In discussing the Sagebrush Ecosystem Program and Nevada Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan, Goicoechea said, “I can imagine we’ll get the document for public review of the EIS in about three weeks. May is pretty much shot as we’ll have to be reviewing that for consistency.” At a meeting of the Technical Team and Science Working group in Carson City, Goicoechea said, “There was something overlooked in the State Plan” before final passage and they are working on getting a 7 inch stubble height requirement removed which otherwise would make the Nevada plan inconsistent with the BLM plan. On Wednesday, March 18, Chairman Goicoechea attended the Elko County Commission meeting and ended up speaking on behalf of the Sage Brush Ecosystem Council. “We don’t know where we’re at on these maps” of the sage grouse areas which entail roughly 3.5 million acres in Northern Nevada. Idaho’s Governor Otter has put out a letter that “enough is enough and we’re not going to take this” and Goicoechea understands that thus far Montana, Utah and Idaho have signed on while Nevada and Wyoming have not. “It’s coming right down to the nitty-gritty,” the Chairman said.
Goicoechea said he was “up all morning working on trying to establish a fiscal note to a bill that is being introduced so we can give companion animals medicinal marijuana for chronic pain and as president-elect of the Vet Med Association I was asked to come up with a fiscal note on roughly how many animals in the State of Nevada would be eligible.” Goicoechea said he thinks he has “a dog I’m not so sure he’s not sneaking it behind me at times the way he acts so I’m going to have to blood test him.” Goicoechea said it hit New Mexico first and that night he got the bill. “We put a great big fiscal note on it hoping that it dies.”
Tibbitts noted that last Monday was the deadline for legislators’ language to get out on BDRs [Bill Draft Requests] and that Monday March 23rd is the deadline for Committee bill language. Tibbitts said presently they’re up to about 900 bills and said by Monday, March 23rd it could reach 1400.
YUCCA MOUNTAIN UPDATE
Nuclear Waste Advisor Abby Johnson gave a short update on Yucca Mountain, relating that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that they are going to start a process to do a supplemental EIS as they determined the Department Of Energy’s EIS on Yucca Mountain was not adequate in relation to groundwater or surface discharges of groundwater which will be the topic of the supplemental EIS, which is a supplement of a supplement. The Final EIS was issued in 2002 and then a Supplemental was issued in 2008 so this is a supplement to a supplement. Johnson said, “The DOE said ‘We’re not going to do this’” so the NRC is doing it and has about $2 million available. EIS meetings will be held in Nevada and Washington this fall with the final SEIS to be out in 12 to 15 months according to the schedule announced in the Federal Register. Johnson is in conversation with Diane Curran, the County’s NRC licensing attorney to see what the County needs to do. Johnson characterized it as “an odd hybrid process” because the NRC hasn’t been involved in data processing. Johnson doesn’t know how they’ll go about it as they’re not doing a scoping; they already have the scope which is those two areas.
Johnson also noted that new members of Congress will be touring Yucca Mountain and noted none of the current Commissioners were on the last local Yucca Tour. “We were the last normal Yucca tour before they literally shut the gate and turned off the lights. So, the Congress has been back one more time in the interim to look at the empty shaft and the owl that lives in the trash bin and that’s what we saw. That’s going to happen on April 9th; they’re going to open it up again. As a personal comment, as a personal humorous comment, I think they need a Yucca camp. There’s also a bill that’s been introduced by four of the five members of the Nevada delegation regarding a state’s right to have a consent process for a nuclear waste repository. I’ve seen the language of the bill; it’s not as clear as it could be and especially for the role of Affected Units of Local Government. I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time on it; but we need to be aware.”
Johnson said at the local level, Rex Massey, who does the County’s Yucca Mountain related Socioeconomic Conditions and Trends report is doing the update for 2015 and that should be done probably some time this summer. Massey updates areas that haven’t been updated for a while or need additional information so that’s ongoing. Johnson asked the Commission for key areas of monitoring they’d like to see focused on. Johnson is close to being done with the archiving and will have three external hard drives with the information, one in Ron Danele’s office; one in the vault and one with Johnson so that all the information is available. An update and overhaul has been done of the Yucca Mt. website which gets 100,000 hits. Johnson said the website doesn’t look much different but has a lot of fresh material.
Public Works Director, Ron Damele, reported the test well specs for the Stevens Basin in Kobeh Valley have been completed and are ready to go whenever needed. The annual Red Card Refresher Class was held Tuesday the 17th; and will be held in Crescent Valley/Beowawe on April 11th and in Diamond Valley on April 14th. The media was changed March 19th in the Crescent Valley Arsenic Treatment Plant for the first time since December 2011 during which time 171 million were treated, about 524 acre feet. A suitable private gravel source has been identified for the Roberts Creek re-route. The record of survey for the Biale property should be completed next week and water meters began being read for the base reading in Crescent Valley, Eureka and Diamond Valley.
Clerk/Treasurer Bev Conley related she wants to change the focus of her monthly report, noting that “we do have $52 million in funds available; but the majority of that is either pass-through, enterprise, priority, or reserve funds; in some way they’re all restricted; so, what I’d like to report to you on a monthly basis is what’s available in the General Fund.” Conley reported the ending balance in February is $10,200,669.76. Conley also reported a new investment of $500,000 in First Empire.
“They think we’re filthy rich,” Etchegaray said.
“They don’t realize we’ve got one year’s worth of payroll in the bank unrestricted,” said Goicoechea.
“That’s not a lot,” said Commissioner Sharkozy.
GREAT BASIN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
Jim Garza, Great Basin Regional Development Authority Acting Executive Director, reported that Lander County has chosen to leave the GBRDA “for their reasons they are focused on the I80 corridor and creating a supply chain development, which is a local focus; and all our RDA’s have local focuses on top of a regional focus; however, the intent behind GBRDA is looking at these regional issues and collaborate together to bring strength to us which would have a louder voice.”
Garza put together a list of four or five main things they want to focus on for the next two years with the plan being to collaborate with Andy Rossman and the ECEDP “to make sure your county participates and we are all on the same page with the same thought pattern.” Garza said regional drought is a big issue “and we have a chance to be on a board that will be compiled of BLM folks from Washington, San Francisco down and looking for local champions to really look at the wild horse issue, sage grouse and drought and how it affects our permitting.” Garza thinks “that will give us a good voice from a regional perspective on what our opinion is on these issues. There definitely are some opportunities outside the box but we’ve got to work together to try to address these issues.”
Garza noted public lands transfer is also a uniting issue with White Pine County having another public sale on April 1st of 80 and 40 acres. “There’s not too many counties that don’t have a public lands bill approved by the Congress. I know Eureka County is one of those.” Garza offered to help Eureka County in creating a template, and leverage with other experts. White Pine County has 45,000 acres of public lands that can be sold over the next 16 years “and we’re starting to get the cookie cutter going where we can create the funds to be able to do that” with the County getting 10% of the proceeds of the sales and the “land gets out of public hands into private hands.” The 8800 acres that Pattern Energy has leased from the BLM on a right of way for their wind farm if gotten into their hands increases the assessment tax value for White Pine County. “That’s why they come in handy.”
Garza noted the area of natural resources and utilization of renewable energy holds a lot of opportunity. Garza will try to attend The International Bio-Mass Conference in Minnesota in April. The last time he attended two years ago it “really helped bring some attention to the feed-stock we had available in our market.” At the time the wood pellet prices were too low where it wasn’t feasible for the harvesting costs, but Garza thinks that’s changed “so if we go back to that conference and reach out to the international needs who need these wood pellets to burn such as big power plants which are coming over and buying them directly,” he said, “We have those opportunities here so we need to leverage that.”
Garza said he and his family are very big into hydroponics and growing watermelons on shelves. “We’ve got four major ag colleges: Ohio State, Michigan State, North Carolina State and of course Texas A&M who are leading the charge with us” and are hoping to get the USDA to adopt this as a pilot program which could branch into Eureka County as well as White Pine. “It’s a great thing for kids” because it’s “a new way of getting kids interested in agriculture and farming” and is “having a big success in Ely with our kids.”
The Main Street Program, SB51 “is on the books” and will create a Nevada corporate charter that allows “little communities then to become part of the national program.” Garza appreciates Eureka and White Pine working together. Garza said GBRDA was formed to see where “we have common areas and common industries and work together to try to improve those areas.”
Garza shared White Pine’s Strategic Plan template to inform Eureka County of what White Pine does on a local economic development level. Garza will be meeting with the ECEDP on April 24th to share White Pine’s local plan and to illustrate what their office does on a local level and what their office does and participates in. Garza said, “We’re hoping to share our success with your local RDA and give some inspiration on how we can help you continue to get success.”
Garza said White Pine County put together a four page comment on the Clean Water Act proposed rule and also put together a map to educate “our grazing permittees what that actually meant” and their comments went to Nevada NACO which they adopted and changed as their own and submitted to the national NACO office as their own and which when read before the Congressional committee “they were pretty much reading verbatim what we were saying here. So, we have that kind of leverage.” Garza hopes as opportunities come up “we can do the same thing with the wild horse issue when the BLM puts out a report in about 3 weeks on this one on one visit session they did throughout all the communities” and if a position can be gotten on the Board “it will help us stay up front.” Garza noted the Forest Service Director has been given approval on any area that is over AUM on horses to sell horses unrestricted “and see how much trouble they do or don’t get in to.”
Garza noted that Esmerelda County wants to join the GBRDA and they will be invited to the next GBRDA board meeting to see if it’s feasible.
Regarding comment on the Gold Rock Mine Midway Gold Project Draft EIS, Jake Tibbitts noted Eureka County has commented on two previous drafts, the Preliminary Administrative Draft and Administrative Draft and now the Draft. Tibbitts said the comments they’ve made related to the water have not been addressed other than saying ‘comment noted.’ Tibbitts said they’ve received a commitment that the County’s concerns will be addressed before it goes to Final. Tibbitts said it seems they wait until the Draft EIS stage. Tibbitts pointed out related to their analysis of pumping draw-down there’s no site specific data on which to base assumptions. Dale Bugenig, Hydrologist for the County has advocated using a range of data and has pointed out there is data available from 1988 and by Midway themselves and they do have aquifer properties they can use to build their assumptions. Also, a spring complex called Green Springs is characterized as an inactive spring without defining what that is. Bugenig brought up that while it’s inactive on the data base it’s not inactive as a spring. Bugenig said there is historical data for that spring including basic water quality data and those were left out and not even referenced. Tibbitts said their conclusion of no impact on the spring is not based on data. Pumping in the alluvium has shown to have major impact on rangeland springs. Tibbitts said these are issues that arise when work is given to outside contractors working on a time frame.
On the socioeconomic analysis, Tibbitts said a fairly good job was done. “You can’t just point and say there’s going to be a 20 percent increase in population in the town of Eureka; there’s no way to know what that will be. So, you say if 15 percent of the population up to 60 percent of the work force or whatever chose to live in Eureka so it gives this board when you’re developing budgets or EMS is trying to figure impacts to them, or the Sheriff.” Tibbitts said their job is to help “us figure out what that impact will be” and noted there is “real world data from the Pan Project which is about the same population impacts, the same company about the same distance from town and their analysis from the Pan Project was way off: they said more people would live in Ely than would in Eureka; yet the manager has told us it’s about a 50/50 split.” Tibbitts said since Eureka is 20 miles and Ely 60 miles from the project “they’re going to live in Eureka and so the data from the Pan Project beared” that out. Tibbitts asked the board whether it’s important to have a range. Goicoechea said he’d like to see a range but knows the County can expect to see impacts. Tibbitts said that he will continue to push for that. They are minimizing the loss of AUMs but Tibbitts pointed out that each AUM has a $50 value to the affected rancher and he intends to continue to push on how important the AUMs are to the community. Tibbitts will finalize the comments and submit them and bring them back for ratification.
Regarding the Mount Hope Project Amendment EA, the County won’t have new comments but Tibbitts said the outstanding issues include a change to the Water Resource Monitoring Plan on the BLM side by Eureka Moly submitted as a change in the Plan of Operations although the EIS talks about changes going through the Technical Advisory Panel. 365 acres of disturbance are being added to address disturbance already done with the large bulk being for roads.
The Eureka County Commissioners approved:
- Sending a letter to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and Wildlife Damage Management Committee, as requested by the County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife, which: (1) opposes a petition to ban coyote hunting contests; and (2) provides input into the 2016 Draft Predation Management Plan and a predator project on the Diamond Mountains;
- To waive kitchen and facility fees at the Opera House for a fundraiser Spaghetti Feed on April 16th.
- Accepting the Medical Clinics Advisory Committee’s recommendations on Nevada Health Centers’ contract and annual budget consideration for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 in the amount of $778,500;
- Accepting the Committee’s recommendation regarding renewing the housing lease with Nevada Health Centers;
- Accepting the Committee’s recommendation regarding the contract renewal with Rehab Services of Nevada;
- A contribution of $2,000 to the Eureka County High School annual scholarship drive for the Class of 2015;
- The Nevada Division of Water Resources Fiscal Year 2015-2016 budgets for special assessments to be collected by Eureka County on behalf of the Nevada Division of Water Resources for necessary expenses related to supervision over the following waters in Eureka County: (a) Diamond Valley Groundwater Basin; (b) Crescent Valley Groundwater Basin; (c) Maggie Creek Groundwater Basin; (d) Lower Reese River Valley Groundwater Basin; (e) Boulder Flat Groundwater Basin; (f) Humboldt River Distribution; (g) Whirlwind Valley Groundwater Basin; (h) Pine Valley Groundwater Basin; and (i) Kobeh Valley Groundwater Basin;
- Expenditures of $516,477.45 including $267,049.14 in payroll;