Pulling together for clean-up project | RecordCourier.com

Pulling together for clean-up project

by Sheila Gardner
sgardner@recordcourier.com

A coalition of town, county, state and federal resources pulled together to pull weeds from the dormant Minden Gateway Center that greets visitors at the intersections of highway 88 and 395.

After months of negotiations with owners of the bankrupt project, workers began pulling weeds Nov. 4 at the 13-acre site.

The crew, put together by the Carson Water Subconservancy District, is expected to work for two weeks clearing and hauling weeds in Town of Minden trucks to the compost heap at Bently Agrowdynamics.

The property had become infested with kochia, puncture vine, Russian thistle, and had become a fire hazard.

The weed-clearing was not without controversy at the Minden Town Board.

“I’m disturbed by the process it took to get this going,” said board member John Stephans at the November board meeting.

It took several months for Minden Gateway developer Jeffrey Lowden and his attorney to establish legal parameters to allow cleanup crews on the site.

“(Developer Jeffrey) Lowden should be ecstatic,” Stephans said. “He’s doing nothing up in Reno and we’re making his property appealing. We’re custodians because he bailed out.”

Stephans said he was concerned the town would end up doing annual maintenance.

Town counsel George Keele said Lowden couldn’t afford to clear the site.

“The reason (the town) is there is because it’s impractical to go to the county code enforcement officer to cite them and tell them they have to do something they can’t (afford to) do,” Keele said.

Keele said Stephans’ frustration was understandable, but the board chose to address the problem rather than hold out for the developer to take action.

“A big weed window to welcome people to beautiful Minden is beneath the town’s standards,” Keele said.

The project is being partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Minden Gateway project is part of a Carson River-wide effort to clear noxious weeds and reseed treated areas.

The Carson River Project was developed through ARRA funding obtained by the Carson Water Subconservancy District.

Genie Azad, subconservancy district watershed program manager and Carson River Coalition coordinator, said the Minden project was an example of the fruit of partnerships developed through the six-county, bi-state coalition.

“The ARRA funding is about putting people to work and making a difference in a community, and this project is a perfect example,” Azad said. “It is this type of cooperation between varieties of groups that can accomplish almost anything.”

While the Minden project is to be completed within two weeks, the 23-member ARRA crew is expected to work for the next two years from the California state line to Fallon.

Noxious weeds are identified as difficult to control and can invade agricultural lands, riparian areas and natural areas.

“These invasive weeds are non-native plants that are prolific and highly competitive,” Azad said.

When not working with noxious weeds, the crews will be assisting with river restoration activities planting willows and clearing flood hazards.

Mike Hayes of the Carson Valley Conservation District, is working with local landowners and businesses to priortize project areas.

The Carson Valley crew has mapped more than 2,000 acres documenting the noxious weed infestations with use of global positioning systems.

Approximately 200 acres of tall white top, Russian knapweed and salt cedar have been removed or treated.

Azad said the areas are revegetated with a mix of native seed to prevent re-establishment of the weeds.

Area ranchers are providing tractors and other equipment to assist the crews. Larry Hughes of the Douglas County’s weed control district has trained the ARRA crews on spray procedures and equipment calibration.

“The ARRA Carson River Project has enabled us to get onto properties that we wouldn’t normally be allowed on so we really didn’t see the extent of the problem,” Hughes said. “A lot of work is getting accomplished through this program.”

While the subconservancy district is providing crews, the town and Douglas County are paying for seed mix to be used after the weeds are removed at the Gateway site.

“The property is in the floodplain of the Carson River so it would have direct impact to the river’s water quality in the event of a fire,” Azad said.

Rancher Fred Stodieck will tractor drill the dryland seed mix into the soil and Minden provided trash trucks to compress the weeds and deliver the load to Bently Agrowdynamics for compost.

County Engineer Mahmood Azad suggested the ARRA crews take on the Gateway project.

Officials toured the site on Nov. 10.

“This is the first look at Minden when you enter the community,” said Douglas County Manager T. Michael Brown. “Douglas County and the Town of Minden want it to look nice, not choked with weeds.

“It’s also about the spirit of cooperation, the power of all of us working together, each making a contribution without exhausting individual resources.”

Brown said while it would be preferable for the center to open, Minden Gateway is on hold.

“The economy hit everyone hard, and if it takes a group of people who care to come together to make things better and have benefit to private and public lands, it’s important,” Brown said. “In the meantime, we can make the property a nicer, safer place by removing the weeds and reducing the fire hazard.”

Crews are working in Carson Valley, Carson City, Dayton and Fallon.

“It’s hot, sweaty, tough work, but we are all just happy to be working,” said crew boss Jeff Begovich after a week’s work of hand-clearing weeds and debris at the Gateway site.