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New resource specialist at NRCS

Linda Hiller

Jane Schmidt has some large wading boots to fill.

As the resource specialist for the Natural Resource Conservation Service, replacing Gail Durham who left the position last winter, Schmidt said her Sept. 15 entry into the position couldn’t have come at a more interesting time in the Carson Valley.

“So far, my work here has pretty much centered around the flood,” she said. “My position is to act kind of like the glue that holds everyone together – engineers, contractors, government agencies and property owners. I spend 80 percent of my time on the phone, trying to pull groups together and let everyone know what everyone else is doing.”

Schmidt has spent the last 20 years in Nevada, most of it with the United States Forest Service. She worked in Ely for seven years, Bridgeport, Calif. for one year and for the last 10 years, was employed by the Carson City USFS office.

She studied range management at the Oregon State University in Corvallis and said most of her work with the forest service has involved water in some form.

“I have always liked open spaces which is why I landed in range management,” she said. “But I was always interested in water quality, so I’ve often ended up working on watershed issues.”

Schmidt’s background in range management gives her the tools needed to work in concert with other Valley specialists attempting to repair flood damages throughout her office’s jurisdiction, which includes Mono, Alpine, Carson City and Douglas counties as well as the Carson Valley Conservation District.

“The engineers like to do the rocks and what we call the ‘hard fix,’ and I like to look at the vegetation component that is necessary for more of the long term,” she said.

Many of the flood repair projects, under the emergency watershed program are Band-aids, and not a total fix, Schmidt said. Her hope is that in a non-flood year, NRCS specialists will be able to focus on long-term and preventative measures for the river.

Also in the office with Schmidt are Dave Doughty, part-time engineer from Las Vegas; Vada Hubbard, full-time engineering technician; Ed Blake, part-time soil scientist from Reno and a soon-to-be-hired replacement for Stan Boltz, who recently transferred to an office in South Dakota

For now, working to coordinate all the diverse players who need to come together and continue to repair the damage done during the 1997 New Year’s flood is keeping Schmidt challenged.

“We are a culture who likes to look at what’s not done instead of what is done,” she said. “There is a lot of that going around, but blame can be spread across this whole peanut butter sandwich equally. We have homeowners blocking work that needs to be done, hang-ups in engineering with their big workload and various government agency problems. At least the money came in early, so that’s not a problem.”

Schmidt said she applied for the NRCS position because she had reached a point where she was interested in working with private landowners rather than public land issues.

“The two are very different, and so far I love this job,” she said.

In order to make the process of river repair proceed in a more timely fashion, Schmidt said her office will be trying to streamline the acquisition of state and federal work permits, which can often be a “hurry up and wait” process.

“We want to get past the bureaucracy that can take such a long time just so the right thing can be done,” she said. “It has frustrated everyone.”

Schmidt said that in order to simply do repairs on the Carson River, a property owner has to get permission from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Nevada Divi- sion of Environmental Protection.

“Without making this a faster process, landowners and everyone else involved are just stuck in the spiral of chasing their tails,” she said.

She is poised to take a hard look at the river that runs through this Valley and those of the other affected counties.

“For this area, what we really want to do is take a more long-term look at what to do about the Carson River,” she said.