Commissioners express concerns over alternatives for FRTC | NevadaAppeal.com

Commissioners express concerns over alternatives for FRTC

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Commissioners are expressing concern about the expansion of the Navy’s Bravo-1 range southwest of Fallon and access points near housing.

Since the U.S. Navy released is Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in December, Churchill County commissioners had their first opportunity to chew on the results as a board at the month's first meeting Jan. 7.

For one week in December, Navy personnel visited Nevada communities in a five-county area that are affected by the acquisition of additional land for the Fallon Range Training Complex. The range modernization and expansion include airspace, land ranges and electronic systems used primarily for air and ground training activities.

Seven public meetings including one in Fallon informed the public and also asked for additional oral and written comments on the DEIS. The DEIS includes ranges B-16 southwest of Fallon; B-17, the Dixie Valley Training Area, north and south of U.S. Highway 50; and B-20, northeast of Fallon and north of B-17. No plans are proposed for the B-19 range midway between Fallon and Hawthorne.

Jeremy Drew, project manager for Resources Concepts, Inc., has been working with the commission on receiving scoping comments from the community and also monitoring the proposed DEIS developed by the Navy. He said the last month's rollout of the DEIS was an opportunity for the Navy to receive additional information. The comment period was extended to Feb. 14 to allow for additional information to be considered into the final EIS. At their Jan 22 meeting (changed from Jan. 16), commissioners will receive another report from Drew and also ask for comments from the public during the discussion. Another commission meeting to review the DEIS and seek comments is slated for Feb. 7. According to the proposed schedule to complete the DEIS, commissioners will review the DEIS and take action.

"The extension allows us some time to take a deep breath and take in more bite-size chunks," Drew said of the DEIS.

Comment periods are included with each stage of the FRTC modernization. After the Navy issues its final EIS, individuals, groups and government agencies review and comment. Then the under-Secretary of Navy submits the proposal with the department's recommendation to Congress.

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"Congress will gather additional comments and then vote," Drew said.

Drew reviewed the Navy' proposed DEIS and its alternatives, focusing on Alternate 3, which the Navy prefers. He presented to commissioners an overlap map that shows all the potential impacts and conflicts affecting the ranges. From the outset in 2016, Drew said the proposals show what would be allowed or not allowed on the bombing ranges and at the Dixie Valley Training Area.

The Navy proposes to renew existing public land withdrawal of 202,859 acres expiring in November 2021. Withdrawn public land for 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, withdraw and reserve for military use approximately 604,789 acres of additional public land, and acquire about 65,160 acres of non-federal land.

The Navy said lands withdrawn in 1953 through Public Land Order 898 are permanently withdrawn and do not expire in November 2021. The Navy announced in November it will not withdraw about 76,000 acres around Bell Mountain west of the State Highway 361 to Gabbs. The Navy favored Alternate 3, which removed some land for withdrawal based on earlier input. That included land along Fairview Mountain and the earthquake faults and sections of land in the southern part of Bravo 17.

"The geography not only changed but limited access applies in these cases," Drew added.

The third alternative proposes no changes for B-19 although commissioners asked the Navy to relocate the SEALs training from B-16 to that range. Commissioner Carl Erquiaga asked Drew if a major pipeline crosses B-19, but Drew said the map indicates the pipeline runs north of the range. In assessing Churchill County's proposals for B-19, Drew said the county suggested shrinking the range to avoid closure of Sand Canyon and Simpson roads; however, the Navy did not include the proposals in their analysis, and Alternative 3 avoids closure of Simpson Road.

B-17 will see the largest proposal for land withdrawal.

"This is the biggest expansion area that has the most concerns for conflict," Drew said.

According to the findings and potential land-use conflicts, Drew said the state also verifies concerns for a pipeline, geothermal potential, restricted hunting area and mining activity and exploration. Churchill County's proposed alternatives suggested shrinking the size of B-17 to avoid the loss of public access and multiple use in the Sand Spring Range and the closure and subsequent relocation of Nevada State Route 839 to Gabbs the earthquake fault road, Bell Mountain and the Monte Cristo Mountains.

Drew said this avoids the closure of SR 839, the Sand Springs Range, the earthquake fault road and Fairview Peak and most of Bell Mountain.

"The desired bombing range moved south and east and completely off Sand Springs Range," Drew pointed out on a map.

Commissioners suggested reducing the size of B-20 to avoid the loss of public access and multiple use in the following areas: Stillwater Range and the closure of East County Road, West Humboldt Range and closure of Pole Line Road and avoiding the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. The only item the Navy acted upon, said Drew, was avoiding the closure of East County Road. Commissioner Bus Scharmann said the county wanted the Navy to move back its withdrawal because of the roads.

"We'll push to release that from the withdrawal," Drew added.

Drew said the state is concerned with the proposals for the DVTA to include mineral and geothermal potential.

"From what the state tells me, the east slope of the Stillwater Range is one of the most geothermal active ranges in the state of Nevada," Drew said, adding the Navy also wants electrical lines buried and solar fields prohibited.

Furthermore, he said the Navy proposals to release portions of the Wildlife Study Areas (WSA) that overlap the withdrawal area. Drew said only Congress may release a WSA. Commissioners also want public lands proposed for closure to be minimized and the Navy to fairly compensate private land owners and compensate ranchers of the loss of Animal Unit Months, range improvements and water rights associated with grazing permits. Scharmann said he has a concern for Dixie Valley and the need to protect water rights.

"The Navy has the authority to compensate for the growing permit, but they're not saying anything," Drew said.

Drew added the Navy would like to see minimal mining activity done during the daytime, but that issue hasn't been addressed.

• In other action at the commission meeting, commissioners adopted the Carson River Watershed Floodplain Management Plan, accepted changes to 10 changes in Bill 2018-E, discussed the Sky Ranch Water Right dedication and listened to a presentation on LEAD Green and its successes during the 2018 leadership summit and plans for this year's summit.

New business included an application for a sending site on property located at 500 Depp Road, a resolution to establish travel expenses and subsistence allowance for Churchill County, update of the county cemetery rules and regulations, a contract with Sletten Companies for a feasibility assessment services related to district court and change of date for January's second meeting to Jan. 22 beginning at 1:15 p.m.

Input on the FRTC

The comment period has been extended and may be provided by mail or through the project website at http://www.FRTCModernization.com and must be postmarked or received online by Feb. 14.