’s the highest risk population. Cripps said her agency wants to make the testing available but will not be pushing it and that there is no requirement to have the blood testing; but it will be available for free.

Cripps said if individuals are found with high blood levels, there wouldn’t be an immediate assumption that the lead was in the soil; rather an analysis would take into account all factors to figure out the source.

The soil removal work is scheduled to begin around Labor Day with the work on properties expected to take about six weeks to complete. Environmental Quality Management out of Seattle will be the contractor and will be bringing in trucks, Bobcats, and excavators. The company did a clean-up in McDermitt this past spring and has done a number of residential clean ups.

NDEP is working on where to dump the contaminated soil.

The first public comment asked, “Who sicked you onto this community?” and Chairman Goicoechea said, “This is what we’re hearing from our constituents: ‘Why here, why Eureka, why now?”

Cripps said that while the Inspector General report had not included Eureka, a New York Times article came out about lead smelters across the country which have been identified and not addressed. The initial Inspector General’s report looked back to 1920 but not any earlier; meaning Eureka was not identified at that point although significant lead smelting had occurred in Eureka. Cripps said the attention on Eureka followed as “the next phase of that level of national interest on these types of historic events and the impact of them.” Cripps “wouldn’t say anybody was ‘sicked’ on this community; but given your history there’s interest in sites with historic activity” to be “addressed and cleaned up.”

Regarding the lack of health issues found, Cripps noted only a small portion of the population has been tested and the EPA’s Dunkelman noted, “Arsenic levels are of equal concern” and no analysis of arsenic health risks has been performed. Unfortunately, there is no simple arsenic level test available apparently.

Eurekan Christine Smith said, “Until you show there is a health threat to this community then I don’t feel that these actions are necessary. That issue has been brought up from the very first meeting.”

Scripps said, “The residents that we are going to be working with and cleaning up had opportunity to say ‘no’ and asked us to do the remediation of their property.”

Smith said, “Of course, they’re scared.”

Asked about the health risks from removing and moving the soil, Dunkelman explained, “We’re very careful when we remove the soil” and perform air monitoring around the work site to “make sure we don’t create a problem as we pick up the soil.”

Chairman Goicoechea asked what they would do if they see drift onto an adjacent property and Dunkelman said work would stop, water would be applied and the crew would reevaluate if they’re doing something wrong. Dunkelman didn’t “see any situation which would necessitate us going on somebody else’s property.”

After the properties are cleaned NDEP “will be going nowhere until further discussions with the County,” Cripps said.

Sheriff Ken Jones asked how long NDEP and the EPA would be staying and characterized the agencies as ‘haranguing’ people “until they get it done.” Jones asked, “Is this going to go on forever and forever now that you have a foot-hold?”

Collins said there won’t “be haranguing down the road,” noting it’s a “private property decision.”

Jones said, “Don’t tell me you’re going to turn around and leave.”

Collins said the agencies will get together with the County and “circle back as a community” with the agencies’ primary concern being how the community can protect itself.

Asked whether NDEP and the EPA are meeting similar opposition in other communities, Dunkelman said by the end of the McDermitt project “everybody expressed their appreciation” and he hopes for the same when they finish in Eureka.

County Engineer

County Engineer, Tom Young, reporting on the 2013 Street Maintenance Project, said, “It’s on its way as see on Third Street” where they finished pulverizing the street and are working to the intersection with SR278. Young said the Project is schedule with the contractor adding cement to the road bed and getting ready for paving to start the week after Labor Day which will take that entire week.

Regarding the Eureka Airport, Young related to the Commissioners that the past capital improvement plan listed items that the previous commission wanted to do as well as the associated costs. Young noted that the Runway 1735 reconstruction and taxiway connectors were done with federal funds, while the apron was done with local funds; the County with its own forces graded runway 8-26. Young said items that have been on the capital improvement plan in the past include: providing parking spaces; a new snow plow with a metal building to store it in; fencing the airport property; providing an addition to the hangar for more hangar space; the construction of two additional hangars for lease and activating the cross runway 8-26. Young said most of these are not eligible for federal funds. It was attempted in the past to see about federal funding for the cross runway, but the FAA looked at the wind and found when it’s windy it blows from the west but not enough to justify their thresholds. Young thinks the fencing and snow removal equipment would be eligible for grants. Currently, Eureka County has $125,000 in FAA funds in the bank and will receive another $125,000 which with a letter to the FAA can be saved and rolled over to the next year to do a project using grant funds.

Commissioners approved:
• The annual Equitable Sharing Agreement and Certification between Eureka County and the US Department of Justice regarding allocation of forfeited cash, property, and proceeds;
• A resolution honoring Maxine Rebaleati for her contributions to Eureka County;
• A new residential water application from Brandon Hammond for service at 338 Third Street in Crescent Valley, as approved by the Crescent Valley Town Advisory Board on Aug. 12;
• A capital outlay request for a new and complete 2013 New Holland TS6-110 4WD Tractor and Alamo Industrial-Falcon Hydraulic Rotary Mower for the Road Department as previously budgeted, not to exceed $87,300.00. Purchase will be a joinder of the National Joint Powers Alliance contract #031711-AGI;
• Signing deductive Change Order #5 in the amount of -$132,950.59 to adjust quantities on the Eureka Springs Rehabilitation Project, Phase 1, with Mesquite General Contracting;
• Authorizing the Public Works Department to fill the Public Works Administrative Assistant full-time position pursuant to the Eureka County attrition policy being vacated due to retirement;
• A proposal from GML Architects, LLC, to conduct a Needs Assessment and Master Plan for the Eureka Senior Center for a not to exceed amount of $8,250.00;
• Authorizing Public Works to begin advertising for a Design Build Contractor related to the Eureka Courthouse HVAC remodel with the successful contractor to have more than a one year warranty backed up with a service contract;
Out-of-state travel to Washington, DC, scheduled for Sept. 29 through Oct. 4, for Chairman Goicoechea, Natural Resources Manager Tibbitts, and Public Works Director Damele to meet with Congressional Delegation and staff, Yucca Mountain representatives, Department of the Interior staff, and others relating to Eureka County Natural Resources issues and concerns, including but not limited to recent Yucca Mountain Repository developments, renewable energy, RS2477 rights-of-way, and wild horse and grazing issues with a portion of the travel to be funded by the Department of Energy direct payment grant to Eureka County as an Affected Unit of Local Government.
• The Public Works Director to sign the annual Emergency Equipment Rental Agreement with Nevada Division of Forestry for wildland fire equipment use;
• Authorizing the Public Works Director to sign a lease with the State of Nevada, Department of Administration, Enterprise Information Technology Services, for Public Works, Sheriff’s Office, and Fire District radio repeater rack space on Mary’s Mountain. Term of lease will be Oct. 1, 2013, through June 30, 2017, for a total consideration of $12,806.61 for the term of the lease;
• Adopting a Resolution to clarify the use of sick and annual leave and to amend Eureka County Personnel Policy; and schedule a public hearing for Sept. 20 at 1 p.m.;
• Proposing an amendment to Eureka County Code, Title 2, Chapter 40, Section .030, Collection Procedure, to delete the requirement that invoices must be sent by certified mail, and confirm or change date of the public hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. on Oct. 7.