Sage Grouse EIS
On the topic of the Sagebrush Ecosystem Program and Nevada Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Plan, Chairman Goicoechea reported that the evening of May 5th he represented Eureka County at a meeting in Elko focused on the Sage Grouse with BLM Director Kornze, Deputy Director Ellis, and Acting State Director Ruhs and some twenty people from Elko. The BLM’s 1600+ page Administrative EIS is out and as Eureka County is a Cooperating Agency, Natural Resources Manager Jake Tibbitts is working on analyzing and responding to that. Goicoechea said, “At first glance I’m not impressed.” Goicoechea noted that Tibbitts “put a lot of work into the draft” having drafted “125 pages of comments.”
Goicoechea noted that Director Kornze said “we’ll see the Final EIS in a couple of weeks which tells me ‘you can put in whatever you want; the Final’s coming.’” Goicoechea said the meeting, “was actually good” as he got to ask directly how the BLM ended up with Focal Areas proposing 3.5 million acres across Nevada as designated sage grouse areas with the F&W service requesting that there be mineral withdrawal across all habitat in the West.
With the next meeting coming in a couple of weeks, Goicoechea said the Technical Team “is working hard to get their comments in on this” as are the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Department of Agriculture on the Administrative Draft with the public being able to see the Final very soon; which will trigger the 60 day period before the Final Record of Decision and any possible legal challenges.
Goicoechea noted that the Interior Department’s April 21st announcement by Secretary of the Interior Jewell that the Bi-State (California and Nevada) population of greater sage-grouse does not require the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is “a victory in my mind,” but he cautioned, “I’d wait to see what all the regulations, how onerous they are and how that plays out.” Goicoechea said the Sage Grouse decision will be revisited every five years; and under the law the issue can be re-petitioned and he expects to see related litigation.
Natural Resources Manager Jake Tibbitts noted the County received a copy of Administrative Draft Final EIS last Thursday and “with that they said that we have two weeks to provide comment on a nearly 2000 page document. Tibbitts said the document was received on the 30th, dated the 28th, which gives the County less than two weeks and 9 business days to review it. Tibbitts said the County can’t do a thorough review given the time limit and drafted two letters for the Commission’s consideration including one to the active State BLM Director and pointed out the County only has 9 business days and Eureka County requests no less than 15 business days. Tibbitts said to be able to track changes is nearly impossible so it’s like reviewing the document for the first time since sections have been changed significantly.
40 pages of the 125 pages of comment Eureka County submitted were consistent with the Eureka County Master Plan and as yet the County hasn’t heard any response from the BLM and Tibbitts doesn’t think the comments were read since the spelling errors still exist. Tibbitts feels the BLM has just been going through the motions rather than truly considering County comments. A lot of comments had to do with valid existing rights on RS2477 roads to which they had no response or comments and the letter asks the BLM to not assume the process is too far along to not address concerns and asked for an extension.
The Commission approved sending Tibbitt’s letter.
The second letter is to Governor Sandoval with the reason being that the Governor has a sixty day Consistency Review and basically the letter notifies the Governor of the 40 pages of inconsistencies and elevates issues brought forward by Eureka and other counties. The letter to Ruhs of the BLM will also be included to the Governor to provide background. “One thing I want to note is I talked to Meghan Brown at Congressman Amodei’s office” who thinks the Governor’s Consistency Review is going on now as the regulations allow for that. The Commission approved sending the letter to Governor Sandoval.
Mt. Hope project
In considering a response on the Final Decision for the Mount Hope Project Plan of Operations Amendment and BLM’s failure to adequately consider and address the County’s input, Tibbitts began the discussion by acknowledging he had “a lot of anxiety putting this agenda item on.”
He noted that when the EA came out for public comment, the County filed comment and never heard it had been received by the BLM by email or phone call and then a BLM press release was received saying a Final Decision had been made. Tibbitts said when the Mt. Hope EIS was done “it ended up in a decent place” because “at the 11th hour” the parties sat down. In this case, the County did not have that opportunity.”
Pat Rogers of General Moly came to Tibbitt’s office in September of 2014 and Tibbitts outlined outstanding issues and had promises of follow-up and document exchanges and had a promise of a sit-down to come to agreement but that never took place. Tibbitts said there are many outstanding issues such as the dust and the reality that all the ancillary roads are not included in the dust analysis “so NDEP’s air quality permit” does not look outside of the mining area. The POA amendment is in place because “there was inspections that took place” and adjustments in acreage were made; there was non-compliance and there’s 356 acres of additional disturbance the majority of which are roads. “So, growing up in the dry area” in Nevada on a windy day dust comes from exposed roads. Tibbitts said the freshwater pipeline route is proposed to be realigned over existing unimproved roads which are the County’s and the water use from Diamond Valley wells for which the State Engineer granted temporary permits for potable use and dust suppression which is not reflected in the Plan which states that “fresh make-up water will be supplied from the Kobeh Valley” basin, specified to be from Kobeh Valley in the EIS but the water is being taken from Diamond Valley. “It says right in here it’s going to operate according to the Plan or not.” Tibbitts said, “Today those wells that are outside of the POA” could have been cleaned up in the EA. Tibbitts doesn’t think they’re “that minor.” Tibbitts said the County can appeal or ask for a State Director appeal. He had a conference call with the BLM a few days ago “and it was painful, very painful.” Tibbitts said, “It was extremely disrespectful” and “at this point the FONSI is signed. There’s nothing to do to change it” other than an appeal.
Beutel asked what the downside is of requesting a State Director review.
Tibbitts said the BLM Battle Mountain attitude “is worse than it’s ever been.”
Goicoechea said, “We have to make a stand” on County roads.
Tibbitts said there will be grading and improvements on County roads and wells in Diamond Valley and “we want to come together and make it work,” but “these things are going to happen.”
“Let’s address it so we know we have something documented.” Goicoechea said, “They’re using water inconsistent with the State EIS.”
Beutel saw no reason a State Director Review should not be initiated. “If they want to speak to the question of the water being taken from a basin not identified in the paperwork that’s probably three sentences. It’s simple.” Beutel advised that “rather than being worried about being painted in a certain light; do what’s right” and “say to the State Director and apologize ‘for the inconvenience to your office’ but you need to look at that.”
“They’re reclaiming county roads that aren’t theirs to reclaim,” Goicoechea said.
“We could have cleared these up if the process had been done right,” Tibbitts said.
Mike Iannacchione, General Manager for General Moly, expressed his hope that the County not use the request for State Director Review to delay the mine but rather to focus on the process “and if there’s some way we can help in the process I offer that up.”
Goicoechea said, “We don’t want to delay it. We just want it right” and with that the Commission voted to request a review by the State Director.
In a discussion of bills of interest to Eureka County before the Nevada Legislature, Chairman Goicoechea noted that HR456 “is a RS2477 bill” which is scheduled for hearing in Senate Finance and which he sees as “key with the Sage Grouse EIS and everything else” to ensure “public access if you will.” In addition, Goicoechea will be going to Carson City to testify before Government Affairs on the Assembly side on HR157, the County Coordination bill “to see if we can’t get that moving forward; that’s for coordination between County and State agencies” that allows “us to play in an active management area” which would apply to Diamond Valley.
County Assessor Mike Mears brought up SB482 which would provide a 3% per year raise to elected officials state-wide with a clause that gives officials the ability to opt out. Mears noted elected officials
may elect not to receive any part of that salary increase or any part of the salary at all. Officials would have to come to the Commission to say they are opting out of the salary increase. Mears said such an increase is “not in our budget” and he “did not budget for anybody to receive a 3% increase.” Mears said he’s “not telling elected officials you have to opt out.” Mears said any elected officials who choose not to opt out need to notify him so he can plan for the added expenditures.
Millie Oram, Site Director of the Eureka County Senior Centers, reported “everything is going good” although they’re having a problem with the floor in the kitchen at the Eureka Center and on the 25th and 26th they’ll be closed down for repair. The Eureka Center served 849 meals in April, an average of 39 per day while the Crescent Valley Center served 629 meals, an average of 29 per day. Together the Centers deposited $9041.89 for the month.
Oram is currently overseeing both the Eureka and Crescent Valley Senior Centers and so she requested the Commission allow her as Site(s) Director to have a site supervisor at the Eureka Center “so she is over all when I’m not here going back and forth” and requested a 5% increase for the employee for her promotion; and then she requested a 5% increase for herself. The Commission approved the proposal.
KLONDEX GOLD & SILVER MINING COMPANY
Klondex Gold & Silver Mining Company, Brent Kristof, Chief Operating Officer, came before the Commission to give a general overview of the company’s activities at the Midas and Fire Creek Projects. He noted the company employs 200 Nevadans and is dedicated to the safety and well-being of employees for whom the company’s payroll exceeds $15 million. Klondex boasts a 100% match on 401Ks, and employees receive medical, dental and vision coverage with the company covering approximately 70% of the premiums. He noted the company has the greatest impact within Eureka County to Crescent Valley. Currently, the company pays approximately $3 million in state and local taxes.
He characterized the company as “responsible operators” working on 47,000 acres, or 73 square miles of which 750 acres (1.17 square miles) is disturbed by their two underground operations. He put that in perspective by pointing out the State of Nevada is 111,000 square miles.
He related that Klondex has committed $33 million to exploration, development and maintenance of its resources and infrastructure to ensure a sustainable legacy.
Raymond Hodson, Road Superintendent, noted the Road Crew finished up Sadler Brown Road down to SR278. A water truck was run from 14th street out to ‘Milton’s’ going down towards Railroad and with one complete pass on the JD Road to Grass Valley. Hodson had the spray truck out all month, spraying shoulders in Crescent Valley and Diamond Valley and had a couple of opportunities to do sweeping in town, using the “rain to help us out there.” They ran the mower down on 101 at Keg Street and the North End crew finished up Frenchie Flat up to the Palisade Cemetary, the Geothermal road, Tank Road up to the Crescent Valley water tanks, Airplane Summit, and are working at Maggie Creek with the expectation they’ll be done there by the middle of next week. The North End road crew spent a couple of Thursday afternoons watering the Community Center in preparation for a couple of gymkhanas.
SLAG WORKING GROUP
Ron Damele gave a report on the SLAG Working Group (SLAG = Soil, Lead, Arsenic, & Geoscopic) meeting held on April 27 with the EPA and NDEP and said the meeting centered on engineering cost analysis. Damele believes it is a fairly well written government document and there was a good discussion on alternatives and levels of contamination in relation to the slag piles, ditch and commercial and residential property. At the next meeting in two to three weeks there will be a discussion of removal options. Damele said those representing Eureka were able to communicate what they don’t want.
PREPARING FOR FIRE SEASON
Damele noted there was to be a Fire Chief’s meeting later that day at the County Annex with BLM and NDF in attendance to talk about fire season. Damele noted two chiefs retired and the Battalion Chief for the BLM is leaving and taking a position in Caliente. Damele said he is “sorry to see him leave. He was really well-respected.” In addition he noted that everyone in Public Works is going through a CPR and basic first aid class.
CRESCENT VALLEY ACTIVITIES COORDINATOR
In considering whether to fill the vacant Crescent Valley Activities Coordinator position or whether to make other arrangements, Chairman Goicoechea related that he would like funding for Crescent Valley Activities to be administered similar to the Rec Board where people come before the Board and ask for funding for an event, which would eliminate the need to spend money for salary and thereby enabling more of the funds to go to the community events themselves.
Crescent Valley resident, Barbara Dugan, agreed with Goicoechea and commented that she didn’t think a salaried person is needed. The proposal was that people could go to the Commissioners and request ‘x’ amount of dollars. With no members of the public present in opposition, the Commission denied filling the Crescent Valley Activities Coordinator position and agreed to move forward in the manner proposed.
Eureka County Commissioners approved:
- Expenditures of $724,348.41 including payroll of $392,044.92 and Yucca Mountain expenditures of $5,509.95, a pass-through to the School District of $4216.66, $7,200.60 to the State and to State Minerals $799 for a total of $729,856.36,
- Directing the Recorder/Auditors office to conduct an audit of all credit cards paid by Eureka County broken down by department;
- Accepting the Fiscal Year 2015-2016 assessment of $7,500 for continued membership in the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority;
- Accepting the Treasurer’s Verified Return of Sale and Reconciliation of Trust Property for the Tax Delinquent Properties Auction held April 23, 2015 with 39 properties having gone to auction with 38 sold and $50,192 to be held for one year;
- Implementing State 2 Drought Contingency Plan for the Eureka Town Water, Crescent Valley Town Water, and Devil’s Gate General Improvement Districts 1 & 2, pursuant to the Joint Water Conservation Plan adopted by Eureka County on September 19, 2014, due to severe drought conditions;
- Authorizing the use of the County-owned tower at the Diamond Valley Fire Station for the operation of a RTK GPS receiver antenna and equipment with a $100 per month space rental fee;
- Accepting letter of resignation from Carri Wright Perkins from the Planning Commission effective April 1, 2015;
- Appointing Craig Benson to the Planning Commission;