Commissioners learn how FRTC expansion affects county

Commissioners learn how FRTC expansion affects county

Churchill County Commissioners received a detailed briefing at their Dec. 21 meeting on how the recently approved expansion and modernization of the Fallon Range Training Complex in central Nevada will proceed.

Jeremy Drew, principal resource specialist with Resources Concept in Carson City, has been helping commissioners on the FRTC complex for six years since the Navy presented its plan in August 2016. He said the Nevada delegation of Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen and Rep. Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, worked on the provisions affecting the modernization and expansion of the range. Earlier this month, the Senate approved the NDAA, 83-11. The House also approved the measure, 350-80.

The FRTC is getting an additional 558,535 acres for military training, although some of the land will remain under the supervision of the Department of the Interior. More than 581,887 acres of conservation, wilderness and other protected areas have been designated, and 18,170 acres of land will be held in trust for both the Walker River Paiute and Fallon Paiute Shoshone tribes.

The agreement will also allow Churchill and Lander counties to access additional land for economic growth.

Drew said Bravo 16 southeast of Fallon is used for SEALS training.

“The western border is now the interstate power line,” Drew said. “There is an authorization to put another line on the east side if necessary.”

Drew added that Sand Canyon and Red Mountain roads will be closed. There is also a designation for the proposed Interstate 11 which would pass through Bravo 16.

The Bravo 17 range about 30 miles east of Fallon will be able to extend east of Rawhide Road. Drew said big game hunting will be allowed on Slade Mountain and the Monte Cristo Range during a 15-day window. Culturally, Drew said the area will also be important for bighorn sheep.

“The Navy is giving up 23 acres around the existing wells and corrals off Rawhide Road,” Drew said. “There is no impact. They (farmers and other users) will operate without Navy interference, which is good going forward.”

Highway 20 north of the Fallon National Wildlife Refuge and near the Churchill and Pershing county line will have a gun hazard zone downsized. He said there is a possible rerouting of the Pole Line, but the route cannot be closed until the rerouting is complete.

“The Fallon National Wildlife Refuge has not been affected,” Drew said.

The Dixie Valley Training Area (DVTA) extends north of US Highway 50 to the southern tip of the Stillwater Range. Drew said the DVTA will not be used for live stock. Bravo 19 35 miles south of Fallon will essentially see little change.

Drew said there will be no new mining in the Dixie Valley and it will affect the Hercules area and the east side of the valley.

“The land will continue to be managed by the BLM under the Federal Land Policy Act in consultation with the Navy,” Drew said, adding that the Department of the Navy and Interior will allow for water and utility infrastructure.

He said the land withdrawal will not interfere with the project.

Drew said there is also a new conservation area around the existing Grimes Point east of Fallon. There are two subunits in the storage area. He said the wilderness study area (WSA) boundary is drawn from Dixie and East County roads. Three news WSAs, according to Drew, are assigned to the Desatoya, Clan Alpine and Augusta mountains.

“The eastern half of the Dixie Valley Training Area is overlapped, as well as a portion of Highway 50 along Fairview Peak,” Drew said.

Another key sticking point at FRTC involved the checkerboard model of the land. The checkerboard pattern alternates whole tracts of land, each consisting of 640 hectares. He said more work is needed to eliminate checkerboard areas.

Churchill County will convey 86 acres of land to the Bureau of Land Management across from Sand Mountain.

“It makes a lot of sense since they manage it,” Drew said.

In northwestern Churchill County, he said the county will work with the Interior Department to “lay out” the management of the area.

In general, he said private landowners will be compensated.

Another provision of the FRC calls for wildlife management to be under the auspices of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and for a plan—both wildlife and fire management—to be a cooperative effort with the state of Nevada and the county.

Although the FRTC approval process has taken six years, Drew said there is still work to be done.

“The Navy cannot train in the expanded areas until all mitigation measures are met,” Drew said. “They can still do that if they (the Navy) do all their mitigation measures for Bravo 16. They train in the extended area.”

Drew, however, said all road realignments must be completed before Navy training can occur in the expanded area.

The Walker River Paiute Tribe will receive two parcels of land near Hazen, midway between Fallon and Fernley. Drew said it will be known as the east Fernley parcel. The tribe’s reservoir will span 8,000 acres on the northeast corner of Walker Lake.

Drew said $20 million will be used to create and operate a new cultural heritage center.

Commission Chairman Pete Olsen thanked Drew for his years of work on the project.

“This man has worked tirelessly for us,” Olsen said.

Olsen said Drew has been “boots on the ground” and has run all the routes in the proposed and current training areas and studied the maps. Olsen said Drew was extremely helpful in dealing with the federal government.

“Navy is our neighbors, but I felt we held our own against Navy,” Olsen said.

Throughout the process, Olsen said it was inevitable that the Navy would acquire land for training, but he said it was important for the county to work with the Navy to create a mutually acceptable plan.

Several tribal members spoke to the commission expressing concerns about the expansion and hoping the county will continue to work with tribal governments as the expansion moves forward.

“(Senator) Catherine Cortez Masto always asked the committee, ‘Have you worked with tribes?'” Commissioner Bus Scharmann responded.

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