TWO CENTS- Shotgun Marriage: Legislation plus wilderness equals jobs – by Jim Sanford, Mason Valley News, Yerington, Nevada, November 14th, 2012

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The shotgun marriage between the City of Yerington/Nevada Copper and U.S. Senator Harry Reid involving the Yerington Land Conveyance and Sustainable Development Act will hopefully draw to a conclusion during this current 112th Congressional Session in a positive manner, clearing the way for needed job creation here in Mason Valley/Lyon County.

After months of work with our members of Congress, senior staff, and local leaders to develop a conservation framework to satisfy the Majority leader, we are potentially days away from meeting his demands that a conservation measure – specifically wilderness – be added to the bill to gain his support for early passage during this “lame duck session” of Congress.

To meet the Senator’s requirements, those local leaders, as well as Nevada Copper management, have been trying to put together some sort of proposal that will satisfy Sen. Reid and earn acceptance by local residents.

It’s now decision time. The hope is that this brief two-page legislation can regain its momentum and garner the well-deserved support and timely passage essential to economic recovery in Lyon County.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks. Just what does approval of the proposed legislation mean vs. what happens if no action is taken? Here’s a brief list of potential pluses and minuses:

WITH PASSAGE: Up to 800 permanent mining jobs could be created, and based on realistic calculations, as many as 2,000 to 2,500 additional jobs could come in relation to the local mine.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: Nevada Copper has indicated it will proceed with development of the Pumpkin Hollow mine anyway, but the investment would be smaller and about 250 jobs could come as a result.

WITH PASSAGE: Nevada Copper’s financial investment would be in the area of $1-billion.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: That investment in the mine would fall to $250-million neighborhood.

WITH PASSAGE: Tax dollars generated for Lyon County could approximate $20-million annually, and the City of Yerington could realize tax revenues in the area of $5-million per year.

WITHOUT PASSAGE:Nevada Copper’s operation would still be a go, but obviously, tax revenues – badly needed by both local governments after years of decline – would be significantly less. The City of Yerington could be cut out of the tax revenue equation.

WITH PASSAGE: Actual construction work in Pumpkin Hollow could begin as soon as March, 2013, employing an estimated 500 construction workers. Some work with State of Nevada permits is already underway, promising a quick work start.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: Mine owners will be forced to begin the federal permitting process for the Pumpkin Hollow site – a process that could take up to 3 years thus delaying economic recovery efforts significantly.

WITH PASSAGE: The total transfer of federal land stands at 10,400 acres with the mine getting a portion for its operation and the City acquiring the remainder for cultural, economic and recreational development efforts. Economic development efforts over the past several decades have basically failed but this would give the City an actual area (complete with infrastructure at some point) it could show to attract prospective businesses.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: The mine would face working with federal authorities on permitting for the acreage they need and the City would remain site-less when it comes to something to actually show developers/industry.

WITH PASSAGE: It is true local infrastructure involving schools to handle increasing enrollments will pose a challenge as we will find some other concerns that will somehow get worked out as always.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: School enrollments in Mason Valley/Yerington will continue to drop as more and more businesses go belly up and families move elsewhere.

WITH PASSAGE: Vibrant community life that can come only with jobs for young families will return.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: Our community will remain stagnant and attract more and more residents who are dependent on government and others.

WITH PASSAGE: Nevada Copper has offered an added incentive in the form of a multi-million sage grouse habitat restoration project in the Desert Creek Ranch area in Smith Valley. This action could go a long way toward Nevada’s effort to prevent an Endangered Species Act listing for the land-dwelling birds that could devastate the Silver State’s economy.

WITHOUT PASSAGE:Apparently, there is no deal. The birds and the State lose out.

WITH PASSAGE: The Wovoka Wilderness Area (Bald Mt./South Pine Grove Hills ) will most likely become reality, although the exact size may well be a smaller number than the 88,000 acre figure previously mentioned. Agreements to protect grazing, mining and public access along with fire suppression efforts may become part of any agreement, along with removal of a stretch of the Walker River from the plan.

WITHOUT PASSAGE: Who knows? But you can bet this will not be the last time an effort will be made to create wilderness in the area.

It is hoped action on the proposed legislation will take place during this lame duck Congressional Session which lasts only about a month. If that does not happen, the new Congress would have to take up the issue and that would mean starting all over again. That translates into a costly delay which could quash the entire effort.

Nobody likes something like wilderness forced upon us. But, in this case, the winning hand is held by someone in Washington, D.C.

At some point in the very near future Lyon County Commissioners will need to give a thumbs up or thumbs down on a specific proposal. Not everyone will be pleased with the outcome, but hopefully they have worked out an acceptable deal and will choose the side of job creation.

–Jim Sanford is a longtime Yerington/Mason Valley resident and a former Editor and Publisher of the Mason Valley News. Email him at sunny091929@aol.com.

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