Gravel pit digs in above Johnson Lane |

Gravel pit digs in above Johnson Lane

Knox Excavation works to prepare a gravel pit site above Johnson Lane.
John Hefner

An environmental assessment is underway for a proposed gravel pit on Bureau of Indian Affairs land above Johnson Lane.

Today, Douglas County commissioners are scheduled to write a letter as part of public comment on the proposal.

“Because the project is on federal land, Douglas County lacks jurisdiction to approve or deny the project,” Community Development Director Tom Dallaire said in his staff report.

However, commissioners could direct staff to seek an agreement with Knox Excavation to mitigate off-site improvements.

Dallaire said the company indicated they would be willing to contribute a small portion of the proceeds for maintenance and improvements to Johnson Lane and Sunrise Pass Road.

Costs to maintain Johnson lane over the next decade would run between $180,000 to $230,000. A half-percent of the proceeds would be around $100,000 a year, if 500,000 tons of material was removed in a year.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has exclusive authority to permit the project, though a 30-day public comment period is closing Sept. 22.

Development of the site is underway, though no material will be moved until final approval.

Residents can comment at

Under a proposed agreement, Knox would work with the county to develop drainage improvements to reduce the impact to East Valley Road and parts of the Johnson lane improvement plan.

East Valley Road would not be used as a local or regional road for transporting gravel, according to the agreement.

According to the environmental assessment, if approved the gravel operation would receive a 40-year lease of 148.4 acres with disturbance of 145 acres during the project’s lifetime.

An estimated 29.9 million cubic yards would be removed over the four decades. At peak production, an estimated half-million tons of gravel would be removed a year with 1,000-2,000 tons a day depending on demand.

Knox doesn’t anticipate needing to blast to remove material. A water truck would be used to control dust.

Access would be by Johnson Lane to Sunrise Pass Road.

According to the assessment, the property is outside the bi-state sage grouse habitat.

A proposal to build a gravel pit to subsidize creation of ponds for Lake Tahoe’s sewer district on land off the end of Stockyard was rejected by county commissioners, who approved a prohibition of subsurface mining outside the general industrial zone in 2017.

The debate over the pit brought about the end of the district that originally controlled the sewer plant at Lake Tahoe and established the Lake Tahoe Sewer Authority in 2017.

Mining is an approved use on land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and has been conducted in the Pine Nuts since before Nevada was a state.