Commissioners receive reports on land, water issues
September 25, 2018
Churchill County commissioners met Sept. 19 for their second regularly scheduled meeting of September to listen to several informational agendas while acting on blighted property and appointments to the library board.
Ken Collum, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Stillwater Field Office, updated commissioners on recent BLM activity within Churchill County. He said an environmental impact statement on the proposed Navy's additional withdrawal of land for range modernization should be released in early November.
Compared to 2017, Collum said Churchill County had only one major wildland fire, the 1,300-acre Gray Fire east of Fallon in early July. He said the Nevada Department of Wildlife has seeded the upper elevations burned by last year's 17,000-acre Tungsten Draw Fire, which was started by lightning about 65 miles east of Fallon and north of Cold Springs Station.
"We're getting good native regrowth," he said.
Collum said an environmental assessment (EA) report for Comstock Geothermal 5 miles north of Dixie Meadows should be finished by early spring. He also said an EA for Tungsten Solar has been completed and is under review.
Chris Mahannah of Mahannah & Associates said Nevada's state engineer has denied Southern Nevada Water Association's (SNWA) applications based partially on a district court order which has statewide implications for how available groundwater has and may be allocated in the future.
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Mahannah said the court order requires a "recalculation of water available for appropriation from Spring Valley assuring that the basin will reach equilibrium between discharge and recharge in a reasonable time." In his presentation, Mahannah reviewed the basic recharge/discharge hydrologic concepts to provide background and how the ruling and subsequent appeals could negatively affect Churchill County and its Dixie Valley Project in the future. He also said the order could have statewide implications for water.
Mahannah showed commissioners a map of Dixie Valley with its tributary basin and phreatophyte boundary and how the depth of groundwater granges from 6 feet to 22 feet below ground level. Phreatophytes are defined as plants that depend for their water supply upon ground water that lies within reach of their roots.
Ed James, general manager of the Carson Water Subconservancy District, also discussed a water issue with commissioners. He said a court case reviewing the Walker River Decree is currently being heard in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
James said Mineral County and the Walker Lake Working Group have filed a lawsuit to intervene in the Walker River Decree to recognize a minimum flow of 127,000 acre/feet per year into Walker Lake using the Public Trust Doctrine. The reason for the lawsuit reveals that Mineral County claims because Walker Lake is held in trust by the state pursuant to Nevada's Public Trust Doctrine, the decree should be amended to adjust the priority of appropriation in the Walker River Basin to aid Walker Lake.
According to the lawsuit, Mineral County is asking that the court to modify the decree by "recognizing the rights of Mineral County to have minimum levels in Walker Lake; ordering the State of Nevada to grant a certificate to Mineral County for the benefit of Walker Lake; and recognizing that minimum flows are necessary to maintain Walker Lake as a 'beneficial use and in the public interest and required under the doctrine of maintenance of the public trust.'"
James said Mineral County seeks to have 127,000-acre feet of water to flow into Walker Lake each year, which could seriously harm agriculture in the Mason Valley.
Commissioners approved a resolution to designate real property located at 980 Wildes Road as a blighted area. By doing so, the commission could qualify for a Community Block Development Grant to obtain funding for cleaning up the area.
Deputy District Attorney Ben Shawcraft said the intent would be to transform the current mobile home park to multi-family housing such as townhouses.
Commissioners reappointed Marilyn Hedges-Hiller to a four-year term on the Churchill County Library Board of Trustees. They also appointed Kelli Kelly to fill the unexpired term of Jean Beatty through Oct. 31 and then a subsequent four-year term.