The former United Comstock Merger Mill at American Flat is to be razed following a U.S. Bureau of Land Management decision issued Wednesday, which found the former mill site to be a public safety issue.
“We want to be proactive. We don’t want to wait” for something bad to happen, BLM Field Manager Leon Thomas said. Thomas issued the demolition decision. “The only pressing concern was public safety. We have the public putting themselves in harm’s way.”
The mill site was first closed in January 1997 following a 1996 death at the site. A 2008 audit by the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General found the site to be a “high-risk liability” to the government, according to the decision.
The Nevada State Historic Preservation Office opposed any plan to destroy the former mill site. The BLM considered four options for the site, from taking no action to demolition, institutional controls to selected building controls. The preservation office suggested a fifth alternative, which they outlined in a document presented to the BLM.
The BLM will not start the demolition until a request for funds has been approved. The Washington BLM office has been waiting for the Sierra Front Field Office to make a decision, Thomas said.
Once funding is secured from Congress, it should take one year to complete the demolition and reclamation efforts, Planning and Environmental Coordinator Brian Buttazoni said. The concrete debris from the site will be moved into an on-site landfill which will then be buried, he said.
The funds request is being actively worked on so it can be submitted, Thomas said.
The mill site is in the Virginia City National Historic Landmark and Register District. The proposal submitted by the state preservation office did not detail how access to the site would be managed and how an interpretive program would be implemented, according to the BLM decision. The ruins conservation alternative was “too speculative and not economically feasible,” according to the decision.
Once the one-year demolition project is over, the area will be open to the public once again, Buttazoni said.
Other organizations against the demolition were the V&T Railroad Historical Society, the State Land Use Planning Agency and the Comstock Historic District. The Nevada Commission on Mineral Resources, Division of Minerals, supported demolition of the site because it was determined to be in “dangerous conditions.”