Storey does not qualify for state funds to repair Six Mile

Six Mile Canyon Road might become a dirt road again - at least in spots - now that Storey County is on its own to repair the road.

County commissioners Tuesday rejected a resolution to formally seek disaster relief funds because, according to Pat Whitten, director of administration and budget, the county didn't qualify for funding from the state Division of Emergency Management.

"We will be withdrawing our application," Whitten said. "We're not going to meet their criteria."

Besides, Whitten said, the Nevada Department of Transportation should be responsible for the repairs.

"We probably have enough money to make some interim repairs," he said. "But there's the principle that this is a regional road and as a regional road, is it fair for the taxpayers of Storey County to bear 100 percent of the cost of repairing and maintaining that road?"

The commissioners will consider the issue again May 2.

Six Mile Canyon Road, a major route from the Dayton Valley to Reno, was heavily damaged in the New Year's Eve flooding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency refused to fund the road because it qualified for Federal Highway Administration disaster funds. It will be years before these funds make it to the rural road as the funds are depleted because of Hurricane Katrina.

Whitten said that in order to receive the state funds, which he described as "a financial hardship loan," the county would have to swear it had no funds for the road, and that's not necessarily true.

"We've been working for the better part of three years on our financial recovery," he said. "We've made major steps, and we can't honestly say we don't have the funds. We just don't have the funds in our roads budget."

Commission Chairman John Flanagan said that thanks to assistance from the state, Storey County is getting its fiscal house in order and that's why they no longer could qualify for the funding.

"We're still under the control of the Nevada Tax Commission, and they're overseeing us," Flanagan said. "We're finally getting in the black, so we couldn't sign a resolution saying we don't have the funds."

Whitten said the county would be doing some basic repairs in May.

"We know we've got to make some repairs," he said. "Down in the Mark Twain Estates where we've got a solid residential base, we have to have it open to provide those county residents access to Virginia City, and also to allow emergency vehicles access."

One of the options Whitten said the commissioners are going to consider is returning the road to dirt, at least in part.

"When I moved here 12 years ago, that was all it was," Whitten said. Another option is to restrict traffic to local residents only.

But whatever is done with the road, Whitten said, he doesn't want to dip into the Storey County's general funds.

"The other county funds we've worked hard bringing back to health," he said. "To me, the bottom line is that NDOT should be paying for this."

Whitten said the state has listed the road as a rural major collector road, the same designation given State Routes 341 and 342, making it eligible for Federal Highway Administration disaster relief.

"If NDOT didn't have this road listed this way, we'd have been eligible for FEMA money," Whitten said. "If anyone needs to be paying for that road, it's the state."

But Kent Cooper, assistant director for the transportation department, said the state cannot fund the road because, despite how it is listed, it is not a state-owned or state-maintained road.

"Even though it may be technically eligible for funding by the Federal Highway Administration, they're not eligible for state funds," Cooper said. "Because we go under two sets of rules. Under NRS, it has to be a state-owned-and-maintained system for us to spend state gas taxes on them."

He said Six Mile Canyon Road is eligible for FHWA disaster relief funds, it's not eligible for federal annual funding for maintenance.

Flanagan said the county plans to ask the state to designate Six Mile Canyon a regional highway, but in the meantime, "we're going to come up with a few bucks to repair it to the point that people can drive on it."

Flanagan said parts will probably not be paved because of the price of oil and other costs.

"It will probably be a dirt road in patches where it was destroyed," he said.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


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