Commissioners have remaining concerns with Navy range expansion | NevadaAppeal.com

Commissioners have remaining concerns with Navy range expansion

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus
Churchill County commissioners still have concerns about the Fallon Training Range Complex modernization and expansion plans. They are requesting a meeting with Nevada’s congressional delegation in September.
U.S. Navy photo

Churchill County commissioners are asking for a meeting with Nevada’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., during the week of Sept. 9 to discuss the U.S. Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex modernization project and legislative proposal.

Jeremy Drew, project manager for Resource Concepts, Inc., has worked with the county to develop concerns on the project to the Navy, and he spoke at the commissioners’ Wednesday meeting.

“We have had opportunities to work with the Navy and what will be incorporated in their documents to move forward,” Drew said. “Many of our concerns are still concerns today.”

Drew and commissioners have also made comments to the Navy that were specific to a broader lands bill. Drew, though, said the Navy made it clear it’s at different levels when reviewing the modernization and expansion. In their discussion, commissioners said the Navy indicated it could not address the resolution of the wilderness study areas or checkerboard lands outside the proposed withdrawal area as part of their National Environmental Protection Act process.

Commissioners approved a motion, 3-0, to adopt a resolution declaring Churchill County’s support of a Lands Bill package that would be included as part of the FTRC’s modernization project final legislative package. Commissioners said the action would be beneficial and also help offset some of the impact from the modernization. In prior meetings with the congressional delegation, the commissioners noted in their agenda report the delegation “would be willing to support mitigation concepts as part of the final congressional approval of the FRTC Modernization project.”

When the county — commissioners Bus Scharmann and Pete Olsen and County Manager Jim Barbee — meets with Nevada’s two U.S. senators, U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei and possibly other representatives from Southern Nevada next month, they want to discuss the Lands Bill associated with the expansion and also the checkerboard land intermingled between private interests and the federal government.

In its letter to set up the meeting with the congressional delegation, commissioners expressed some frustration with the process.

“The county continues to work with the Navy through its Environmental Impact Statement process despite frustrations with the lack of appropriate mitigation being offered by the Navy,” the letter stated. “The county is also working with key stakeholders in developing legislative solutions that result in a win-win outcome for both Nevada and the Navy.”

During the week of Sept. 9, the commissioners said they would also like to meet with high-ranking Navy officials or select members on the respective Armed Forces committees.

Commissioners had submitted their comments about the FRTC modernization to the Navy in February. During the 2018 calendar year, both the Navy conducted numerous meetings in the areas affected by the expansion and to gain additional input into the range modernization. Navy representatives visited seven cities in December that would be affected by the expansion and delivered their assessment on which plan would be best for expanding the training range.

Since the Navy made its initial announcement in 2016 to modernize and expand the training range, the Navy received thousands of comments regarding the acquisition of more land for the FRTC. The proposed expansion covers a five-county area and includes airspace, land ranges and electronic systems used primarily for air and ground training activities.

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.

In February, the commissioners also requested additional information and mapping on the training activities conducted in the Dixie Valley Training Area northeast of Fallon.

Commissioners have focused their concerns on the following sections, which were first reported in February by the LVN:

Geological Resources — Management and monitoring of the disturbed soils must be done to minimize impacts.

Land Use — All existing rights of way would need to relocated, which, is the Bureau of Land Management’s responsibility.

Mining and Mineral Resources —There will be major impacts to known mineral resources, i.e. Walker and Chalk Mountain districts and to geothermal in the DVTA.

Livestock Grazing — The proposal calls for a 7 percent reduction in Animal Unit Month (AUM) or the amount of forage needed by an “animal unit” (AU) grazing for one month.

“This needs to be further flushed out,” Drew said of the livestock grazing. “It takes some major hits.”

Transportation — This area needs further clarification on Simpson and East County roads. Residents have concerns about the heavy military vehicles using the country road to Bravo 16.

Air Space — There will be no impact to the Fallon Municipal Airport and emergencies will continue to supersede training exercises as will wildland fires; however, two approaches to the Gabbs airport will be affected.

Noise — A significant amount of aircraft noise will increase east of Fallon, and small arms fire may be noticeable to residents in the northwest quadrant of Bravo 16.

Air Quality — The biggest concerns from dust will be from construction on erodible soils.

Water Resources — This section does not address flooding of Bravo 16 or 20.

Biological — There are three concerns with vegetation analysis, wildlife analysis and increased wildfire risk, management and post-fire rehabilitation.

Cultural Resources — The impact assessment is opening consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office and the tribes.

Recreation — There are concerns with loss of public access to Dead Camel Mountain, Slate, Bell Flat and Monte Cristo mountains, the West Humboldt Range and adjacent public lands. There are concerns with the loss of local roads.

Socioeconomics — The Navy study has not quantified the financial losses from impacts to potential mining and geothermal development and tax revenues from property and sales tax.

Pubic Healthy and Safety of Children — More information is needed on hazardous material management and transportation on U.S. Highway 50.

Environmental Justice — The impact is “not significant” and the overall analysis is good.