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Amodei: Feds Should Help with Lemmon Valley Flooding


Swan Lake flooded in April 2019. Image: Bob Conrad.

Flooding and public lands were the main issues Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei spoke of when addressing the Washoe County Commission, and the congressman also took a moment to mention the Burning Man counterculture arts festival.

The Swan Lake area of Lemmon Valley has had significant problems with floods and Amoedi, R-Nev., said he’s ready, willing and able to help at the federal level with direction from commissioners.

U.S. Congressman
Mark Amodei.

“We’ve been in contact with the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers, FEMA, EPA, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources…,” Amodei told commissioners. “Your staff has been wonderful in terms of working and getting us information.”

Commission Chairman Vaughn Hartung said county staff needs to make sure Amodei’s staff has Washoe’s matrix of ideas and a clear list of what it’s going to ask for.

“We need to get FEMA in here as quickly as possible,” Hartung said. “I’d like to see that on the schedule sooner rather than later so we can get a proposal on the congressman’s desk as to how FEMA may be able to help us.”


Many Nevada counties have proposed public lands bills, Amoedi said. However, the U.S. Department of Defense is pursuing two in Nevada at Nellis Air Force Base and Fallon Naval Air Station. The Defense Department’s report has one reference to the Reno Military Operations Area, located between north of Pyramid Lake to Gerlach, he said.

Historically the floor for that stretch of Washoe County has been about 15,000 feet for things such as air refueling, Amodei said. The proposal is to change that to 1,200 feet above ground level. The bill could be voted on early next year. This could affect fires, wildlife habitat, wilderness land and other issues, he said.

Amodei said he’ll be requesting the U.S. Navy do a briefing on all military operations areas.

Other topics commissioners asked about included changing language in its lands bill, U.S. 395 north of Reno to the state line, and renewable energy.

Even though earmarks don’t happen in the House and Senate, they happen “every day” in the executive branch regardless of who’s president, Amodei said. Also, the Interior Department isn’t on the radar of many Washington lawmakers because most states don’t have large quantities of federally-owned land like Nevada.

“I’m not saying earmarks are evil…if someone thinks they’re not happening because Congress isn’t going it, then it’s like, I’d beg to differ with you because they’re picking who those grants go to, they’re picking who that program funding goes to within agencies, and all that sort of other stuff,” Amodei said.

“The Department of the Interior is not the all-American executive agency department for funding. Part of the reason is that in the vast majority of states, people don’t care, quite frankly.”

Amodei said a meeting is scheduled in Lovelock with Bureau of Land Management and Burning Man staff, which is necessary since communication hasn’t been robust. If there’s concern about input that has or hasn’t been exchanged between the BLM Winnemucca Field Office and Burning Man, there’s still plenty of time prior to the late summer festival in the Black Rock Desert.

“The reason I bring that up is because I want to avoid the situation where permitting is eminent or whatever and somebody comes and says, ‘Nobody has ever talked to us,’” Amodei said. “We need to get beyond the, ‘We’re going to talk to you, we’re not going to talk to you’ stuff. Those are my words and nobody else’s.”

Carla O'Day
Carla O'Day
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.