County Road Department Supervisor Shane Cheeney expressed some frustration when he gave a report to the regular Highway Commission Board meeting Jan. 3 in Pioche.
He was talking about the road department not being able to use a gravel pit in Lake Valley that is very close to where use of the material is needed.
Board chair Paul Donohue said, “We’ve been trying for three winters now to use this resource. We get a lot of phone calls from folks up there at Lake Valley Produce, about 30 miles north of Pioche. They grow a lot of potatoes up there and are shipping out a lot at this time of year.”
Donohue and Cheeney both said that the Bureau of Land Management doesn’t want the road department to use the gravel from the nearby pit as yet, but the road maintenance agreement between the highway department and BLM is that the road to the farms and private homes be maintained from the resources that are available to them, and at present, this pit is not available.
Donohue said several weeks ago he personally saw eight semi-trucks waiting in line to be loaded with potatoes. “There are a lot of trucks there.”
BLM Caliente Field Manager Chris Carlton explained in a later telephone interview with the Record the reason for not giving permission to use the gravel pit “is because even though there is a pit there, we cannot find any record of it ever having been permitted. Before we can sell material out it has to be an actual permitted pit. And we are trying to find out now, historically was it ever permitted. We have not found any records as yet. Maybe it was an old NDOT pit, but no records have been found up to now.”
He said, “If it hasn’t been permitted, then it just has to go through the permitting process like we would for any other pit.”
Carlton thought the process would depend on how many issues come up, but probably no more than a few months. And if there already is a permit, then it would be a lot shorter.”
The road from the highway turnoff on U.S. 93, the Atlanta Mine Road, to the farm is dirt, Donohue explained, “and the complaints that we get from the farmers is the big rigs, in bad, muddy weather, sink up to the axles and get all dirty. The farmers would like some gravel on the road to limit that, so the truck drivers won’t complain so much to the farmers.”
The gravel pit is close by, but BLM has not allowed use of it lately for the reason Carlton explained. Cheeney told board members, “I myself remember hauling material out of it in the late 70s, early 80s.”
Donohue said there is a gravel pit at Mount Wilson, “but then you have to haul it 20 miles to where you want to put it on the ground, and your fuel costs are so high.” He noted that some years ago “a big group of polygamists used to live there and I know they used the gravel pit for their needs. I ask about this every quarter in our road department meetings with the BLM.”
Donohue thought it might prove more successful if individual highway commission board members wrote letters to the board of county commissioners, (who incidentally are the same five people), and have the item put on the agenda and submit a letter to the BLM “to please expedite this process and please get it done. Maybe then it would go further. If so, it would be so beneficial. We would be able to haul the material less and a quarter-of-a-mile to be able to put it on the road we want to put it on. It’s just right there.”