Joni Eastley, project manager for the Rural Desert Southwest Brownfields Coalition and former Nye County commissioner, spoke before the Lincoln County Board of County Commissioners Dec. 21.
She said the Rural Desert Southwest Brownfields Coalition, or RDSBC, is a partnership between Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine Counties in Nevada, and Inyo County in California. The coalition counties are working together to assess, clean up and facilitate the redevelopment and reuse of potentially contaminated properties known as “brownfields” throughout the coalition region.
The RDSBC is a unique group, because they are the only one in the nation that stretches across two states.
In 2014, RDSBC was awarded an Environmental Protection Agency grant of $600,000 for the purpose of identifying sites of redevelopment need across the entire brownfields area.
Brownfield is a term used in urban or rural planning to describe land previously used for industrial purposes or some commercial uses. Such land may have been contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution or is feared to be so. Once cleaned up, such an area can become host to a business development such as a retail park. Land that is more severely contaminated and has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution, does not fall under the brownfield classification.
In 2012, EPA had given a $1 million grant to identify and assess potential brownfield sites within the coalition area; conduct area-wide planning activities to support renewable energy related redevelopment and engage in public outreach to the communities and interested stakeholders.
Eastley said one of the reasons for forming the coalition was that “back in the time, all of the power transmission line projects were all going up through the eastern part of the state, with nothing on the western side, or out the western side for that matter either.”
She added, “We wanted to create some opportunities for the member counties, through the brownfields process, to initially identify opportunities for renewable energy projects, including transmission, but has since expanded to other economic developments.”
Nevada has 110,567 square miles of land and the RDSBC encompasses 45,095 square miles, or about 41 percent.
The first of the primary goals for the coalition Eastley said is to protect the health and welfare of the population through the identification and remediation of brownfields. “We want to protect the environment and promote economic development and job creation, and all of that is possible through redevelopment of identified brownfields. And we want to promote economic development and diversification through water efficient renewable energy, by means of testing and manufacturing facilities, innovative agriculture and tourism,” she said.
Only one project has been done in Lincoln County to date, renovating a former Nellis Air Force barracks building at Pahranagat Valley High School that is used mostly for storage, but now could be used for classroom instruction.
Eastley said RDSBC has been talking with Cory Lytle of the county planning department and consultant Mike Baughman to identify some different projects including the Chevron station in Caliente, a project in Caselton and the Tempiute Mill. But there are others too she said, for example, properties that have gone through tax foreclosure and have become eyesores.