Forest Service OKs rock removal
The U.S. Forest Service will allow rock to be removed from national forest land south of Gardnerville to get repairs of the breached Carson River levee going again.
Tom Baker of Sen. Richard Bryan’s staff in Carson City said late Friday that the Forest Service had drawn up the necessary paperwork to allow contractor Steelhead Construction to take 1,500 tons of rock out on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
“There will be no blasting at all,” Baker said. “The contract will be permitted to work in a previously disturbed area, that means it’s quarry that’s already been used.”
Baker had praise for the officials who cleared the way for the rock work to resume.
“(U.S. Forest Service District Manager) Mary Wagner and her staff hit a home run today,” Baker said. “They worked very with the contractor to resolve this problem.”
The three-day window allows the levee work to resume near the Carson Valley Golf Course while officials attempt to straighten out paperwork problems in California which halted delivery of rock from Alpine County quarry operator Hubert Bruns.
Repair work was stopped earlier in the week after Bruns was ordered to meet California environmental conditions before he can deliver giant boulders – riprap – to shore up the damaged Carson River levee.
USFS officer Bill Van Bruggen added that its forest service policy not to compete with private borrow pit operators.
“The contractor has looked at a number of private pits and there were no choices immediately available,” Van Bruggen said.
Steelhead Construction suspended repairs Bruns, owner of a quarry and gravel pit in Fredericksburg, Calif., was ordered to file a reclamation plan to satisfy requirements of the California Surface Mining and Reclamation Act.
With the Bruns’ supply dried up, the contractor began looking elsewhere for rock.
“He really has earnestly gone out to find other sources,” said state conservationist Bill Goddard, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The contract is just in suspension till he gets this done. This is an issue outside of his control. I can’t overemphasize enough that he wants to get the job done.”
County manager Dan Holler said officials are concerned about the delay.
“We can’t do a lot of work on the river down there if we don’t have the material,” Holler said Friday. “We have a real concern about getting the levee fixed before any major runoff starts.”
Meanwhile, the people near the levee whose homes were hit hardest by the flooding are waiting for the repairs to resume.
“I’m sitting here looking out my window at this ‘cat’ on the river doing absolutely nothing and the river’s rising,” said Jerry Bing. “We’re concerned, everybody’s concerned until the riprap is in place.”
Bing said her neighbors are doing their best to keep their spirits up.
“It’s very depressing,” she said. “There are still piles of dirt, still garbage and so many people who are not in their houses. The fear is that the flooding is going to happen again. People are handling it with a smile on their faces, but in the back of their minds, it’s depressing.
“People who don’t live here think it’s over and everything is fine, but it’s not. You try to water your lawn and the silt doesn’t go down. It makes mud piles.”
Bing, whose husband Gerald operates Bing pit, said the type of rock the contractor needs can be difficult to find.
“Gerald doesn’t handle it,” she said. “The county may have another source, but that entails blasting the rocks out and it becomes extremely costly, extremely expensive.”
Rancher Dorothy Heise, whose California property borders Bruns’ land, denied that she threatened to file suit against Alpine County if they allowed Bruns to proceed under emergency status. Heise has been a long-time opponent of the Bruns pit.
Recently she filed an appeal in Alpine County of a decision to allow Bruns to operate the pit, but she said Friday she didn’t threaten legal action over the levee repairs.
“I did not threaten a lawsuit to Alpine County,” Heise said. “I consider the supervisors my friends. They have been good to me. I have better things to do with my time. I just inquired about it. That’s when my name got into it. I want to see the levee repaired.”
Alpine County Planning Director Dick Bobertz said he rescinded his decision to allow Bruns to remove the material following a conversation with Heise’s attorney Tim Pemberton “that threatened litigation” if he upheld the approval.
Following an executive session of the Alpine County Board of Supervisors, Bobertz checked with the California Office of Mines and Geology who told him that his interpretation was incorrect.
“Basically, they told me there is no exemption for flood repair projects,” Bobertz said. “You can clean up after the flood on an emergency basis, but you can’t repair anything.”
Bobertz said Bruns filed his reclamation plan Friday, but it won’t be reviewed by the Alpine County planning commission until April 24. County supervisors meet Tuesday to discuss further litigation filed by Heise appealing the California Superior Court order that the county give Bruns permission to operate the pit.
“There are various potential interpretations of the state code that may have bearing on when the mining could start,” Bobertz said.
Baker said Friday’s action was the culmination of Sen. Bryan’s on-going involvement in taking care of problems on the levee created by the New Year’s Day flooding.
“The senator contacted me the Monday after the flood hit and asked us to look into problems on the levee. It’s nice to see all those seeds that have been planted are really flowering.”