Katie Neddenriep, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Barrick Gold gave the Commission a brief update on Barrick’s activities in Nevada. Neddenriep reported open pit mining at Ruby Hill continues to be suspended with no production blasting while heap leaching continues. Mining of the north side of the east arch pit is being reevaluated with the preliminary economics looking favorable. Neddenriep said they are working with the Bald Mountain mine to develop a mining plan.
Exploration drilling on the Mineral Point project has been completed, but prefeasibility work is on hold pending higher gold prices. The JD Lodge closed effective July 17 at 6 p.m., with the gates open with approved Barrick ID badge. The JD Ranch Lodge facility has been closed with staffing currently at 17. Phone numbers are posted for those without authorized access. 10-15 personnel remain on site during the day shift with security coverage at night. The ambulance at Control 3 at Cortez will support activity in the area and there is no EMS at the Lodge. Core logging activity is taking place4 at the lodge. Neddenriep reported that drilling crews formerly at the Lodge are now in Elko or Crescent Valley with almost all the crews travelling through Crescent Valley.
The mercury treatment and storage facility has been put on hold indefinitely. No further action to be taken regarding the facility planning, design or permitting except to maintain the RCRA permitting. Neddenriep said a recent EPA ruling with respect to Newmont’s handling of mercury has set a precedent for other handling options and made the facility a less urgent priority moving forward.
Further, Neddenreip reported that Barrick has placed a number of its assets for sale in what she called a “challenging market.” On the market are Ruby Hill, Bald Mountain, Barrick’s 50% interest in Round Mountain, the Spring Valley project, Barrick’s 70% interest partnership with Midway Gold. In addition, Barrick is prepared to sell the Hill Top project in Lander County and Golden Sunlight in Montana. Neddenreip noted the offerings “may or may not result in sales” but assured the Commissioners that “existing environmental and social obligations will remain in place regardless of owner” and promised Barrick will “provide updates as new information is available.”
Barrick is closing their Salt Lake City Office, announced Sept. 1 with a target completion date of Nov. 30. Neddenreip said some employees will have the opportunity to relocate to other Barrick locations, primarily Elko or Henderson. Some 60 to 75 people are impacted and “who’s going where” is being sorted out.
Neddenreip noted Barrick’s Employee Giving Program introduced during open enrollment in 2015 matches employee contributions dollar for dollar up to $500 year and has allowed support for the Eureka Volunteer Fire Department, Eureka County School District, Great Basin College, Nevada Health Centers, the Eureka Conservation District and the Crescent Valley Activities Committee.
District Attorney Beutel asked Neddenreip “what price point do you need to see?”
Neddenreip said, “They’re looking at $1,000 gold to get up to a reliable” price but said a market value of $1200-$1300 an ounce needs to be in existence before Barrick will “seriously consider ramping back up.”
Natural Resource Manager, Jake Tibbitts, reported the “last couple of weeks have been pretty slow on the meeting side.” On Aug. 26, Tibbitts attended the Ruby Hill Advisory Committee meeting and had a conference call with the Nevada Pinon-Juniper Partnership discussing various grants specific to Eureka County. The Biochar and Utilization Grant is moving forward with char to be applied to agricultural fields and maybe corners this fall, and then pivots next spring. On Aug. 28, Tibbitts and Chairman Goicoechea attended the NACO meeting in Carson City which included requesting the Governor appeal the BLM’s denial of his request for consistency on his review of the Greater Sage Grouse EIS as well as the Nevada-specific appeal request for an injunction being pursued by the Nevada Mineral Alliance. On Sept. 15, Tibbitts will be attending the Crescent Valley Firewise meeting in person; and on the 16th he’ll be attending the NRAC meeting where acting BLM State Director, John Ruhs, will be present, and intends to focus on some of the commitments Ruhs made on behalf of the BLM at the Fish Creek Herd Management area and on outlining a path forward for better relations and coordination with the BLM and on rebuilding that relationship moving forward. Ruhs’ last day in Nevada is September 19th and he is committed to come to that meeting. In addition, the District Managers from the Battle Mountain and Elko District have been invited although Tibbitts hasn’t received confirmation as to whether they’ll attend or not.
On the morning of the 17th, Tibbitts will attend the State Conservation Commission by phone and in the evening the Bald Mountain EIS Open House between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The Bald Mountain Draft EIS is in the comment period and Dale Bugenig has been working on the water-related review.
On the 18th, Tibbitts will attend the Central Nevada Regional Water Authority meeting via conference call initiated from Fallon at the Churchill County Commission Chambers; and on the 21st-23rd he’ll attend the Governor’s Drought Summit focused on finding action items for the Governor to consider moving forward. Tibbitts has been asked to participate on a panel.
Tibbitts said NACO sent a letter requesting the Governor appeal to the National Director of the BLM to exhaust the State’s Administrative Remedies. The Governor has until Sept. 8 to appeal the decision. The BLM could sign the Record of Decision as early as the 8th, so the Nevada Mineral Alliance is working on having an injunction ready so they can immediately put it forward once the ROD is signed and to secure a spot in Federal District Court in Nevada and keep it away from certain Federal judges in Idaho as there are some very specific Nevada issues they’d like separated from the more general coalition of Idaho and Nevada. With an estimated cost of $63,000 for the lawsuit, Elko County is putting up $10,000 and will be named on it. NACO has also committed up to $10,000.
The suit will contend that the BLM plans are not the preferred alternative and do not reflect the Nevada State Plan. The main point of the injunction will be that the BLM did not properly consider the State plan or local input and that the State Plan ought to be allowed to move forward to prove it can work. Tibbitts noted a recent decision regarding the Lesser Prairie Chicken with a similar issue in which a Federal District Court did accept an injunction for similar reasons in a case where Fish & Wildlife listed the bird as threatened and did not allow the other plan developed to move forward. Tibbitts said this isn’t a case of suing to sue but to press to allow the State of Nevada which has invested millions in developing the State Plan to move forward to implement the plan. NACO has hired a Natural Resource and Public Lands Coordinator, Tory Sondheim, who is gathering declarations and doing legal research and exploring how Eureka County and others will suffer irreparable harm.
Tibbitts recommended and Commissioners Etchegaray and Sharkozy approved Eureka County’s joining the suit as a named party and contributing up to $10,000 with a contribution of $5,000 now and to allow Tibbitts to put in a declaration on behalf of Eureka County either as himself or with Chairman Goicoechea’s signature.
Tibbitts reported that the State Engineer did sign an order making Diamond Valley a Critical Management Area under a ten-year time frame during which a Ground Water Management Plan must be put in place. The basin has consistently been pumped above its perennial yield and is showing a 100 foot drawdown in the water table since the late 1960s/early 1970s with pumping and consumption at double the perennial yield. The designation as a Critical Management Area starts a ten year stop watch and allows the flexibility for local people to develop a ground-water management plan to reduce pumping. If the GMP is not implemented within ten years then the State Engineer shall regulate by priority and can come in and start cutting off junior water rights users. The State Engineer also reinitiated the Adjudication process and came out with another letter and deadline to get proofs in. Tibbitts has received quite a few phone calls from folks with vested claims in Diamond Valley who are asking what they are supposed to do and how do it. Tibbitts is working with the State Engineer to see if there can be a Vested Rights Workshop to bring in an expert to instruct people on what they need to do.
HUMBOLDT REGION GROUNDWATER BASIN FEES INCREASING FOR 4 YEARS
Kelvin Hickenback, Deputy State Engineer for Divsion of Water Resources, came before the Commission to discuss the signficant increase in assessment fees for all groundwater basins within the Humboldt Region for a temporary period of 4 years. Hickenback said the hike is due to the need to put together a groundwater model for the Humboldt and its tributaries to quantifiably determine the effect of groundwater pumping on the river and to determine how pumping effects senior and junior water rights users. To pay for the study, the State Engineer’s office is increasing fees. Three models will be developed for the Lower Humboldt, the Middle Humboldt and the mines on the Upper Humboldt. The fees will rise to $.50 per acre foot as opposed to their current $.15 to $.30 per acre foot. After the 4 year period, assessments will be brought back down. The study will cost about $1.25 million. By statute, the State Engineer is allowed to create a budget for groundwater basins deemed in need of management.
Hickenback noted that funding for Adjudication comes from the General Fund, noting the State Engineer’s Office doesn’t make money on adjudication.
Raymond Hodson, Road Superintendent, said while normally he reports that the Road Department’s service for the Eureka Fair “went off without a hitch,” this year’s Fair “had a little rain storm” on Friday which caused “quite the flood in the arena.” The Road Crew was able to get it dried out enough by Saturday morning for the activities to continue and the branding went off “without a hitch.” Hodson said the same rain storm impacted Hogpen and caused a few problems such as plugged-up culverts which the Road Crew got unplugged. In addition, flooding of the Little Hogpen exposed a power line which Mt. Wheeler Power had to address. In addition, the Road Crew completed blading in the Valley including Mustang from 14th to the Foothill Road, the cut-off road between 101 and Third Street, Tompkin to JD Road as well as fixing blow outs on Willow Road. The Road Crew also had the mower in Diamond Valley and in the North End bladed Cortez Road, putting in extra effort there.
Hodson and Public Works Director Ron Damele reported that the public needs to be aware that the snow removal level of service will not be what people are used to with the Crew down 3 people on snow removal. Damele said, “You’re not going to see a lot of snow removal that requires overtime” since budget restrictions caused cuts in the Road Department staffing and major cuts in overtime funding. Damele warned the Commissioners, “You’re going to get some calls.” He noted the policy is on the County website and said, “This policy is consistent with White Pine county and Elko County, and said Eureka County is “not doing anything different than our neighbors.” Hodson said the policy has been in place since 2008; it’s just the County is going to “try to abide by it a little more.”
Ron Damele, Public Works Director, reported a well went down in Devil’s Gate “last week,” but is now back up and running after pulling the pump and replacing a wire. Damele said Dale Bugenig has been working with Boart Longyear to get the documents together for a test well in Stephen’s Basin as well as working with the State Engineer on supplemental information requested. Damele said the information has been provided and he expects to see a permit within the next 45 days.
Ron Damele noted that the fee schedule for the Eureka Swimming Facility is being updated. At an operating cost of $380,000, or $1,040 a day to operate, the pool is a “very expensive facility” which collected $4,529 in fees in 2014. Doubling the fees for the facility will bring in “south of $10K a year for fees collected.” Damele said the it is “the cheapest pool in the whole country” and advised the County needs to “take a hard look at the facility to see if we want to modify the hours and reduce the annual expenditure” as he doesn’t “know how” the County can “continue to afford $1040 a day year round.” Damele is thinking of making the pool seasonal. Currently, there are three people there at all times: one full-time person and the rest casuals.
Millie Oram, Senior Centers Director reported both Centers are doing well with the Eureka Center having served 845 meals in August, an average of 40 per day while Crescent Valley served 630 meals, an average of 30 meals per day.
Eureka County Commissioners approved:
Authority for EMS Coordinator to hire an interim casual worker with EMS knowledge and experience, for not more than 90 days, to complete the transition of billing to the third party billing contractor, Health Services Integration, Inc.;
Job description for the 90-day interim casual position with the EMS Department;
A resolution stating ground ambulance rates effective August 20, 2015, and already reported to the State, to additionally report these changes to the public and interested agencies;
Receiving a report and recommendation from Chairman J.J. Goicoechea regarding evaluation of Mike Sullivan, EMS Coordinator, an at-will position with Eureka County, to consider Mike Sullivan’s character, competence, any alleged misconduct, and professional competence, physical or mental health, and take possible action including, but not limited to, retention, engagement, endorsement, promotion, reprimand, reduction in pay, demotion, suspension, termination, or no action; Sullivan was handed a signed copy of the notice and is to be on unpaid leave September 7th through 11th and upon return will meet with the District Attorney and Chairman Goicoechea;
Setting a public hearing date and time of October 6th at 10 a.m. to consider proposed resolution to modify EUREKA COUNTY PERSONNEL POLICY MANUAL, SECTION 2.F.100 COMPENSATION PLAN (regarding the Eureka County Sheriff’s Office);
Approval of minutes of the August 12, 2015, budget meeting;
Approval of minutes of the August 20, 2015, Commission meeting;
Expenditures of $,1435,053.76 including a pass through to the School District of $763,587.16 as well as Yucca Mountain expenditures of $3,779.95;
A Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting awarded to Eureka County and Mike Rebaleati, former Recorder/Auditor, from the Government Finance Officers Association;
Offering a flu and pneumonia shot clinic for all County employees on October 29, 2015, at the Eureka Opera House, for a not to exceed price of $558.00;
A liquor license application for Sloppy Joe’s Diner and Drive-In;
A request from Nevada State Bank for Eureka County to join the Bank at Work program, which will provide benefits to employees at no cost to Eureka County;
An agreement between Eureka County and Reyman Brothers Construction for the Eureka Justice of the Peace Office Remodel Project in the amount of $39,010.92 to be funded by the Justice Court Facility Fund;
Designating October 9, 2015, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. as Free Dump Day at the Crescent Valley Laydown Yard for the Town of Crescent Valley, as requested by the Crescent Valley Town Advisory Board. If approved, the following will be accepted: yard waste, furniture, white goods, tires, and car bodies with the following not accepted: hazardous materials, household garbage, and dead animals.
A resolution recognizing Todd Hubbard for his 18 years of service to Eureka County.
Authorizing the CVTAB to utilize Crescent Valley Activities Program funds, not to exceed $100.00, to cover postage to send out notices for a Rabies Vaccination Clinic to be held in Crescent Valley in November
Ratifying comments on Draft EA for the proposed Barrick Cortez Inc. Plan of Operations and Reclamation Permit Amendment 3;
A request from The Food Bank of Northern Nevada to proclaim September 2015 as Hunger Action Month in Eureka County.