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Washoe Tribe concerned about development impacts

by Jeff Munson, Staff Writer

Environmental officials for the Washoe Tribe say a proposed high-end golf course and housing development near Clear Creek will disrupt cultural and environmentally sensitive land the tribe owns adjacent to the development.

“The most recent changes to the development are cause for concern,” said Marie Barry, environmental specialist for the Washoe Tribe. “The tribal council is exploring all of its options, including legal options.”

Tribal property, about 157 acres, borders on the south, southwest and southeast corner of the proposed Clear Creek Ranch and Golf Club development.



The proposed development includes am 18-hole golf course and 91 approved homes on about 1,600 acres.

The property, known as the Schneider Ranch, is owned by Carson City businessman John Serpa. He has given Glenbrook developer Jeff Dingman the option to develop the property.



Earlier this year, the property was put on a list of environmentally sensitive properties the U.S. Forest Service hopes to acquire. For more than a year Dingman has been building his plans for the high end golf course community, which, originally he had hoped to build 300 homes.

Dingman’s attorney, Lew Feldman, was unavailable for comment.

Tribal leaders support the Forest Service’s attempt to buy the land from Serpa and Primm.

“The tribe has talked to the land owners, and we’ve told them we’re in full support of the acquisition of the property by the Forest Service,” Barry said.

In the meantime, tribal officials have kept a low-profile, as they’ve waited to see how the development would shake out, Barry said.

“When it’s been necessary, we’ve gone before Douglas County to put our thoughts on record,” Barry said.

The adjacent areas surrounding the Schneider Ranch are considered “forest preserves” by the tribe, which means they are protected from future development.

The area is considered culturally sensitive because the tribe routinely holds ceremonies in the forested areas, Barry said.

“They hold sweat (lodge) ceremonies,” she said.

Other tribal concerns include erosion into Clear Creek, which runs through tribal property. Because of the steep terrain of the area, there would likely be a significant impact of run-off once the area is graded with bulldozers, she said.

“We’re concerned about disrupting the water quality. Once the development starts, we anticipate erosion to trickle into the creek,” Barry said.

The tribe and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife are discussing a plan to reintroduce the the Lahonton cutthroat trout into the creek, Barry said.

Also, because the area is heavily forested, there is concern the development could pose a wildfire threats.

“There is a lot of fuel built-up on the ground because there hasn’t been a fire through the area in several years,” Barry said. “There is the danger that a fire could start (from the development) and move onto tribal land.”

Also, the tribe says the Carson mule-deer herd uses the Clear Creek area as a migration route. It been nearly 20 years since there’s been a study on the migration pattern, Barry said.

“We’re concerned about the health of the herd and how (the development) would affect the migration pattern,” she said.

Tribe and Douglas County officials had planned last month to discuss the Dingman project and erosion concerns associated with the Wal-Mart site. However, tribal chairman Brian Wallace postponed the meeting to attend an out-of-area event.

n Staff writer Jeff Munson can be reached at munson@swiftnews.com