Highway could be relocated for gold extraction | NevadaAppeal.com

Highway could be relocated for gold extraction

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal Staff Writer

Gold mining is making a comeback in the same canyon where precious metal was first discovered in Northern Nevada ” so much so that a section of two-lane highway may need to get out of the way.

Goldspring Inc., which is mining in the Gold Hill area, has held preliminary discussions with the Nevada Department of Transportation and Storey County officials about a possible plan to move State Route 342 between Silver City and Gold Hill to make room for mining operations.

Goldspring workers have been conducting pilot drilling, or testing for gold, since the spring.

Scott Jolcover, a Goldspring director, said his company was working hand-in-hand with the transportation department to relocate the highway a bit.

“We are not moving it to look for gold, we can mine under the road now, he said. “We want to design a move of the highway when we find enough gold.”

He said any relocation of the road is at least a year into the future, and exactly where it will be moved is not certain, but probably slightly to the west.

“What will end up there is a better, safer road than there is now,” he said, adding that the company would widen the road and install guardrails, and the department of transportation would be given title to the land under the road.

The transportation department now has an easement to have a road across the area, which is a combination of private and Bureau of Land Management land.

He could not say exactly where or how far the stretch of highway would be moved until the company found out exactly where the gold was, but that it would probably be to the west.

It wouldn’t be the first time the road was moved. William Donovan Sr. once had it moved east around the 1930s so he could mine the Lucerne Pit. Jolcover said it would likely be moved back to where it originally was.

Kent Cooper, NDOT deputy director, said if the road is moved, there would be no long-term closure of it.

“We won’t allow them to close it for a year,” he said. “They would need to construct a new road, build that road entirely except for the two connections, then do the connections. We want to minimize impact to the community.”

That was good news to Bill and Carol Fain, who own the Gold Hill Hotel, though Bill Fain said any construction or detours could discourage people from driving from Carson City.

“It would impact our traffic from Carson City, but not from Virginia City, Reno or even Dayton, who could use Six Mile Canyon Road,” Carol Fain said. “As long as they don’t drill under our hotel and we collapse, I’ll be happy.”

Other businesses that could be impacted are the Maynard Station, a saloon that is about to reopen, and the Argenta Earth and Fire Co., a pottery business.

Cooper said all discussions with Goldspring officials have been preliminary.

“We haven’t seen anything specific on location,” he said. “They’re still developing their plan on where they will mine and where relocation will work.”

He said if the road is moved, the company will pay all costs, and the state would want to see it brought up to current designs standards.

He said relocation will not change the likelihood of sinkholes on the highway, which shut it down for a week in January 2006. Heavy rain over New Year’s weekend opened up a 30-foot-wide sinkhole in the middle of the highway.

“That whole area is susceptible to having vacancies beneath the roads,” he said.

The company would also have to gain approval of Storey County officials and the Comstock Historic District board of directors to move the road.

Comstock Historic District administrator Bert Bedeau said he would probably require Goldspring officials to propose it to the full commission, especially if there are any historic structures impacted.

Storey County planner Austin Osborne said that although the company has contacted the county, no action has been taken yet.

He said the company would have to get an amendment to their special use permit to expand their project, then apply for any changes to structures.

– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.