The residents of the tiny community of Baker at the entrance to?Great Basin National Park can?breathe a little easier now.
David Sturlin, chairman of the Baker?Water and Sewer General Improvement District, reports that the Bureau?of Land Management has granted a?permit to replace the town?s leaking?250,000-gallon water tank that sits on?BLM land and the district signed a contract this past week with a company out?of Sparks to do the work.
The district plans to build a new?water tank on a 30-by-100-foot site next?to the current tank and then demolish?the old tank. The district?s board had?received fast track approval for a loan?from the State Revolving Fund, which?receives funding under the Federal Safe?Drinking Water Act, contingent upon?receipt of a BLM permit.
That permit appeared to be in jeopardy this past fall when the Interior?Department, of which the BLM is a division, decided the greater sage grouse?would not be listed under the Endangered Species Act but instead issued?thousands of pages of land use restrictions as a means of protecting the bird.
When water district board members?met with a BLM representative, they?were hit with a list of demands and?told an expensive and time-consuming?environmental impact statement would?be needed due to those new grouse?regulations.
The plight of the Baker water district was even brought up as an issue?in a federal lawsuit by the state, Elko,?Eureka, Churchill, Humboldt, Lander,?Lincoln, Pershing, Washoe and White?Pine counties, as well as three mining?companies and a ranch attempting to?get a federal judge to block the land use?plan because of the harm it was causing.?A federal judge declined to do so.
But Michael Herder, BLM Ely District?manager, said this past week that those?issues have been resolved and a permit?has been granted.
?The construction plan is consistent?with the sage grouse conservation measures that are in the land use plans that?we have,? Herder said. ?We did grant an?early start date so they are going to start?around June 1st.?
He said this is so the Baker water district can get the new tank constructed?and the old tank removed all in one?season, thus minimizing the impact on?sage grouse. He said it saves the district?some money and provided the minimal?impact on the grouse.
?It worked out really well. It?s a win-win situation at least from our perspective,? Herder said.
Sturlin said, ?The BLM has given us?an early start date. We are going to try?to meet that June 1st date and get the?thing started as rapidly as possible.?
He believes the project can be completed by October. ?June to October is?the window that we?re shooting for,? he?said, adding that they think they can do?the painting in September, especially if?they have an Indian summer, and then?in October they can do the certifying?and testing, even if it?s cold, so long as?the paint is cured.
When the contractor does the cross?connection of the new tank to the water?pipeline, the old tank will be removed?quickly, Sturlin said.
He also said the people at the State?Revolving Fund, which is funding the?project, have been ?super partners? in?this.
?Basically, this is a grant,? the chairman said. ?It?s a 100 percent forgiveness?on this tank replacement. They came?up with the funds and they bumped us?up in the priority and everything. State?Revolving Fund really should get a pat?on the back.?
Though there was considerable trepidation earlier this year over the impact?the Interior Department?s new sage?grouse land use plan might have on the?project, Sturlin said, ?I believe the local?people with the BLM really, really helped?us out a lot. I believe they?re going to be?real easy to work with going forward.?
The State Revolving Fund lists the?grant for the new welded steel storage?tank for the Baker water district as?$476,375.
Sturlin said the local BLM officials?are as interested in getting the project?done as are the people of Baker, ?I think?we?ve got a good partnership going right?now.?