Commissioners receive updated report on BLM activities |

Commissioners receive updated report on BLM activities

Steve Ranson
Churchill County commissioners recognized employees for their length of service. From left are Commissioner Bus Scharman; Charlene Nelson, five years; Michelle Bunyard, five years; Julie Guererro, 10 years; Jennifer Jones, 15 years; Darin Hammer, 15 years; Laurie Mookini, 20 years; Joan Smimms, 25 years; and Commissioner Carl Erquiaga.

Churchill County Commissioners received an updated report from the Bureau of Land Management at their Wednesday meeting on current activities involving alternative energy and other projects.

Terri Knutson from BLM’s Carson City District office said three new projects are underway in Churchill County. She said active exploration, drilling and a utilization plan for new plant construction of the Ormat Edwards Creek Valley (Tungsten) plant has been received and is in process.

She also discussed two other Ormat projects, both occurring in Dixie Valley.

Knutson said Ormat has temporarily suspended exploration drilling, but a plan for new plant construction has been receive. She also said an exploration environmental assessment has been approved for the Dixie Meadows project.

Knutson also gave commissioners an update on other operations in Churchill County, and they include the following:

Ormat Bunejug (Salt Wells) exploration drilling has been suspended by Ormat.

Gradient Resources Patua plant began commercial operations in late 2013.

Gradient suspended exploration drilling of its Salt Wells project.

Alterra Energy Soda Lake only has plant operations.

TGP Coyote Canyon in Dixie Valley has temporarily stopped exploration drilling.

TGP’s Dixie Valley plant has been approved for testing on existing geothermal wells.

Enel’s Salt Wells plant is looking at a supplemental solar proposal to augment geothermal production system, which would be similar to the Stillwater plant operations.

The BLM will hold a geothermal competitive lease sale on Sept. 10.

In addition to discussing geothermal activity, Knutson said the BLM is keeping a close eye on weather conditions.

“We’re in the third year of drought monitoring,” she said. “They (BLM personnel) visited 25 of 36 allotments so far … or 2.6 million acres monitored so far. The U.S. drought monitor shows this area is bulls-eye in the most severe drought areas.”

Knutson, however, said the rains last month came at the right time for grazing but at a bad time for wildland fires.

“On the average, 73 percent of the forage shrubs are considered average,” she said.

Knutson said most of the vandalism caused at Hidden Cave in March has been repaired, and tours have resumed. She said the criminal investigation and site repair were successful. Additionally, she said Barrick Gold is providing funding for a new solar lighting system in Hidden Cave as an off-site mitigation for air quality issues.

Commissioners also heard the following agenda items:

Approved augmentation of the Fiscal Year 2013-14 budget in accordance with Nevada Revised statues.

Approved a new contract for court reporter services.

Authorized a medium term obligation over 10 years to purchase a dozer for the county’s road department.

Approved ordinance providing for the establishment of business license fees for public utilities doing business in Churchill County.

Approval of Business Impact Statement related to the Public Utility Business License Fee Ordinance.

Approved the canvass of votes for the 2014 primary election in Churchill County.