Eureka County Commission Chairman J.J. Goicoechea, Ron Damele, Nuclear Waste Advisor Abby Johnson, and Jake Tibbitts were in Washington, D.C. when the government shut down on Oct. 1.
Goicoechea joked the Eurekans “were successful in the first 24 hours in shutting down the government” as they met with agency and government officials during the week. Goicoechea said only two Forest Service individuals cancelled and that they enjoyed “productive dialogue, to say the least.”
When meeting with Acting Director Neil Kornze of the BLM, Goicoechea said Kornze “engaged us right off the bat on the wild horse issue. He threw that out there first. He understands our concerns” and is “thinking outside the box on population control” including surgical sterilization. Goicoechea noted he “can put in my thoughts as a vet.”
The Eureka delegation brought up the issue of RS2477 roads and right of ways, which Public Works Director, Ron Damele, who was present on the trip, noted has been “an issue that’s been on the forefront for the county for a long time.” While Damele said the “BLM’s not going to really jump on that and tell us the best way to go, we found out we can apply for a Title 5 Right of Way that does not compromise our RS2477 claim. They will entertain those on a case by case basis.”
With one application per road, the process is fairly labor intensive but the BLM did it for a county in Utah which set precedent. The thought is to try a Title 5 application somewhere in the northern part of the county and see how that goes and set precedent in that district.
The commission directed Ron Damele and Ray Hodson to find the best road to go with first. Damele is considering reaching out to the State of Utah which has a process guide. “They did something right and made it this far,” he said.
Damele noted RS2477’s only work on public lands and it has to be proven that the road was in existence prior to the land having been patented which is difficult since that generally represents a time before photographs and records. Damele said, “We can’t just sit around; we’re going to have to make a move either way” as “people are passing away” and their affidavits are essential. Goicoechea agreed that the County needs to “start getting that paperwork together so if it’s twenty years down the road we’re not looking for the one guy” who’s still alive.
Tibbitts added that Utah has an entire department under their attorney general coordinating with the counties to get their affidavits in. In Utah there is a deputy district attorney whose job is to get the affidavits together. Utah’s process held up in District Court and their process was enough to get title to 15 of 17 right of ways in district court.
Damele noted a lot of times an environmental assessment needs to be done and the question becomes who’s going to pay for the EA.
Goicoechea said at some point the county may want to take the lead and hire a contractor to do the EA and EIS and said the “BLM was very receptive to this” and to “help us move forwards” may “have to do that at some point” to “find a way to get in front of the process.”
Goicoechea said it was very apparent Kornze “had talked to the State [BLM] director right down to the District Manager” and “he knows we’re not happy with them.” In addition, they met with the chief of the BLM’s wild horse and burro program and talked to the BLM about fires. In all, the Eureka team met for 7 hours with the BLM on Sept. 30.
On Oct. 1,, they went into their Congressional delegation meetings. Goicoechea joked that Majority Leader Senator Reid “would not meet with John Boehner but he would meet with Eureka County” and the majority leader “just asked how many people were in Eureka County” and talked about “a diamond mine in Arkansas with diamonds on the ground.” Goicoechea thinks for Reid “it had been a long day” and related they had “a good meeting with his staff in the morning and talked about a lot of concerns including sage grouse.
An invitation was extended for the Congressional people to “come and talk to us” as staffers haven’t been to the Governor’s council on sage grouse. There is apparently Nevada specific legislation being formulated and the County team expects a meeting later this fall or winter with some representation of Congress.
Goicoechea said their meeting with Congressman Amodei was over an hour long “on what he’s doing and where he’s going to help us out here.” Goicoechea joked, “I think Mark was lonely and wanted to see somebody from the west” and said the Congressman asked the Chairman “to return this Thursday to testify on the Endangered Species Act and impact” which Goicoechea “turned down because I have a council meeting.” Amodei’s office followed up with an e-mail request for his attendance but Goicoechea said, “It’s expensive to go back there” for “three minutes of public comment.” Goicoechea said Amodei “was fine with it but I wanted to make clear we discussed that at great length whether we should.” Tibbitts said, “We provided a whole packet, a laundry list” as discussions continued to “circle back to sage grouse a lot.”
Goicoechea expressed concern that “we’re looking at a short term fix and then fifty years, oh boy.”
He said, “We were within several hundred yards of the incident on Capital Hill” on Thursday, October 3rd when a woman with a year-old child attempted to crash through the White House perimeter with her car, and then led Secret Service and police on a chase down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol before she was fatally shot. “We were there for all the fun,” said the Chairman.
Tibbitts said, “The only thing I would add is the last time we went we sent ‘thank you’ letters.” Tibbitts requested that ‘thank you’ letters be on the next agenda but with more specificity with a “synopsis of what we covered and ‘what we asked you to do.’”
Tibbitts said there are “a lot of bills in the House that would be very good for Eureka County.