The difficulties the state is having in completing a network of radio relay towers could be putting Highway Patrol troopers in danger.
And the blame seems to fall primarily on a bloated federal bureaucracy in which common sense has long been buried under mountains of regulations.
Three years ago, the Legislature agreed to spend $2.6 million to build the 11 relay stations that would eliminate almost all of the areas that have no radio coverage. In some places in central Nevada, there are 20-mile stretches where no radio signal is available. In the short term, troopers in those areas are also carry an older radio system that helps reduce, but not eliminate, the dead zones.
So far, none of the relay sites have been completed. While the short work season allowed by the weather at those elevations is partly to blame, the real problem is that it takes two years to get a permit to run power up to the sites.
At one site, federal land managers wouldn't allow power lines to be buried because it would disturb the habitat of an endangered rabbit, and they wouldn't allow the lines to be strung on power poles because that would give raptors a perfect hunting location to get the rabbits. While the solution there ended up being a solar-power system backed up by a generator, the long process to get to that decision means that the radio system is delayed.
Imagine a situation in which a trooper is assaulted, or is trying to get help for accident victims. If the trooper or victims are unlucky and the incident is in one of the dead zones, it could mean a drive of five miles or more to get a radio signal.
We're not naive enough to believe all bureaucracy is baseless, and we certainly believe it's a worthwhile cause to prevent the extinction of a species of rabbit.
But in a situation in which delays could endanger the lives of troopers or motorists, it seems like a good old-fashioned conversation should have been enough for everyone to realize that what was needed was simple common sense.
Of course, there's probably a form for that, too.