County OKs deal on gravel mine
Short of setting up barricades to prevent trucks from using the road, Douglas County commissioners voted to accept an agreement with the operators of a proposed gravel pit that will help fund maintenance of Johnson Lane.
Douglas County Commissioner Barry Penzel, who represents northern Carson Valley, railed against a process that left residents fuming over the potential of 85-90 gravel trucks a day running through their neighborhood.
County Manager Patrick Cates said he wanted to be clear that the county does not have the authority to approve or condition the project.
“This agreement is a voluntary agreement, it does address some of the concerns, but it certainly doesn’t address all the concerns,” he said.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs opened public comment as part of an environmental impact statement being conducted to determine whether to allow mining.
The parcel is one of 10 160-acre parcels granted to a Washoe family and is administered by the Bureau.
Penzel pointed out he didn’t have any issue with either Knox Excavating or with the owners trying to make money off the land.
Under the agreement, the county would receive half a percent of the gross materials sale for the first five years and then it would drop to .15 percent.
However, the majority of commissioners voted in favor, recognizing that the choice they faced was to have gravel trucks running down the road with some money, or no money.
Deputy Douglas County District Attorney Doug Ritchie said the federal government doesn’t need the county’s permission to approve the gravel pit.
Knox will improve the road leading to Johnson Lane, install earthen berms and noise control measures.
Trucks will run from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Ritchie said a number of agencies were consulted in the discussion of the pit, but Douglas County wasn’t one of them.
“Nobody even thought to let the county know,” Penzel said. “I believe Johnson Lane has been singled out and we have no recourse.”
Penzel asked what would happen if the county put up a barrier that allowed ATVs and other users through, but blocked trucks.
“The county could do that,” Ritchie said. “That’s not the issue, the issue is the response.”
He said the U.S. Solicitor General would likely become involved if there was an attempt to obstruct access to the pit.
“The regional office of the BIA made it clear they had a fiduciary duty to maximize the value of the land for the benefit of the owners,” Ritchie said.
Maxwell pointed out that there is heavy truck traffic on Johnson Lane now.
“We are not the only ones using the road, there are heavy trucks going up and down that road every day.”
Commissioner Wes Rice agreed that making a deal was disagreeable.
“The only recourse we have at this point is to help maintain our road,” he said. “Us preventing them from using the road would not fly legally.”
Commissioner John Engels agreed pointing out that Ranchos residents have to deal with trucks from the Bing Pit now.
“Knox has been agreeable and if we get into a taffy pull we’re just going to lose,” he said. “We should take what we can get. You want to fight against the Solicitor General of the federal government? Good luck with that.”
County road engineer Jon Erb said the money paid by Knox would not be sufficient to reconstruct the road.
Penzel said he wanted to send a letter to President Trump and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in addition to the county’s representatives.