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Not ready to surrender on gravel pit

by John Hefner

Well if you haven’t heard that there will be a gravel pit on Sunrise Pass Road then you are blessed. We all know, or most do, that our favorite shooting location is now designated as a gravel pit. We learned that the land is actually managed by Bureau of Indian Affairs for members of a family in the Washoe Tribe. I know I always thought it was Bureau of Land Management land. I had no idea that there were tracts out along Sunrise Pass that were individually owned per say.

In late July we were advised that Painted Rock was being removed. I drove out and saw earth movers creating a berm but thankfully they left Painted Rock itself. We soon found out that the work is being done by Knox Construction via a permit with BIA. Once this hit the public forums, BIA decided they should post an announcement for the public to review the environmental assessment that Knox had submitted. Knox stated that the pit would support 30-85 semi-truck loads every day, six days a week. They graciously gave us Sunday off and limited the hours of operations until after 7:30 a.m. The EA stated the impact to the area would be minimum and the community and the county approved of the project. The EA presented was full of untruths and misstatements or blatant omissions which would obviously reflect negatively on the project. According to the BIA announcement the public, you and I, had 30 days to express our opinion on the EA. One point I want to make clear here is that the County, The Commissioners and staff knew nothing about this proposal. Once the opposition voices got louder, Knox Construction proposed that they would provide .05 percent of the proceeds to the county as a contribution to offset any damages to Johnson Lane. On Sept. 17, the Board of Commissioners voted to accept the proposal 3-2. Commissioner Penzel and Engel were in opposition. During the meeting it was noted that the county had absolutely no authority to approve or disapprove of the actual gravel pit since it was on BIA land. By the way tribes are considered a separate sovereign entity. The commission was advised that they could only vote on the proposal that was negotiated between Knox Construction, The County Attorney Mr. Ritchie and Commissioner Nelson. During the discussion Commission Penzel passionately represented our interest and recommended not approving the proposal due to the impact it would have on Johnson Lane and the impact it would have on our lifestyles. No public comment was read during the discussion. Submitted public comments were part of the record but it is unknown which of the commissioners actually read them. Several individuals left voicemails opposing and those were played but again that was after the vote was taken to accept the proposal. We later found out that the .05 percent is only provided during the first 5 years and then it is substantially reduced for the remaining 35 years.

Philip Goetz states in his email to BIA: “We bought our home because of the location; where it’s safe, quiet, not crowded, has a great elementary school for our children and a place we want to live for a very long time. The mine with 10,000 – 20,000 trucks per year traveling to and from it is almost as bad as having a major airport in our backyard or a nuclear power plant that no one wants to live around.”

Many of you have received the fact sheet from A.J. While I do not have enough room here some key points I would like to point out are: You can expect 85 loaded dirt trucks per day, or 170 when you count the return trips. That equates to a truck every three minutes. There will be significant delays at Hwy 395 in both directions. May cause routine traffic to use alternate routes such as Stephanie or East Valley. Property values along the route are expected to decline. A.J. lists many safety concerns perhaps the highest Is the mixing of heavy trucks with pedestrians, ATV and school children using the bus system. The Quarry will use 24,000 gallons of water per day pulled from local hydrants until a well is dug. The agreement with the county only funds repairs to Johnson Lane between Highway 395 and Vicky. While blasting is not anticipated they did not say it would not happen. Finally, A.J. quotes Land Use Policy 2.4 which states Douglas County shall protect residential neighborhoods from encroachment of incompatible activities or land uses which may have a negative impact on the residential living environment.

The county attorney and other commissioners state that there is nothing they can do but accept this agreement. According to Nevada Revised Statue 405.010 “Whenever, by reason of excessive moisture or a lack of moisture, a section of public road or highway under the supervision of a board of county highway commissioners or board of county commissioners is damaged by heavy loads, the board of county highway commissioners or board of county commissioners having supervision over the section of public road or highway may:

(a) Close the section of public road or highway to such extent and for such time as may be necessary.

(b) Fix the maximum load which may pass over the section of public road or highway.

I have asked Commissioner Penzel, the county manager and the Roads Department Director asking why we can not use that provision to limit the weight of the trucks. I have not received an answer. Perhaps the county is concerned about losing a law suit but isn’t that what we are paying the staff for to enforce the laws of the State of Nevada and to enforce their own policies just as the Policy 2.4 above?

By the way, if you visit the dog park and see a green basket know that we have named it Gus’ Corner.

Please send any announcements or organization information to Johnsonlanejournal@outlook.com.