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Gibbons cautions county against wild and scenic status for river

by Christy Chalmers

U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons says Douglas County leaders should be cautious of any federal protection offered for the Carson River, and pledged his political muscle to ensure local concerns are heeded.

Gibbons, R-Nev., held a town hall meeting Monday night in Minden as part of a statewide tour he is completing. Between fielding questions and complaints about Social Security, taxes and gun control, he answered a query from County Commissioner Bernie Curtis about possible wild or scenic river status with advice:

“I would be very cautious of any (wild or scenic) designation,” he said. “You are going to lose control.”

The county commission is scheduled to discuss the river with U.S. Forest Service officials Thursday. The Forest Service has broached the prospect of wild, scenic or recreational designations for parts of the Carson River, which originates in Alpine County, Calif. and flows through Douglas and three other Nevada counties. The Alpine and Douglas county sections would most likely be affected by wild or scenic designations.

The wild, scenic or recreational classes can be applied to all or part of a waterway, but they bring restrictions on use. Already, the Carson Water Subconservancy District, which covers the Carson River’s Nevada watersheds, has decided to oppose wild or scenic status for the river.

The Douglas County Commission will consider a recommendation to encourage the Forest Service to consider wild or scenic status for the sections of the river that aren’t in Douglas County and evaluate the Douglas sections separately. The river’s status has been included in a larger forest management plan that is being revised.

County Manager Dan Holler said Forest Service representatives seem receptive to the idea. Local leaders aren’t condemning wild or scenic status, but they want to be included in the decision-making process and they don’t want it hurried by other Forest Service projects.

Already, Douglas has submitted a list of 13 questions about the wild and scenic designation process and possible impacts on land use and the river.

“Some of the questions might be addressed (Thursday) and some may not be addressed until you actually get into the whole process,” Holler noted.

Though local and federal officials say they want to cooperate on the process, Gibbons said in a follow-up interview Tuesday that the locals should be wary.

“You always have to be careful because what they (federal officials) hand you in one hand, they take away with the other,” he said. “I really don’t see the ultimate need for federal intervention. Any time you get a federal designation with federal resources being developed, there is going to a downside, which means a loss for the rights and control. I want to avoid that.”

He predicted Nevada’s Congressional delegation will advocate local interests if necessary.

“Our effort will be to work with the county commission and local authorities to give them the broadest control and reserve the maximum amount of flexibility rather than restricting everything to a federal one-size-fits-all,” he said.

The county commission will meet Thursday at 1 p.m. in the old courthouse, 1616 Eighth St., Minden. Holler said the river discussion is tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m.