NAVAL AIR STATION MODERNIZATION
The Fallon Naval Air Station’s Rob Rule, Community Liaison Officer, gave a presentation on the Fallon Range Training Complex Modernization. The proposal was printed in the Federal Register, Friday, Aug. 26. The Navy will be doing an EIS to renew the current public land withdrawal of 1999, and expand the land ranges through separate land withdrawal and acquisition of non-federal land and modify training air space. Aug. 26 began the public scoping period which lasts 90 days and comments end Nov. 25. Information can be found and comments made at HYPERLINK “http://www.frtcmodernization.com/”www.frtcmodernization.com or mailed in; as well as signing up for notifications via the website. Rule encouraged comments that detail impacts.
Lt. Lintoni, 22 year aviator, related the Naval Air Station at Fallon is “more important to the Navy and naval aviation than ever” as “100% of our squadrons” that “deploy on aircraft carriers” go through Fallon a few times every two years with Fallon “the crown jewel of naval aviation” and the only place they train as they can’t go to Nellis or Florida. $1.4 billion of infrastructure has been built up over the past 25 years to put the training capability into Fallon “to save lives.” All Naval aviation mission training is done at Fallon. Navy Seals train at Fallon as well and are integrated with aircraft. He described Fallon as “the war fighting Bible Belt of the Navy.”
Every weapon system has a Top Gun subject matter expert and there are 18 to 20 weapons the Navy uses routinely in combat that they train to at Fallon in order to be effective on the ship. There are four classes of weapons from small to large including very accurate laser and GPS guided and ‘Hell Fire’ and dual-mode laser-guided bombs. Mining and renewable energies will be impacted by land withdrawals and don’t effect Eureka County. The Navy sees such things as proposals for geothermal power plants as “impediments to training” and want a training area free of renewable energy facilities and were told by the BLM if they want to do that to withdraw the land. Changes effecting Eureka are to the east.
Goicoechea asked whether the land is going to be acquired by purchase or eminent domain and was told the Navy prefers to offer fair market value with eminent domain “the absolute last desire.” Regarding grazing, the Navy asked the grazing community and Cattleman’s Association to come forward to determine impacts and provide input. Grazing is BLM permitted and the Navy requested a proposal. The areas become fenced and it becomes an access issue. They haven’t come up with a plan that will allow continued grazing on withdrawn lands because the way cattle are managed requires people to be in there regularly and the carrier schedules determine when training happens. Mining claims will also be impacted.
Goicoechea asked regarding the Dixie Valley area what the impacts on Wilderness Study Areas will be and was told they are staying off of the WSAs which are under legislative law. WSAs are, however,compatible with Navy training as they just fly over. Wilderness Areas however are not compatible. The Navy will be having a meeting in January with the Department of the Interior to look at redrawing the maps. They want to put electronic warfare systems in the mountains and the WSA could be put into the withdrawal and it may require consideration by Congress.
Goicoechea asked if the proposal would look different if the Greater Sage Grouse had been listed and was told sage grouse has not been an issue for them as yet and so far is out of their area and that the BLM regulations haven’t yet impacted them. Tibbitts said there is a whole section on noise impacting sage grouse and Land Use Plan Amendments require no noise above 50 decibels. Tibbitts said land use activities that increase the sound threshhold would impact their proposals.
Thus far, the Navy said, in the BLM EIS there has been exemption for aviation that’s commercial as well and they are working with NDOW and the BLM to get conservation easements coordinated with projects to “build a good solid stable habitat.”
Tibbitts remarked on the private land acquisition of checkerboard in Pershing County which wishes to take all the BLM land and make it private while the Navy wants to take the private and make it federal. Tibbitts asked how that conflicts with the land plan of Pershing County.
The Navy has talked to Pershing County, Amodei & Heller’s staff. The legislation is in committee and they are “trying to do their due diligence.”
Goicoechea noted it establishes precedent and “want to make sure what happens because we might be the next one.”
Tibbitts also raised PILT concerns as 650,000 acres which is part of the PILT calculations will no longer be part of the PILT calculations.
Abby Johnson pointed out that the comment deadline is the day after a national holiday and on a state holiday which is not sensitive to a request to turn comments in and was told that “the chips fell where they did” and that that is a great comment they’ll take back to higher-ups.
Tibbitts said there is a lot of work that is deadline driven.
Abby Johnson said she knows the NAS Fallon scoping will result in a document that goes to Congress to approve the existing land withdrawal and the additional lands that are being requested and asked why it’s not a Legislative EIS.
The Legislative EIS didn’t go through the Secretary of the Navy and the Record of Decision will go to Congress.
The Commissioners will be considering their comments at their next meetings. Goicoechea and the Commission will send a letter asking that the comment period be extended.
Commissioner Sharkozy Oct. 8 attended the Golden Oldies Craft Fair in Crescent Valley and Tuesday the 11th, a Fireman’s meeting in Crescent Valley; Friday, the 14th NevadaWorks in Reno and Tuesday, October 18th, a special Fire Department meeting where they trained with the helicopter in case they have to assist.
Goicoechea attended a Board Meeting for the Nevada Vet Med Association and hearing and workshop by the Board of Examiners for Veterinary Medicine. He said, “There are substantial changes they’re trying to make with some of the practice act. So stay tuned for that; that’s going to be interesting.” He ended up not going to North Carolina as “we had a very significant animal health situation in the northern end of this State; hence we are still working with that. We’ve been working with NDEP. There are two very large players and a mining company that is involved in that; but significant die-off and we’re still working with NDEP on that.” The Chairman “wanted to say” there are good contacts with NDEP now so “you can pick up the phone and get some things done.”
He met with the auditor on Oct. 17 and “had a good sit down discussion on some things to be looking forward to.”
The commissioners discussed the three County questions on the 2016 General Election ballot: (a) Ballot Question 1 regarding motor vehicle fuel tax; (b) Advisory Question 1 regarding combining positions of elected Clerk and elected Recorder; and (c) Advisory Question 2 regarding combining positions of elected Treasurer, elected Public Administrator, and appointed Public Guardian. Chairman Goicoechea asked if there were any questions and wanted it on the record as to why they are trying to combine the offices to avoid having to create an entirely new office by reorganizing the office and stated it has nothing to do with current elected, appointed or staff to create a significant cost savings as opposed to someone filing and running for office.
Goicoechea said with discussion of lay-offs they “don’t want to have to put another six-figure office.” Goicoechea asked Mears if there were other questions to address. Mears agreed, “We’re trying not to have to create a new position” and said, “Those are advisory questions” and said “the reason the Board put the questions out there was to get the voice of the people.”
Goicoechea said if the voters “say ‘no’ then it’s a ‘no.’ If they come and say ‘no’ as a community and say ‘we don’t want to reorg that way’ then we won’t and run that gauntlet” and may “end up looking for a legislative fix on the population cap in the NRS so that we don’t have to take the chance of somebody filing because I know that was the intent but it did not happen but I think it is timely now to do this because maybe in the February session we will need to put something legislative forward if it does not pass; but I’m hopeful this County will pass it seeing that we don’t always know what the future is going to hold and if we can head some of this big ticket stuff off it sure helps” but “if the electorate says ‘no’ we won’t do it” on the #2 Question.
Regarding the fuel tax, he said, “Our concern is the way that it’s being broken out; if we don’t index it I don’t know what we’re going to see for projects in this county. I’ll be very honest with you 278 may continue to deteriorate and have bandaids put on it plus 306, very similar. 50 will probably receive attention because it’s a pretty major thing through the state, but those two I’m concerned about to be honest with you and I know while everybody goes out of the county to buy fuel and our prices are higher and this will make them higher” he reminded people they’re going to be buying in surrounding counties. Elko’s council and commission support it and “are there” and “we’re helping other counties by not buying it at home.”
Mears commented that there is talk on the street about recreational marijuana and Goicoechea said they could fill the Opera House and debate medical marijuana, combining the offices and the fuel tax questions but noted he was going out of town and Mears said “wherever you’re going, I’m going with you.”
Public Works Director, Ron Damele reported the utility systems are “running fine” and scheduled an end of the Fire Season meeting at the Opera House on Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. with all 3 BLM Districts and the county. Outlying fire trucks have been winterized and the SCBA [Self Contained Breathing Apparatus] replacements have arrived. There was a defect in self-contained breathing apparatus” and “this is a warrantied replacement” and associated training will be provided.
The Holiday Bazaar is scheduled for Nov. 18 and 19 and Sourdough Slim will be at the Opera House. The townhomes are being winterized and “put to bed.”
Clerk/Treasurer Bev Conley reported the county began the month with $14,895,192, saw revenues of $1,051,616, disbursements of $751,464 leaving an ending General Fund Balance of $15,195,344 which reflects real property taxes.
Natural Resource Manager, Jake Tibbitts, is serving on the NDF State Advisory Committee recently activated which is related to resources. Sept. 29 he attended a meeting where they updated their Strategic Plan and some of their programs and he’ll be doing various things on behalf of the County and other things.
On Nov. 3 the Eureka Conservation District is holding their annual meeting and election and invited all elected officials to attend.
Nov. 4, the State Land Use Advisory Council will meet at the Opera House and the agenda includes RS2477 roads, the Naval expansion and the Air Force expansion out of Nellis and will be all day.
Tibbitts reported the weed sprayer has been out doing fall target spraying of knapweed and thistles and is doing “triage” on spots “and doing what we can to keep them contained but we don’t have the time or resources.”
Tibbitts related that APIS that does predator control work in the west entered into a closed-door stipulated agreement with Wild Earth Guardians after they were sued over Nevada’s Wildlife Predator Control doing NEPA under a “stale” authorization and based on the Settlement APIS will move forward with their NEPA and won’t do any more predator control work in wilderness or wilderness study areas and paid Wild Earth Guardians $91,954 under EAJA (Equal Access to Justice Act) which says attorney fees can be recovered if they prevail against the government.
Tibbitts said in effect the federal government is funding entities’ lawsuits and it does not stop Wild Earth Guardians from appealing or protesting the new NEPA process as they just received $91,000. “There’s really nothing we can do,” Tibbitts said.
The Perry Pit Newmont expansion is going through comment period and scoping with comments due November 8th. Tibbitts will look over the proposal and if something’s needed it will be on the next Commission agenda.
Regarding sage grouse, the USGS published the mineral assessment report for Sage Grouse Focal areas which doesn’t effect Eureka County since Eureka has no Sage Grouse Focal Areas and while only 14% may have high mineral potential for individual mining companies that can represent “their entire investment.” Goicoechea said recent data and studies show that sage grouse need diverse and short brush. Tibbitts said the science doesn’t fit Nevada and was cherry-picked and reached the conclusion they wanted by omitting a whole volume of rangeland science. How to get that new information before the judge is problematic and the hope is getting it in via an oral argument in front of the judge.
The first targeted grazing proposal from the BLM to begin next year is moving forward with it largely in Eureka County and Tibbitts prepared a draft letter supporting the project and requesting close coordination with Eureka County which the Commission approved sending.
Regarding wild horses, Tibbitts related there is a suit underway in Wyoming related to a consent decree in checkerboard land alternating sections of private and public lands in place for the last 20 years.The grazing association that holds that land in Wyoming has been successful in the past in getting a consent decree requiring when wildhorses get on private land the BLM has to immediately remove them but when the BLM went out to gather the horses would move on tothe BLM land. So, the BLM has “essentially been treating the BLM land within there as private” and it’s hard to know when you’re on public or private. The 10th Circuit agreed that the BLM has to treat the lands individually so when the horses are on unfenced BLM land they can’t gather them unless they go through NEPA which has impact on Nevada where there is unfenced private land and when the horses run on to BLM land they can’t gather them. Based on this suit BLM has said they won’t gather anymore since they can’t ensure the horses stay on private land.
NRAC requested Tibbitts submit a request to the State Director and District Managers of BLM formally requesting information on all water hauls they’ve ever done for wild horses; the source of the water; and a copy of the associated water rights and Tibbitts sent a formal email request. They also requested information on all emergency gathers done since the Wild Horse and Burro Act passed to become aware of areas that perhaps shouldn’t be Herd Management Areas. There has been no response. Tibbitts said that was a formal request through an email but there may be a need for a FOIA. The Board moved to send a formal letter. Goicoechea reported the ‘Pancake Operation’ was completed and 97 horses were gathered. He went down and observed. “They’re a long way south of Eureka County right now but they are doing significant damage” and “there were interesting developments that came out of that; so stay tuned.”
Eureka County Commissioners approved:
Minutes of the Oct. 6, 2016, Commission meeting;
Expenditures of $1,206,878.45 including Yucca Mountain expenditures of $92.63 and a pass-through to the School District of $623,768.77;
Accepting a proposal from Bickmore to provide an OPEB (other post-employment benefits) actuarial report for Eureka County pursuant to GASB 45 (Government Accounting Standards Board), not to exceed $8,000.00;
Expenditure of up to $2,500.00 to purchase inventory to allow the Sentinel Museum and Opera House to sell books, souvenirs, and gift items;
Due to current economic conditions and reduced revenue stream to local government suspending holiday appreciation gifts for employees and/or volunteers until further direction of the Board;
A Hiring Freeze Waiver Justification and hiring of a Deputy Recorder I to fill a position vacated due to appointment of Ms. Lisa Hoehne as Recorder and which does not create a new position in the Recorder’s office;