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Commissioners move forward with modifications on FRTC plan

By Steve Ranson Nevada News Group
This road leads to the Bravo 16 range, which is part of the Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex modernization.
Steve Ranson / LVN

Churchill County commissioners continue to push for modifications on the Navy’s Record of Decision for the Fallon Range Training Complex modernization through the National Defense Authorization Act and other legislation.

Commissioners discussed the FRTC plan and passed a resolution during Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting requesting legislative support for modifications and mitigation items which would include a lands bill for the county.

Jeremy Drew, project manager from Resources Concept, Inc., the firm that has been working with the commissioners on the modernization and expansion, said he hasn’t seen the Navy’s formal legislative proposal.

“It sounds like some of the language is being perfected and even changed,” he said, adding he expects the document will be available to review within a week.

Drew said the reason for the resolution is Congressman Mark Amodei requested, after the county saw the Record of Decision and the final Environment Impacts Statement (EIS), the commissioners move forward with their changes to the Navy’s proposal and request the components to a lands bill. As a result, Drew said he worked with County Manager Jim Barbee on the resolution that refers to the final EIS.

The county seeks legislative action consisted with a comment letter dated Feb. 6, 2020, to Nevada’s congressional delegation, the governor’s office and Navy. The letter documented Churchill County’s efforts to resolve issues and differences with the Navy’s proposal through the EIS process. Drew also presented a map on the modernization and lands bill which has been updated with minor editorial changes.

During the past year, commissioners have discussed a land bill that would mitigate the modernization’s impact to the county. The Churchill County Lands Bill could create two national conservation areas and three wilderness areas, and checkerboard land ownership could result in the consolidation of land, which would lessen difficulties in public access and reduce cumbersome management practices.

“The loss of taxable private lands within Churchill County necessitates the need for lands suitable to replace and improve the tax base, principally through land conveyances,” the resolution further stated.

Commissioners Pete Olsen and Bus Scharmann and Drew also discussed land north of Indian Lakes that would provide for an economic zone near the Fallon Municipal Airport.

Barbee, Drew and Churchill County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen flew to Washington, D.C. during the week of Feb. 24-28 to attend meetings to discuss the county’s position with the Navy, congressional committees and the state’s two senators and representatives whose districts are affected by the modernization.

“Both Sen. (Catherine) Cortez Masto and Sen. (Jacky) Rosen have been extremely interested and engaged,” Drew said. “We have met with them, and they have been personally engaged in this issue, as has their staff at both the state and D.C. levels. We greatly appreciate their attention, time and support. Gov. (Steve) Sisolak’s office has also been engaged and helpful.”

Barbee said the city of Fallon has provided a letter in support of the resolution, and it will be attached to the county’s document.

In the resolution, the county said the final proposal and Record of Decision will result in an unacceptable level of plans to the county’s custom, culture and economy and does not provide for adequate stipulations activity in Dixie Valley.

“The creation of a Dixie Valley Special Management Area could provide for not only the items listed above but also for a range of military activities like threat emitters, ground training activities, flight sanctuary, and convoy training,” the resolution stated.

The FRTC modernization calls for the Navy to renew an existing public land withdrawal of 202,859 acres which expires in November 2021. The proposal’s main focus centers on the withdrawal of about 604,789 acres of additional public land, and acquire about 65,160 acres of non-federal land for its range modernization and expansion. The Navy rolled out its proposal in 2016, and from that time to the Final EIS, hundreds of meetings were held between the Navy and government agencies to include Churchill County that would be affected by the expansion.

Drew told commissioners in March the House and Senate versions of the modernization will be different, but he said a conference committee will resolve any outstanding  differences. The proposal was scheduled for House Armed Services Committee at the end of April, and then to the Senate Armed Services Committee in early May, but the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in delays.

“The hearings scheduled for late April have been postponed with no clear timeline on when they will be rescheduled,” Drew said. “However, the Navy has told us that they still intend to advance the FRTC Modernization as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, so we have continued to work on this issue and keep our delegation informed.”