The owner of one business on U.S. Highway 50 that could be affected by the Fallon Range Training Complex modernization and expansion said she’s concerned the number of customers will decrease if current off-road areas are fenced off.
Fredda Stevenson, the owner of Middlegate Station 45 miles east of Fallon, addressed Churchill County commissioners at their Wednesday meeting last week to point out the area’s economy could suffer.
“I have never seen an economic impact statement in what this means to the businesses,” she said.
Stevenson said the proposed land withdrawal may be hard on the local economy, especially on Middlegate.
“When people come out here, they expect to see wide open spaces we advertise,” she added.
The Navy announced plans in 2016 to expand the ranges and take an additional 604,000 acres for training. Only half the requested acquisition will have no access said Rob Rule, Naval Air Station Fallon’s community plans and liaison officer.
Stevenson, who said she submitted comments during the scoping process but didn’t attend any community meetings, pointed out thousands of people use Sand Mountain for recreational uses. Rule, though, said there will still be access for recreationists using land on the north side of U.S. Highway 50 from Sand Mountain eastward.
Stevenson, though, said she lives in fear because of the expansion plans.
“I love our military,” she told commissioners. “I get a lot of business from the military but a lot of misery. I feel like we’re being pushed into this.”
Rule said he and NAS Fallon’s public information officer have talked to Stevenson several times and assured her Middlegate will not be affected.
Churchill County has attended the Navy meetings as a cooperative agency. Commissioner Bus Scharmann assured Stevenson the county has been a thorn in the Navy’s side.
“We let them know we love them here,” Scharmann said. “But there’s still a lot of things in the plan we didn’t like a year ago, and we don’t like now.”
Scharmann said the commission has been working more with Nevada’s congressional delegation and Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office for support.
“There’s a lot of things we are trying to do,” Scharmann explained. “We are trying to do everything we can, but it’s tough.”
Stevenson said she can’t receive any guarantees from the Navy.
Commission Chairman Pete Olsen chimed in. He said the county has done all they can with the Navy.
“The Navy has their position,” he said, “but we don’t want them to leave.”
The Navy, the largest employer in the county, pumps in more than a half-billion dollars into the local economy.
“We’re a good neighbor — we want them to be a good neighbor,” Olsen said.
Olsen said the final result will be in the National Defense Authorization Bill, which will be up for a vote during the summer. He said the county has been working with the state’s representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives, and the county also hired a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to help them
“We’ve been proactive to protect the county and community’s interest,” Olsen added.
Olsen said the fight is not over until Congress decides.
Scharmann said the county has gained some small concessions from the Navy on the final Environment Impact Statement, but not as much as the county wanted. He said the county is losing 400,000 acres.
“We don’t take it lightly at all,” Scharmann said.
Olsen said the county has been working as hard as it can and told Stevenson commissioners have attended every meeting. Stevenson asked commissioners if they know how much business she may lose. She lamented the loss of the wide open spaces.
“Don’t fence off our land. Don’t keep us from using our own land. That’s all I ask,” Stevenson said. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”