NevadaGram #150 – Comstock Mining Update, Must See-Must Do 2014


Comstock Mining Update: At its regularly scheduled meeting on January 2, the Lyon County Commission broke all precedent by ignoring its Planning commission’s recommendation to deny the Comstock Mining Inc’s Master Plan Amendment and Zoning change requests. Instead, the Commissioners voted 4-1 to impose a “compromise” made between CMI and Commissioner Vida Keller to reduce the size of the acreage affected.

A Postcard from Shorty

Shorty at Anacabe'sWe are starting my triumphant book tour in Elko, where my career as a writer really took off. It was just a year ago that “A Dog’s Guide to Elko” was published — now we’re handing out 5,000 copies of my I-80 book from Wendover to Verdi! I am so glad to help people who travel with their pets, because that way I am helping their pets too.

Please see more about me on my website and at my Facebook page. Oh, and here is an interview I did on Elko television:

Unfortunately, Silver City was not invited to participate in making this compromise, and so gets nothing from it except the intimation of doom. The door has been opened for CMI to pit mine in and adjacent to the town. Even if CMI fails, it can still be pit mined by someone else at some future time.

Every property in and adjacent to town was suddenly made more vulnerable and less valuable. That’s a high price for the people of Silver City to pay for a “compromise” that doesn’t include them.

How it was done: I defer to Nancy Dallas, who follows Lyon County affairs from her News Desk and is more knowledgable on this topic than I. Here is her report, titled “Master Plan integrity loses to money & power”.

In addition, here are videos of various participants in the Lyon County Commission meeting January 2: Commissioner Vida Keller (she is an officer in the business managed by her husband, a contractor for CMI), Commissioner Bob Hastings (recipient of $17,500 in campaign contributions from John V. Winfield-controlled companies) and several public comments.

A few days later Nancy Dallas posted a second report on how this calamity was brought about. Read it here: CMI Compromise – Commissioner Keller’s part

In fact the Commission’s action prompted some serious media excitement in the local neighborhood. You can read the news coverage here.

A Silver City meeting to confront the situation was shocked to a sudden stop when a much-respected citizen revealed involvement with a CMI-inspired under-the-radar “focus group” charged with ironing out the problems between the company and the people of the town.

Must-See Must-Do for 2014

mustseemustdo2014_200We offer this list because so many of the great people doing exceptional things in Nevada are not getting the attention they deserve.

These aren’t awards, they’re shout-outs: “Hey everyone, whatever you do this year, don’t miss this!”

The list looks forward to the year ahead to emphasize the future pleasures that await: “Let’s go there” and “Let’s do this”, instead of “Oh, look what we missed.”

There are no votes on the website, just me and Robin (and Shorty) roaming Nevada in search of its attractions, excitements, enjoyments, comforts, pleasures and satisfactions, and finding them in unexpected places.

That’s why you may be surprised by our selections for 2014’s Must-See Must-Do awards by clicking the headline, the Highway sign above or right here.

This surprise prompted some heated words, and several participants walked out. Thus CMI’s divisive presence is attempting to make another crack in the community’s unanimity. But it’s not an easy place to fragment with schemes like this, as this unexpected and generally unwelcome company initiative shows.

Complaints are being prepared against Keller and Hastings for the Ethics Commission. At the same time a request is being formulated to the Commissioners to rescind their vote of January 2 and refer the matter back to the Planning Commission.

One thing we have learned from this experience so far is that no-one is defending the Virginia City National Historic Landmark except us. We traveled to Las Vegas a couple of years ago to take part in a Preserve Nevada program at which we presented the plight of the Landmark to an audience that included big shots from the National Park Service. They expressed great interest and sympathy but had nothing to offer as a remedy beyond “writing our congressmen”. Yawn.

Dateline — WELLS

Downtown Wells, pre-earthquake
Old Wells downtown, pre-earthquake

Five years after the earthquake of ’08 the remains of several of the damaged downtown buildings have been bought by a local fellow who plans to tear them all down and clean up the remmants of what was once historic Front Street. Plans are still up in the air as to what the future will bring for this area of town. The new owner began the tear-down 18 months ago but stopped because it is so expensive to haul construction waste to the Elko landfill as contractors must do now.

Old downtown post-earthquake
Old Wells downtown post-earthquake

The ruins of the old downtown contrast with way the little city has been spruced up elsewhere. Post-earthquake Wells boasts a lovely new City Hall on 6th Street, a new and very nice city shop, and a new covered swimming pool building with room for small events. Earthquake insurance, some grants and funds from the city’s general fund were used to finance these buildings and the residents are proud of the work the city has done and completely paid for.

Luther’s Saloon has also been renovated and besides the surprisingly good burgers and pizza, owners Bill and Sandy are colorful folk in the best wild west traditions. It’s across the street from the recently made-over Overland Hotel, now a pretty red stuccoed building on 6th Street.

— Elaine Swanson

The state has been no better, maybe a little worse because closer to the problem. There is a state agency called the Comstock Historic District Commission which conducts its business from the spiffy yellow museum with the locomotive inside, more or less where the V&T railroad yard began on E Street. Under the listless 30-year administration of Ron James as State Historic Preservation Officer, the federal Historic Landmark and the state Historic District fell into unarrested decay. Our correspondence with state legislators goes unanswered these days.

But maybe Storey County has been the worst of all. Lower Gold Hill has been simply given up to open pit mining at the expense of the local residents. We pay our Commissioners their generous wages and provide their serious bennies after giving them enough votes to take office, and in return they pay us no mind.

Not even when 400 residents of Virginia City and Gold Hill signed a petition to prevent open pit mining did they acknowledge the citizens who live here and who bear the brunt of their decisions.

When CMI’s people broke the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” they had made with the Storey County Planning Commission — abandoned it without a word of explanation or apology — the Planning Commission and its staff swallowed their disrespect without a whimper.

More recently Lyon County Commissioners, with the exception of Virgil Arrellano, joined Storey in a race to the bottom by abandoning the county’s reliance on its community-created Master Plan. 

If we are to save the Landmark, we must make it a priority to get ongoing safeguards attached at every level . . . not an easy task where it is not valued.

Overheard at Luciano’s in Elko: “The terrible knowledge the politicians use against us, Billy, is that no man, no crowd, no nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear. Our fear is their power.”

Brief Notes from Beyond the Mountains:  Elko is busy this winter. The 2014 Great Basin Gear Show & Sale takes place January 21 – February 2 at the Northeastern Nevada Museum. 

It’s an array of fine quality art  from contemporary artists and craftsmen in the trades of saddle makers, bit makers, spur makers, silversmiths, and rawhide braiders, and while that’s up and running the Cowboy Poets come to town. The 30th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering takes place at the Convention Center January 27 – February 1. This grand celebration of western people, their lifestyles and traditions brings rural and urban people together for poetry, music and cowboy culture in the U.S. and around the world. And that’s not all! The Wild Women Artists are mounting a show at the Duncan LittleCreek Gallery (conveniently adjacent to the Gallery Bar) opening Friday January 31st at noon, with an Artists’ Reception from 5-8pm, and continuing on Saturday from 10am-6pm  . . . Eureka is slimming down as Barrick is mothballing the Ruby Hill Mine, all its employees gone except a small crew to complete the shut-down. There are For Sale signs all over town. Meanwhile Midway Gold is breaking ground at the Pan Mine and is hiring, but so far these jobs are all in Ely . . . In the video at left, proud papa Tom Hanks helps his daughter Sophie prepare for the Miss Ultimate Sexy Baby Nevada Pageant in Las Vegas . . . Bicycle couriers are known for attitude and aggressive riding, but Sin City Portage, the first bike courier service in Las Vegas, is trying to establish a reputation for friendliness and customer service. The company’s messengers deliver parcels, medical supplies, prescriptions, and food, and they’ve teamed with Frankly Good Coffee for same-day coffee delivery. In November the League of American Bicyclists declared Las Vegas officially “bicycle friendly” after the city added miles of green-painted bike lanes downtown. “The city has 390 miles of bicycle lanes, with plans to add 50 more miles by the end of next year,” the Las Vegas Sun reported and the R-J chimed in too

The Elko moonlight hike, with bonfire
The Elko moonlight hike, with bonfire

. . . Elko‘s February 15 moonlight hike — formerly known as the moonlight snowshoe hike — is still on despite the not-so-wintery weather. Meet at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko at 6 pm, choose from easy or moderate trails and enjoy a moonlit outing followed by hot chocolate around a campfire. Dress warm and bring a headlamp; to RSVP, call Duane Jones at 775-738-3950. The event is free . . . Las Vegas artist Bobbie Ann Howell pairs sections of landscape photos with intricate, cut-paper designs, comparing urban design with graphic design. Her exhibit, “Vistas and Viewpoints”, runs through March 14 at the Winchester Cultural Center . . . 

Petroglyphs in the White River Narrows
Petroglyphs in the White River Narrows

“Archaeologists find Lincoln County extremely rich in archaeological resources,” says Carol Bass, The BLM’s Ely District Special Legislation Program Manager. The Lincoln County Archaeological Initiative (LCAI) has awarded over $6 million since 2009 to inventory, protect and manage these resources. The funding comes from the sale of public lands. “The Nevada Rock Art Foundation has had a couple of grants from us to study the rock art around the White River Narrows.” The group documented the rock art and developed brochures, soon to be available from the BLM’s Caliente Field Office. Proposals for a new round of funding are being accepted through Feb. 28. For information, contact Carol Bass at 775-289-1803 or . . . The whole idea of casting a play picks up speed this month in Yerington when Missoula Children’s Theater swoops into town February 10, casts 50 local kids in a flash to perform in “Beauty Lou and the Country Beast” and rehearses at lightening speed in time for opening night February 14 at Yerington Theatre for the ARTS . . . The Dam Short Film Festival showcases hundreds of new films in all genres, all under 40 minutes, at Boulder Theatre in Boulder City February 12-16. Festival events include a Filmmaker Meet-n-Greet, Press Conference, 10th Dam Mixer, Awards Gala, and Post-Awards Party . . . 

The Commercial, Elko
The Commercial, Elko

Realist painter Patricia Chidlaw finds inspiration in “void spaces” and “neon-era motels.” Nevada has both in abundance, so her work seems right at home at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno where it’s on display through June. Her paintings are so photorealistic she even renders the fluorescent lighting outside Elko’s Commercial Hotel and Casino as green, the way a film camera sees it (but the human eye often does not) . . .At a special wildlife commission panel January 17, bear biologist Carl Lackey said the state’s bear population has increased from about 450 in 2011 to over 500 now. The AP reports, “Over the same period, 39 bears have been killed by hunters in Nevada. The annual limit has been set at 20 bears but that has never been reached.”

 Parting Shot —

finfield-angier722x480 In the early 2000s, digital photography was still a strange and exciting process. I hadn’t really taken the plunge, but was close and then I got a call that pushed me over the edge. Jim Laurie, the former photo editor of Circa Magazine called about his latest venture, a project called “America 24/7” by Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen who did the “Day in the Life” series of books. Was I interested in joining the project as a photographer?

That was all it took. We had do pitch our assignment to he and his team to make sure that we had something unique and then had one week to shoot, edit, and submit our work. And, by the way, you need to shoot digital
To that point, digital was not much more than a snap-shot device to take a visual notes.

I always thought that Mineral County had potential and knew a few folks there, so I made a few calls, pitched my story and then went out and jumped into the digital flames with both feet.

When I got to Hawthorne, it was during their preparation for their annual Armed Forces Day celebration and one of their new features was the freshly-created Finfield at the north end of Hawthorne alongside US 95. It is a tribute to all armed services personnel who have served the U.S. along with all the people who have worked or supplied the Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD) throughout its history. There are 120 red, white, and blue painted bomb fins placed there by workers from HWAD in May 2003.
Needless to say, my experience with 24/7 was trial by fire into the digital fray and I’ve never looked back.
— Larry Angier, Image West Photography


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