Churchill County Commissioners said in a draft letter to Nevada’s congressional delegation and Gov. Steve Sisolak they have concerns with the Navy’s final Environmental Impact Statement and are asking for help in resolving discrepancies.
Commissioners reviewed and discussed the draft letter at their first monthly meeting on Thursday. The letter, though, was signed by both Churchill County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen and Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford.
The Navy proposes to renew existing public land withdrawal of 202,859 acres which expires in November 2021. The renewal includes 27,359 acres for Bravo-16, 53,547 acres for Bravo-17, 29,012 acres for Bravo-19, 21,576 acres for Bravo-20, 68,804 acres for Dixie Valley Training Area and 2,561 acres for Shoal Site. The Navy is also proposing to withdraw and reserve for military use about 604,789 acres of additional public land, and acquire about 65,160 acres of non-federal land for its range modernization and expansion.
Commissioners discussed the draft letter to Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen as well as to Congressmen Mark Amodei and Steve Horsford. The county and Navy conducted a public meeting Jan. 28, but many groups and individuals including tribal members expressed their opposition to the Navy’s expansion plans.
“We acknowledge further improvements to the Navy’s proposal, but still have significant remaining concerns with the Final EIS and Proposed FRTC Modernization as
documented in this letter and attachments,” the letter stated. “As such, we are respectfully requesting your support in resolving these remaining concerns through the legislative process.”
Since the Navy announced in 2016 its intentions to expand the Fallon Range Training Complex, the county has participated in hundreds of hours of meetings with Navy officials and cooperating agencies. After a review of the final EIS, commissioners said they can’t support the Navy’s proposal.
“Based on our review of the Final EIS, we remain opposed to the No Action Alternative as well as Alternatives 1 and 2. While Alternative 3 (the preferred alternative) is the most favorable of the proposed alternatives, we do not support Alternative 3 as described in the final EIS,” the commissioners said in their letter. “This opposition is based on a host of remaining unresolved concerns that have been documented in this and in previous county comments to the Navy. To date, these concerns have either not been adequately represented in the final EIS or not addressed in a manner that meets our desired level of resolution.”
The commissioners attached a list of their concerns, errors and omissions found in the final EIS. Significant concerns are based on information found in the draft letter.
Commissioners support the expansion of the following ranges and training area with further modification.
Bravo 16: Avoid the west-wide energy corridor, existing power transmission line and existing access road along the western edge of the withdrawal area; adjust the northern and northwest corner of the proposed weapons danger zone to accommodate a re-route of Sand Canyon / Red Mountain Road around the north perimeter and northwest corner of the withdrawal area at the Navy’s expense.
The road would be constructed to match the existing condition of Sand Canyon Road and located in a perpetual right-of-way dedicated to Churchill County; relinquish to the Department of Interior three sections of existing Navy withdrawn land located in the northeast corner of B-16 for the purpose of future transportation (Nevada Department of Transportation’s alignment for the Interstate 11 corridor) and utility corridors without imposing on adjacent residential neighborhoods; require the Navy to allow quarterly chaperoned public visits to the Salt Cave, an important cultural site.
Bravo 17: Reduce the withdrawal area to match the Weapons Danger Zone, which, commissioners, said, is especially critical in the areas around Bell Mountain to accommodate public access and mineral development; ensure biologically sensitive areas identified by the Nevada Department of Wildlife are avoided in terms of target placement and future training activities, and roads identified by the county as qualifying for RS 2477 designation are available for the Controlled Access Hunt Program and any other access for special events and visits.
Bravo 20: Avoid Pole Line Road in a manner that provides similar access points to US Highway 95 in Churchill County and Coal Canyon Road in Pershing County; avoid the Fallon National Wildlife Refuge.
Dixie Valley Training Area: Commissioners said they do not support the expansion of the DVTA but rather the congressional designation of the Dixie Valley Special Management Area (DVSMA), which would include the following: The DVSMA would continue to be managed by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management for multiple use management under the Federal Public Land Management Act; wildlife management authority would remain with the State of Nevada through its Nevada Department of Wildlife, except for those species managed under the Endangered Species Act by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The DVSMA would be withdrawn from the General Mining Act of 1872, thereby prohibiting location and development of locatable minerals; avoid important biological and cultural resources — the DVSMA would permit Navy training activities and infrastructure described in the Final EIS without the need for a BLM casual use analysis; the DVSMA would prohibit any temporary or permanent structures over 40 feet in height, or any temporary or permanent land use authorization that would interfere with Navy night vision, communications and electronic warfare training as determined by the Navy in consultation with the BLM and project proponent; within the flight sanctuary area, all land use authorizations would be prohibited unless associated with grazing, water rights or public access.
No temporary or permanent structures would be allowed in excess of 10 feet in height without prior authorization; furthermore, the DVSMA would explicitly permit the following land uses and authorizations: Public access and recreation would not be closed or curtailed in any manner; recreation would continue to be managed by the BLM; grazing would not be closed or curtailed in any manner and continued to be managed by the BLM.