New mining rule may head off new gravel pit |

New mining rule may head off new gravel pit

if you go

What: Douglas County Board of Commissioners

When: 1 p.m. Thursday

Where: 1616 Eighth St., Minden


An ordinance designed to head off another gravel pit on land in the Pine Nut foothills is under consideration by Douglas County commissioners.

Under the new ordinance, subsurface mining would be limited to the general industrial zoning with a permit approved by commissioners.

It would prohibit subsurface mining in agricultural, forest and range and public facilities districts, including the 1,000 acres owned at the top of Stockyard Road by the sewer utility that serves Lake Tahoe.

Among the reasons cited for seeking a change in the county ordinance include impacts on roads, consistency with the master plan, and how the mining will affect residents in the area.

The current ordinance allows subsurface mining in agricultural, forest and range and public facility zones.

According to the county, there are two properties in an industrial zone and general industrial zoning district, one on Airport Road and another off Sawmill Road. Both locations have active special use permits for outdoor storage of propane.

However, there are no parcels that are pre-zoned general industrial, and a property owner would have to obtain a zoning map amendment, and possible amend the master plan, before making an application for a special use permit.

The ordinance exempts excavation to restore land after a flood or for flood control, prospecting for noncommercial purposes of less than 500 cubic yards or any mining operations required by federal law in order to protect a mining claim.

The ordinance only applies to private land in the county. Mining is an allowed use on lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

County staff said the ordinance was proposed in response to residents’ opposition to the construction of a gravel mining operation proposed by the former Douglas County Sewer District No. 1.

Under that proposal the district wanted to sell gravel it excavated while building a new sewer retention pond to defray the cost of construction.

The effort resulted in a political-style campaign opposing the proposal and ultimately denial by the planning commission.

That denial prompted the district to attempt to coerce the county into approving the proposal, which led to an unfounded ethics accusation against a county staffer. That accusation prompted Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson to publicly denounce the district, raising questions about the legitimacy of its elections, board and operations.

The last Legislature repealed the ordinance under which the district was formed, replacing it with the Douglas County Lake Tahoe Sewer Authority effective Oct. 1.

The authority is governed by representatives of three districts served by the sewer plant and Douglas County, along with a business representative from Stateline.

While the new ordinance will prevent the authority from mining gravel, it shouldn’t affect its ability to dig a new effluent storage pond on the property.

The sewer plant at Lake Tahoe has exported effluent to the Pine Nut foothills for decades, but was prohibited from using unlined ponds it dug by the state earlier this century. Instead the authority is sharing a Bently pond with the Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District. Concerns about the capacity of that pond with the start of new housing growth in Carson Valley prompted the gravel mining proposal.

Most ordinance changes require two readings to be implemented.