Nevada Public Officials Agree Carpenter's Plans To Rebuild Road Are Illegal
TU Calls on NDEP Not to Issue Bogus Work Permit
10/7/1999 -- -- Governor Guinn, Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Pappa, U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, Elko Mayor Mike Franzoia and even the Congressmen Jim Gibbons (R- Nev.) have spoken out against State Assemblyman John Carpenter's plans to break state and federal laws in Elko County, yet the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection (NDEP) is actually considering issuing a work permit for the planned illegal activities on October 9th. The NDEP closed an unacceptably short public comment period for Carpenter's work permit at South Canyon Road yesterday despite the state officials warnings that the Jarbidge issue would be best dealt with in court.
"The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection appears to be a contradiction in terms," stated Matt Holford, Chairman of TU's Nevada Council. "Here we are, with less than two days left before a member of Nevada's state assembly knowingly violates state and federal laws and the NDEP is directly undermining state leaders by even considering this permit. Not to mention that a three-day public comment period is uncommonly short. Governor Guinn has correctly indicated that the South Canyon Road dispute belongs in court, not in the hands of amateurs. Now Governor Guinn needs to make sure his NDEP follows proper procedure rather than sending mixed signals and fueling Assemblyman Carpenter's reckless crusade."
South Canyon Road is located in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, home to North America's southernmost population of bull trout. Carpenter will attempt to reopen motor vehicle access from Pine Creek campground to the Snowslide Gulch portal to the Jarbidge Wilderness. The 1.5 miles of dirt road that dead-ends at a wilderness trailhead was closed when a portion of the road was washed out by a flood in 1995.
Trout Unlimited has questioned the NDEP's procedures for consideration of a work permit citing that:
- The normal public comment period lasts anywhere from two weeks to a month, three days does not allow the public nor the NDEP to consider all the factors.
- Applicants are usually required to submit a detailed description of their plan, including engineering drawings.
- In light of the fact that Jarbidge River is at the height of its bull trout spawning season, has the NDEP consulted with the Nevada Dept of Wildlife fisheries biologist or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about the effects of the work this threatened species?
"Elko County has legal options here," stated David Best, President of the Northeastern TU Chapter located in Elko. "In fact, while Carpenter digs Elko County into further trouble and debt -- local, state and federal elected officials are pushing for the road matter to be settled in the court system. State Assemblyman Carpenter is leading the county down a path for which they may never recover. Elko County has already cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for their first muddy mess on that road. Why should Nevada taxpayers have to endure and pay for Assemblyman Carpenter's destructive crusade?"
In June 1998, the Forest Service issued a draft environmental assessment indicating that, because of the road's tendency to wash out and because of the road's negative effects on the health of the river, the "preferred alternative" was to not rebuild the road. The Elko County Commission promptly ordered work crews up the river to rebuild the road without any of the permits required by the Clean Water Act, Nevada Law, or Forest Service regulations. The crews stopped work after two days without completing the job when the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection issued a cease and desist order.
The County's work channelized a 900-foot stretch of the Jarbidge River and did substantial damage to aquatic habitat. As a result of the damage, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the rare step of ordering an emergency listing of the Jarbidge's population of bull trout as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The Forest Service had to undertake a significant restoration of the river at that work site in order to repair the damage done to the river. According to TU, Carpenter's proposal appears to represent another attempt to circumvent legal processes and work in the river.
The Forest Service's environmental assessment is continuing, and the options it is considering include replacing the last 1.5 miles of road with a foot trail from Pine Creek to Snowslide Gulch or creating ATV access to Snowslide Gulch.
Trout Unlimited immediately called on Governor Guinn for assistance when Assemblyman Carpenter announced his intent to perform illegal road work, "We urge you to use your position as governor and any influence you have with Representative Carpenter to convince him to cancel his expedition up the South Canyon, now scheduled for October 9-10. . . Nothing good can come of this plan. First, rebuilding a road by hand and horse in a mountain canyon is a risky business, and the chances of an accident are high. Second, the move seems designed simply to provoke a confrontation with law enforcement officials, exposing participants to legal prosecution. Third, the plan will only serve to inflame the controversy about the road, reducing the chances of a lasting solution to the controversy. Finally, there is an excellent chance that the "work party" will only serve to produce an unstable mess in and along the river channel, which will have to be repaired at taxpayer expense."
The Jarbidge River is of particular concern to TU members in Elko County and the rest of Nevada. The river is home to the southernmost population of bull trout in North America, and TU has worked hard on the ground to improve conditions for the fish. Last year, the Northeastern Nevada TU Chapter obtained a $10,000 grant to help build a bridge that replaced an ill-placed culvert on Jack Creek, a tributary of the Jarbidge. TU volunteers helped in the work to install the new stream crossing. The old culvert had been a barrier to fish passage, and the project has both opened up new spawning habitat for bull trout and made the crossing safer. According to a 1999 survey by the NV Division of Wildlife bull trout have since begun to repopulate Jack Creek. TU has also assisted in a fencing project to protect Jack creek, and has devoted hundreds of volunteer hours to improving the habitat in and management of the Jarbidge watershed.
Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, celebrated its 40th Anniversary this year. TU's 500 chapters and more than 100,000 members nationwide, including TU Nevada's 650 members, are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.