Approval of NDAA takes one step closer to passage

Final Senate vote may take place this week

The U.S. Senate passed on Thursday the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act which will now allow for the modernization and expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex.

The U.S. Senate passed on Thursday the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act which will now allow for the modernization and expansion of the Fallon Range Training Complex.

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Community and military leaders are applauding recent action on the Fallon Range Training Complex expansion and modernization that’s included in the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

A Senate vote is planned this week on the entire NDAA, but a press aide for Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., did not know earlier this week when a vote would occur.

The House of Representatives passed its version on the NDAA during the summer and the House last week overwhelmingly approved a bicameral-negotiated update to the bill. The bipartisan vote was 350-80 with Republican Congressman Mark Amodei of Congressional District 2 voting in favor.

Once the Senate takes up the House’s action, then the approved NDAA goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The FRTC provisions and most final agreements came after the Senate last voted through negotiations between the House and Senate committees.

Both Nevada Democratic senators – Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen — and Amodei have been extensively involved with the expansion for the past four years along with local stakeholders. The original expansion proposal was first introduced by Naval Air Station Fallon to area residents in October 2016.

According to the congressional delegation:

• The FRTC will receive an additional 558,535 acres for military training vital to national security. Some of the land will remain under the Department of Interior oversight to facilitate other regional land management interests.

• The legislation designates over 581,887 acres of conservation, wilderness areas and other protected areas, and holds a total of 18,170 acres of land in trust for the Walker River Paiute and Fallon Paiute Shoshone tribes.

• The bill transfers $20 million to the Walker River Paiute Tribe in recognition of historical contamination of their tribal lands and $20 million to the FPST for 10,000 acres in trust land and to create a new cultural center to sustain the knowledge, culture and language of the Fallon Paiute Shoshone tribe.

• The agreement will allow Churchill and Lander counties to access land for economic growth.

Amodei said Dec. 8 from his Washington, D.C., office that NAS Fallon is a big part of what occurs in Northern Nevada.

“The biggest takeaway is NAS Fallon is a big piece of the puzzle for Churchill County and with this expansion and basically for the foreseeable future, that piece of the puzzle has been solidified,” Amodei said.

Once the Senate passes the NDAA, Amodei said county officials will be able to make decisions based on growth and economic development. The NDAA will slightly affect Dixie Valley that’s used as an electronic warfare range for the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center.

 “A large swath of this land in Dixie Valley will remain under the control of the Department of Interior,” Amodei said.

Churchill County Manager Jim Barbee said Dec. 7 the county and its partners have been engaged with the congressional delegation as the proposed range expansion made its way through the various congressional committees. He added provisions for Dixie Valley received input from tribal and county governments.

Barbee said Dixie Valley will not be withdrawn as requested by the Navy. He said a management area will be under BLM which will consult with the Navy, county, tribal groups and cattle grazers for the management implementation that allows "dark sky training" for the Navy. The area will remain open to the public.

“It is my understanding the toad area is outside the special management area,” Barbee added. “The easements for the future water line and well development as well as Green Link are included in the language.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the Dixie Valley toad as an endangered species. The toad has been at the center of a legal battle with Ormat’s geothermal power project.

Additional land closer to Fallon will be a boon for the county.

“We received 14,000 acres in direct conveyance for municipal and economic development and 7,000 acres for public purpose,” Barbee said.

The public purpose projects, according to Barbee, could include land for a gravel pit, for example, or to expand the landfill area 18 miles south of Fallon. Barbee said the commissioners are looking at trading some of the land that borders the 40-mile desert in northern Churchill County. The land is in the Fallon Wildlife Refuge and extends into the Navy’s Bravo Range 20 withdrawal.

Barbee said a checkerboard resolution has been created in the northwest portion of the county to facilitate land swaps and direct conveyances for creating larger federal blocks of land and larger blocks of private lands that can be developed. He said funding is a result of the county’s new membership in the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act fund.

Furthermore, Barbee said the Navy is committed to rerouting Pole Line Road, the alternate Sand Canyon Road and Nevada State Highway 361, outside of withdrawal areas.

The county will also receive $20 million to offset the land conveyance. Barbee said the money will help offset the funding for a new courthouse north of the existing structure.

The range expansion and the NDAA will be discussed in more detail at the Dec. 21 Churchill County commission meeting, which begins at 1:15 p.m. in the commission chambers.

In 2021 Congress renewed the current FRTC withdrawn lands in that consists of more than 234,124 acres of land within the training areas Bravo-16, southwest of Fallon; Bravo-17 east near Fairview Peak; Bravo-19, 30 miles south off U.S. Highway 95; Bravo-20, northeast of Fallon; and the Dixie Valley and Shoal Site training areas. The land was permanently withdrawn in 1953 through Public Land Order 898.

The current Navy request includes a withdrawal of an additional 558,535 acres, the majority of land being used as buffer zones.

The proposed bill also contains the inclusion of three new wilderness areas: Clan Alpine, Agusta and Desatoya. They were formerly Wilderness Study Areas.

Barbee said the 70-mile long Stillwater Range east of Fallon, which is a wilderness study area, is being replaced with the Numunaa Nobe National Conservation Area that allows more flexible access than wilderness. Grimes Point will also be placed within the conservation area.

Capt. Shane Tanner, commanding officer of NAS Fallon, said the need to modernize the FRTC has never been more urgent.

“Naval Air Station Fallon remains committed to working with all stakeholders as we implement congressional legislation over the next several years,” Tanner said.

Tanner, who became commanding officer in March, said he appreciates the support and cooperation among all the stakeholders that have been involved with the FRTC expansion.

Earlier this year, Carlos Del Toro, Navy secretary, visited NAS Fallon. He said this piece of critical legislation will enhance the nation’s security by allowing the Navy’s carrier air wings and special warfare teams to train in a more realistic environment.

The Navy said 100 percent of aviation and naval special warfare units train on Fallon ranges before deployment. Advanced weaponry and more air space is need to launch missiles toward their targets. The expansion of Bravo-16 will give the SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land teams) the ability to conduct more realistic worldwide training.

Furthermore, the Navy said pilots need at least 12 to 14 miles to launch their missiles toward targets, and a larger range will provide 99.9 percent accuracy.

Churchill County Commissioner Pete Olsen and Fallon Mayor Ken Tedford said the stakeholders in the expansion talks stood and worked together and created what he called an “exciting” plan for the future.

“When this bill becomes law, we will commence a new chapter focused on ensuring that congressional intent translates into real world progress,” said Olsen, the commission chairman. “Churchill County looks forward to continuing its strong relationship with the Navy in support of their important mission and partnering with Nevada’s congressional delegation to ensure the administration’s implementation accounts for the realities of day-to-day life in Northern Nevada.”

Tedford said their voices were heard and their views represented in this legislation.

“We know many parties’ interests were involved but as always, Sen. Cortez Masto was masterful in bringing those many different interests together to reach a solution that both addresses national security and respects local interests,” Tedford said. “We’re grateful for the collaboration from the entire Nevada delegation to move this proposal forward.”

Cortez Masto said the expansion of the Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex will improve national security, fuel economic growth in Churchill County, and preserve important cultural heritage sites for Tribal nations.

“I worked closely with Sen. Rosen and Congressman Amodei, the administration, Senate Armed Services Committee, congressional leadership and all local stakeholders to secure this agreement and will make sure it is in the final NDAA,” Cortez Masto said.

Amber Torres, chairwoman of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, addressed the contamination of tribal lands and said an injustice has been resolved.

“We can now begin the healing process, with restored sacred lands, expansion of our tribal homeland, just compensation, and the opportunity for new economic development for the benefit our people,” Torres said. “This landmark legislative settlement marks a new day for the Walker River Paiute Tribe and our friends and neighbors in the great state of Nevada.”


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