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Forest Service opens more of Lamoille Canyon road

ELKO – The U.S. Forest Service has opened a little more of the road in Lamoille Canyon.

The road was closed after the 9,000-acre Range 2 Fire burned partway up the canyon at the end of September, destroying guardrails, a cabin and the Lions Club lodge. Three miles of the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway were reopened earlier this month, from the junction of Lamoille Highway to the Talbot Trailhead parking spot just above the Powerhouse Picnic Area.

On Dec. 22, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Mountain City-Ruby Mountains-Jarbidge Ranger District opened an additional mile and a half. It is now possible to drive up to “Climber’s Rock.”

Hikers are now being allowed beyond that point. Snowmobiles will be allowed once there is enough snow, which could be soon as the Ruby Mountains were under a winter storm warning Monday evening through Tuesday evening.

“With the help of community partners, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Division of Forestry, and the Forest road crew, we have been making great progress towards making the area safe for visitors again,” said District Ranger Josh Nicholes. “We appreciate the public’s patience in staying out of the closed area until we can mitigate the safety hazards.”

The public is encouraged to use caution while above the temporary road closure as hazards still exist, according to the Forest Service. The agency said the Lamoille Canyon closure is necessary while work is being done to mitigate rockfall hazards and rebuild destroyed guardrails along the roadway. The District will continue to reopen sections of the road as safety hazards have been addressed.

“I can’t stress enough how hard everyone is working to get Lamoille Canyon reopened for the public to enjoy,” said Nicholes. “Work on in Lamoille Canyon will temporally stop to allow road crew staff time with their family over the Christmas holiday, but will restart as soon as possible.”

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Spartans recognized for sports, band, FFA

ELKO – Spring Creek High School capped off a busy fall season with champions in sports, academics, band and FFA. Students, advisers and coaches were presented by Principal Keith Walz to the Elko County School District board of trustees on Dec. 11 to recognize the school’s achievements that included both state and regional championships.

“We have some outstanding students and teams,” Walz said in his introduction to the board.

Sharing the honors were the marching band; the Silver Sage FFA club; the boys soccer team; and the boys’ and girls’ cross country teams.

Some teams were repeat winners. For the fourth year in a row, the marching band won the Class A state championship.

The boys’ soccer team was the 3A academic state champion for the fifth year in a row.

For the sixth year in a row, the cross country teams placed either first or second in the 3A division, with the girls’ team placing first in the state and the boys coming in as runners-up. The five-member Silver Sage FFA team won their first Western National Rangeland competition in November in Logan, Utah, winning by four points. Students received certificates from board president Thad Ballard, before shaking hands with the other board members including Jim Cooney, Tammie Cracraft-Dickensen, Teresa Dastrup, Kieth Fish, Stacie Phillips and Ira Wines, along with Assistant Superintendent Mike Smith and Superintendent Todd Pehrson.

“It’s a privilege to recognize these accomplishments,” said Ballard.

Walz echoed the sentiment after the presentation before dozens of Spring Creek family members who gathered in the conference room to support the students.

“I’m proud to be the principal of these young ladies and men … and kudos to the advisers and coaches and the support their parents provide,” he said.

Regulators approve NV Energy plan to build six new solar power plants

With little fanfare or discussion, Nevada regulators have approved a major energy supply plan that will result in construction of six major solar projects and conditionally retire one of the state’s two remaining coal-firing power plants by 2021.

The three members of the Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously on Friday to approve the final portion of NV Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the state-mandated planning document on electric supply and demand required to be filed every three years.

First filed in June, the approved IRP allows the electric utility to enter into power purchase agreements with six planned solar photovoltaic plants across the state, with a total capacity of 1,001 megawatts. Power purchase agreements are exclusive contracts between private developers and utilities to purchase regular amounts of electricity from power plants at a typically fixed price over a period of several years.

The new plants will double the state’s renewable energy capacity and solar production by 2023, substantially increasing the state’s reliance on renewable energy. The order also authorizes 100 megawatts of energy storage to be built at a handful of the plants.

In a statement, utility president Doug Cannon said the approved order was the largest “renewable energy investment” in state history, and helped the company on its goal to substantially raise renewable production.

“Earlier this year we made a promise to our customers that we would double our renewable energy by 2023 and today’s decision puts us closer to reaching that goal, as well as to our long-term commitment to serve them with 100 percent renewable energy,” Cannon said in a statement.

The approved order also calls for a conditional retirement of one of the units at the coal-firing Valmy Generating Station, which is jointly owned by NV Energy and Idaho Power. The conditional retirement date is set for the end of 2021, but is dependent on several factors including construction of the new power plants proceeding as scheduled and having enough capacity to serve customers.

Outside of a nonprofit group backed by Switch, few parties had substantial criticism or opposed the utility’s planned IRP in proceedings before the commission, and its adoption was met with plaudits by renewable advocates who welcomed news of the coal plants’ scheduled retirement.

“The early retirement schedule for the North Valmy coal plant marks a major milestone in Nevada’s transition to clean energy,” said Sierra Club for Nevada spokeswoman Elspeth DiMarzio said in a statement. “NV Energy’s shift from coal to low cost clean energy will save millions of dollars for families and businesses across Nevada while also clearing our air of more toxic coal pollution.”

Other advocates, including Western Resource Advocates attorney Robert Johnston, said approval of the order would lower carbon emissions and line the state up to meet a potentially higher Renewable Portfolio Standard if a ballot question raising it to 50 percent by 2030 is approved by voters in 2020.

“NV Energy’s IRP will develop our state’s abundant solar resources while significantly reducing the utility’s carbon emissions, which are a key driver of climate change,” he said in a statement.

In its testimony, NV Energy warned that approval of the plan and construction of the six new power plants would “negatively affect credit quality,” of the utility given the cost to construct the plants, stating that it could request higher rates in future proceedings before regulators.

The order also granted permission for NV Energy to spend up to $22.89 million on transmission upgrades and extended out scheduled retirement dates of eight natural gas into the late 2020’s and early 2030’s.

Disclosure: NV Energy has donated $150,000 and Switch has donated $400,000 to The Nevada Independent.

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Outbreak of flu in Elko County

ELKO — Elko has an outbreak of the flu, according to the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, which said one school reported 69 of 351 students with flu symptoms.

Last flu season, Nevada had more than 80 flu-related deaths.

Those under 5 are at highest risk for complications as well as pregnant women, those with medical conditions that weaken the immune system, and those over 65.

The single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each season. Free flu vaccinations will be given from noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 3 at Adobe Middle School for ages 6 months and up.

The health division said Nevadans can help prevent the spread of disease by getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently, and covering sneezes and coughs with a bent elbow or a tissue. Stay home when sick until at least 24 hours after the fever has disappeared.