City and VVWD request Comment Period Extension

Tuesday’s meetings with the Mesquite City Council and the Virgin Valley Water District had one thing in common: the Bureau of Land Management.

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BLM Representative Lee Kirk stands before the Mesquite City Council Tuesday explaining how people should comment specifically instead of vaguely when submitting their opinions to the BLM. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

After the regular Technical Review Meeting for the City Council, city staff and council met in a special meeting to hear a presentation by representatives from the Las Vegas BLM, Lee Kirk and Gayle Marrs-Smith, on the draft Las Vegas and Pahrump Field Offices Resource Management Plan Revision. With over 40 community members in attendance the presentation was a bit less than what council had expected.

“There’s a multitude of possibilities here,” stated Mayor Al Litman, who admitted prior to the meeting that he had not had time to read the 2000+ page document. “I’m not a mathematician, but Tony Barron has told me there are over 6000 possibilities.”

The RMP is the BLM’s Master Plan, according to Marrs-Smith. “We’ve had a lot of changes in the last 10 – 20 years in Southern Nevada… We need to adjust the plan to fit those changes.”

Marrs-Smith noted that the end of the public comment period will be on Monday, March 9. The comment period has been open 150 days at that point, although the Mesquite area was only made aware of it a couple of weeks ago.

The representatives claimed that they had held five different town hall type meetings in the region, none of which were held in Mesquite. They were originally scheduled for Laughlin, Henderson, Las Vegas, Amargosa Valley and Pahrump, although the Pahrump meeting had been cancelled due to conflicts in that area with ranchers as well. Instead, the BLM eventually met with Moapa Valley after Overton Power District and Moapa Valley Water District reached out to Commissioner Tom Collins and managed to arrange the meeting.

It was clear throughout the special council meeting that tensions were high for the BLM, and looking at their choice of approaches to Mesquite and Bunkerville were tainted by the situation in April 2014 in Bunkerville, with the standoff between Cliven Bundy and the BLM when the BLM attempted to confiscate his cattle from federal land that he had failed to pay grazing fees on for over 20 years.

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Council chambers were about half full Tuesday afternoon as residents attended to voice their opinion on the BLM’s RMP revisions. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

There were a multitude of commenters who voiced their opposition to anything new the BLM may be trying to implement in their RMP, which could affect the accessibility that the public has to the lands. Two of Bundy’s sons, Dave and Ryan, were also in attendance to comment.

“We will continue to manage and maintain those rights we have on this land, regardless of what happens with this plan,” said Ryan. This land belongs to the State of Nevada and should be maintained by the local government, the county and the state.”

Ryan Bundy made a final comment while looking at the representatives, “BLM, take note of that. We have enjoyed a year of freedom since you have been gone. Stay gone, we don’t want you back. We’re not gonna allow it.”

By the end of the meeting, the consensus among the council and staff is that Mesquite, Bunkerville and other entities need more time to make proper comments to the BLM on this matter.

Several speakers afterwards apologized for Bundy’s remarks and continued to ask for an extension. Council discussed the issue and determined that if an extension was not allowed, they would support the best method that was recommended by Richard Secrist, the City Planner.

The meeting for the Virgin Valley Water District later Tuesday night was business as usual, approving a less-expensive alternative for a tank to be built off of Mesquite Heights Road to allow for a dedicated transmission line as well as hiring Franson Civil Engineers for that project. To save the district money, Franson will perform their part of the project for about 7% less than what the industry normal rates are. The project is anticipated to be completed between 12 and 14 months.

A new Will-Serve letter was also drafted and presented to the board that will require new developers to maintain a commitment to following through on projects, unlike the unfinished planned communities that are tying up EDUs from the district without penalty. Future developers will have to provide an agreement and plan that will need to be renewed on a yearly basis.

To end the night’s business, the VVWD Board discussed the BLM as well, noting that they had not known about the RMP nor been made aware about the comment period. Because of the wells to the south of Mesquite and Bunkerville, the VVWD determined that they need to make a big push to ensure that the District’s water rights, access and development abilities are not jeopardized by whichever conclusion the BLM comes to. After discussion, it was agreed that the board and District staff needed to use any and all means possible to get their representatives and lobbyists involved to push for an extension and meeting with BLM and to do what they need to do to become a ‘cooperating agency’ with the BLM.

At the time of print deadline, Wednesday, the representatives that had attended from the BLM were unavailable to comment on if a deadline extension had yet been approved. We will post to www.mesquitelocalnews.com as soon as we hear of an extension.

Until then, with the deadline being Monday, March 9, those wishing to comment on the RMP may do so by faxing specific comments to 702-515-5023, emailing to sndo_rmp_revision@blm.gov , via the website at http://tinyurl.com/qvzaht7 or by mail to BLM Southern Nevada District Office, Las Vegas/Pahrump Field Offices, Draft RMP/Draft EIS, 4701 N. Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89130.

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