County opposes Painted Rock Mine

Residents wait for the presentation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' consultant on Wednesday at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center.

Residents wait for the presentation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs' consultant on Wednesday at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center.

It might actually be cheaper to punch a road over the Pine Nuts than to pay the $1 million a month Fritz Smokey thinks his cousin should get in a lease for a gravel pit at Painted Rock Mine.

Smokey, 85, said he went to a meeting held by consultants for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Douglas County Community & Senior Center on Wednesday where he shared his comment.

About 130 people attended the session, along with Smokey, who pointed out that the Washoe Tribal allotment land is private property, not federal land.

Residents of Johnson Lane in Carson Valley have been fighting the proposal to establish a mine at Painted Rock since it was first revealed in 2020.

More than a dozen residents followed up at a Douglas County commissioners meeting on Thursday, where the board approved a resolution opposing the mine and its proposed use of Johnson Lane to access Highway 395.

The four-page resolution seeks denial of the lease by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, denial by the Bureau of Land Management for use of two miles of Sunrise Pass Road and that conditions be placed on Knox Excavating requiring them to find another route.

“There’s not a member of this board who thinks the Painted Rock Mine is a good idea,” said Chairman Wes Rice. “It’s as frustrating to us as it is to you, but we are doing what we can.”

Commissioner Sharla Hales suggested strengthening the language in the resolution to change “substantial” to be more like “overwhelming” in the letter to the Bureau.

“It needs to be a different route,” she said. “That’s how we feel and that’s what we want.”

Commissioner Walt Nowosad was more direct.

“We should stick with that they have to make another road,” he said.

To residents frustrated at the lack of action by the county, Hales and Commissioner Danny Tarkanian said the resolution is just the first step in the process.

“I know of two suggestions,” Hales said. “Filing a lawsuit and putting restrictions on the road. We’ve talked about those with the County Manager and attorneys, but they can’t be fully discussed in public without exposing our playbook. Deep conversations are being had that would be unwise to have in public.”

None of the public speakers were impressed with Wednesday’s presentation by the Bureau.

Toni Court resident Susan Brown said she came to Carson Valley so she could ride her horse on BLM land.

“The BIA presentation was total BS,” she said. “Our only hope is to change the proposed route restricting the trucks from using Johnson Lane.”

Resident Ryan Kennedy said he opposed the entire project, which he said would limit access to public lands.

Tarkanian pointed out that one of the slides shown in the presentation said that while Douglas County is a cooperating agency, but had no impact or decision making in the process.

Hales did caution residents that while the county will do what it can, the resolution is not going to fix things.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen here,” she said. “I don’t know if we can fix this, but we’ll try. We’re not offering a magic bullet.”

Knox Excavating is seeking to lease nearly 149 acres of allotment lands to conduct mining. A 35-year lease with the owners could remove around a half-million tons of aggregate a year.

Work on the mine started before residents sounded an alarm in August 2020.

Similar concerns resulted in a protracted debate over a pit to subsidize the creation of ponds for Lake Tahoe’s sewer plant not much further south above Stockyard Road.

On Thursday, resident Hope Sullivan spoke against including a flood control basin on a conservation easement next to Grandview Estates on East Valley Road.

Sullivan, who was the planner on the sewer district’s pit, said that other flood control measures were included downstream, rendering the proposal unnecessary.

Commissioners approved the stormwater master plan after removing the proposal for a basin.

Coincidentally, the main office building on the former Bing Pit was torn down on Wednesday. The Pit closed in 2022 after being in operation since 1967, just two years after the founding of the Ranchos.


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