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City may intervene in Humboldt litigation

ELKO – Elko City Council will consider whether to retain a law firm to represent the city as an intervenor in litigation filed by the Pershing County Water Conservation District against the Nevada Division of Water Resources over Humboldt River rights.

The question of hiring the firm of Taggart &Taggart Ltd. of Carson City is on the agenda for the council’s 4 p.m. meeting on Feb. 12. The law firm specializes in litigation involving water rights and already represents at least one other party seeking to intervene in the lawsuit, according to the agenda.

Pershing County Water Conservation District filed a petition in August 2015 in the 11th District Court requesting the court require the state engineer to side with the conservation district regarding water rights in over-appropriated river basins. The district amended the petition in 2016.

The conservation district began the proceedings because farmers and ranchers in Pershing County were heavily impacted by drought. Pershing County is near the tail end of the Humboldt that originates in Elko County, and in low-water years not enough flow makes it downstream for the holders of senior water rights.

If the court agrees with the PCWCD, this could have “significant adverse impacts on water rights throughout the Humboldt River Basin,” Utilities Director Ryan Limberg states in the council agenda.

He wrote that curtailment of ground-water pumping could be required in Elko’s segment of the river, which could “hamper the city’s ability to utilize its water rights” and affect the city’s growth and economic development.

“The city has an interest in the matter. If city council approves the legal services agreement with Taggart & Taggart Ltd. that would include filing a motion to intervene,” Limberg said in a Feb. 8 email.

He said acting State Engineer Tim Wilson has responded to the amended petition filed by the Pershing County district.

“In summary, the state engineer requests that the court deny PCWCD’s amended writ petition. In the event the court does not deny the amended write petition, the state engineer requests an evidentiary hearing to present evidence and further requests that this hearing take place at least 60 days from Feb. 4, 2019, to allow the state engineer to adequately prepare for the evidentiary hearing,” Limberg said.

Although the litigation has been pending since 2015, this would be the first time the Elko City Council has considered becoming an intervenor in the legal action. The petition asks the state engineer to bring all over-appropriated basins back to their perennial yield to eliminate pumping that interferes with the Humboldt River.

The petition also asks that mining water rights be treated as permanent rights, rather than temporary.

Limberg said in the agenda that both Newmont Mining Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp. filed motions to intervene in the litigation.

The Nevada Division of Water Resources responded to the petition by commissioning a four-year study, involving the U.S. Geological Survey and the Desert Research Institute. The work includes a model of the hydrology of the Humboldt River Basin.

According to a Jan. 17 article in the Elko Daily Free Press, the study is expected to be completed in early 2020, rather than 2019, with delays partially attributed to the furlough of federal employees.

Curtailment of ground-water pumping could be required in Elko’s segment of the river, which could affect the city’s growth and economic development, according to Utilities Director Ryan Limberg.

Cynthia Delaney / CYNTHIA DELANEY 

U.S. Rep Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, speaks with the Elko Daily Free Press about the recent government shutdown and efforts to protect the Ruby Mountains from oil and gas drilling.

Amodei: Forest Service nearly ready to rule on Ruby Mountains drilling

ELKO – A decision on the controversial proposal to drill for oil in the Ruby Mountains should be coming from the U.S. Forest Service in the next couple of weeks, according to U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada.

Amodei spoke with the Elko Daily Free Press on Friday afternoon before attending the Elko County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. He addressed the impact of the federal government shutdown on rural Nevada, and the Ruby Mountains Protection Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada.

What is your stand on oil permitting in the Ruby Mountains?

“If you want to do any activity, whether it’s grazing, minerals, oil and gas development, geothermal, you have to apply to use it, and so — I’m not familiar with who — but there’s been an application in your neighborhood to do oil and gas exploration, and so obviously that engenders people with strong feelings,” Amodei said. But the environmental review process is a pretty good process, so “why don’t you let it run its course, and see what they say?”

Amodei said Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkleberger told him the agency is close to issuing a decision.

Meanwhile, Masto’s Ruby Mountains Protection Act would withdraw approximately 450,000 acres in the Ruby Mountain Ranger District from any eligibility for oil and gas leasing under the Mineral Leasing Act.

“OK, if that’s the judgment they want to make and it gets through Congress, then OK,” Amodei said. “But it’s a little bit disconcerting to hear, ‘we want you to ignore the process because I feel very strongly about this one,’ and it’s like, ‘well, there’s things I feel strong about too, and maybe it’s one of these.’ But to come in and say, ‘forget your process, just do what I tell you to’ is kind of the antithesis of the National Environment Policy Act. It requires a transparent public participation process to decide what multiple uses we’re going to do with our land.

“And by the way, the Nevada that we all live in, including this part, is what it is today because that process by and large has been successful in protecting resources and allowing multiple use — whether that’s cows, whether that’s mines, whether that’s geothermal, whether that’s oil and gas in this case.”

Do you support Ruby Mountain Protection Act?

“Obviously, we’ll look at,” Amodei said. “We haven’t looked at it yet, because — I want to be careful — but quite frankly, there’s been a lot of public lands legislation that the House has sent to the Senate in the time I’ve been there, which didn’t even get a hearing. Now that’s not Catherine’s fault, but my history with the thing is, as soon as it comes over, we’ll take the deep dive, we’ll see what it says …

“I’ve got no predilections, we’ll do with it the way we do everything. Do your homework, talk with people in the region, see what they’ve done in other areas. I think there are other areas that have been protected. If that’s what’s appropriate for this, then I’ll get behind it. We just haven’t taken a look at it for the only reason that it’s pretty early in the process. The 116th congress is a month gone of the 24 that it is. But I assure you if it gets to the point I have to take a vote on it, we’ll turn over a lot of rocks in Elko County, Northern Nevada and the rest of the state, too, to go, ‘Hey, is this one of the areas where it’s good public policy to say, we’re going to curtail some of the public uses in there?’ It’s certainly something that doesn’t strike me as ridiculous. I mean the Rubies, Ruby Marshes and all that are phenomenally special to everybody in the state. The Alps of Elko County, it’s certainly a special place. I wouldn’t disagree with anybody about that.”

What has the impact on the shutdown been for rural Nevada?

“I’ll say this, with respect to the Rubies stuff, the Forest Service, in my opinion, did a pretty responsible job during the shutdown. They didn’t just hang a ‘closed’ sign up and tell everybody to go home and wait until we call you. The Humboldt-Toiyabe and the whole region … those folks had their district rangers on duty. You could get a hold of Bill Dunkleberger, so it wasn’t business as usual, but if you had an issue with the Forest Service, you didn’t have to try to find somebody who knew where they lived and go hang a sticky on the door saying, ‘Will you call me please’ or something like that …

“With respect to BLM … the Department of the Interior took a different approach, and I can tell you at the beginning of the shutdown, no district managers were considered key personnel, there were no field office managers and in order to get a hold of the acting state director — who by the way wasn’t the problem – you’d had to have his cellphone number. And for an agency that owns two-thirds of the state … to take the view that nobody is key when you’re basically responsible for two-thirds of it?”

Do you know how much the shutdown impacted fire rehabilitation or firefighter hiring?

“I can tell you everything came to full stop. Full stop.”

Is another shutdown going to come up a week from now?

“I don’t know,” Amodei said. “... First and foremost, it is Congress’ job to appropriate, so you can say what you want about the president, until Congress puts a bill on his desk, he can’t go ‘under this administration, here’s your money.’ … I’ll give you a premise too, which is I can’t remember a shutdown since I’ve been there that accomplished anything. I’ve been there for seven years plus. The healthcare one didn’t change anything … the DACA one didn’t change anything …”

Amodei mentioned news reports about a compromise that may be in the works before the Feb. 15 deadline.

“I’d love to tell you I understand where they’re at, but out of the 435 of us on the south end of the building, I’m guessing there’s 400-plus that don’t even know where they’re at exactly …” he said. “I hope the rumors are right, that there’s something where they do something that makes some sense, and takes care of issues, maybe not all the way, one way or the other …”

Do you think an executive order might be the answer?

“My first pick is that that the committee, those appropriators from both sides, do something. Second pick is, rather than continue nothing, and rather than shutdown again, I’d pick executive order. So, I think that’s a yes.”

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New mental health practitioner opens doors

ELKO – Living in a remote community has its positive aspects: the air is clean, the great outdoors is right next door and life runs at a slower pace. The downside is the scarcity of medical care and facilities, especially when it comes to mental health.

“I got my associates degree at Great Basin College a long time ago,” psychiatric mental nurse Roberta Andreozzi said. “I always told Margaret Puccinelli that I would be interested in the BSN [bachelor of science in nursing]. When she was getting that started I threw my hat in. I was lucky enough to be out of six or seven of us to be selected.”

After graduation, she took a year off and then entered a master’s program offered through Gonzaga University. She is only 31 credits shy of doctoral degree.

Andreozzi is from a four-generation Battle Mountain family. She has lived in Elko since 1992 and raised her children here. She has served as a psychiatric nurse since 2002. She worked for the State of Nevada and the Vitality Center.

“What made me pursue my graduate degree is that there is a lack of psychiatric services in Elko. Even with rural clinics our psychiatrists started doing telemedicine. Most of the physicians were out of Las Vegas. Most of them had never been north of Las Vegas.”

She explained that when she worked at a satellite office in Ely she realized doctors did not always understand the difficulties some patients went through in order to get help.

“You’d have someone riding their bike in from McGill in maybe 10 degrees below zero in a T-shirt. They did not think much of that in Vegas. They did not realize how important this visit was or how sick this person was. Rural to them is completely foreign.”

Andreozzi also explained that her patients would often have to see a different doctor each time, complicating the treatment process.

“In psychiatry that’s very hard because they have to tell their life stories,” Andreozzi said. “These can be very deep, hard stories about trauma and addiction, stuff they do not want to repeat telling every few months.”

Andreozzi’s goal has always been to get her education and support the rurals. She even moved to Salt Lake City to complete her residency because she had to study under a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse. That option was not available here.

Besides having her own office, Andreozzi also works at the jail through Medallus Health. She does medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder with specialty courts. She travels to Winnemucca twice a week to serve the community there.

Andreozzi works in therapy with people as young as 8 years old. She does not do medical management with anyone under age 11. However, she will work with very young patients if their pediatrician supervises the medication.

Andreozzi has always seen the need for a local source of psychiatric care. She realized many Elko mental health patients have been traveling to Twin Falls, Salt Lake City or Reno for treatment and therapy.

“It’s expensive and hard and when you are in a crisis you are not always safe to drive,” Andreozzi said. “You can’t just go on down to the local clinic and be seen.”

Andreozzi said her practice is not yet set up to take insurance but she is in the process of being paneled for that and Medicaid.

“What most clients are doing is using their Flex cards,” Andreozzi said. “I will work with people. As long as I see you we will worry about the bill later.”

Andreozzi recognizes that about 30 percent of her clients do have excellent local counselors. In such cases, she can work with the patient and therapist by using what she considers her stronghold, medical management.

During Andreozzi’s career she has noticed that the stigma of mental illness is still prevalent in our area but things are changing.

“I often have to educate new patients at least 10 minutes normalizing that this is OK,” Andreozzi said. “This is no different than if you had diabetes.”

Immigrant to be tried on murder charges before other counts

CARSON CITY (AP) — A 20-year-old immigrant from El Salvadoran accused of killing four people in Nevada will be tried on four murder counts in Reno before he faces related burglary and other charges in Carson City, prosecutors in the two counties said Friday.

Prosecutors said family members of the victims preferred the more serious charges against Wilber Martinez-Guzman be addressed first.

As part of the plan, Martinez-Guzman and his public defender agreed to postpone a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled Friday in Carson City on burglary and other counts involving items belonging to some of the victims.

He will be extradited to Reno and held without bail while awaiting trial on the murder counts. He has not entered pleas to any of the charges.

Federal immigration officials say Martinez-Guzman entered the U.S. illegally but they haven’t disclosed when or where.

The case has drawn the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted shortly after the arrest of Martinez-Guzman that the killings showed the need for his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Martinez-Guzman told investigators that he stole jewelry, a .22-caliber revolver and other property from a Reno couple less than two weeks before prosecutors say he fatally shot them with the gun on Jan. 16 at their home.

Those victims, 81-year-old Gerald David and 80-year-old Sharon David, employed Martinez-Guzman as a landscaper last summer, investigators say.

He is also charged in the killing of two other women a week earlier at their homes 45 miles away in rural Gardnerville.

Martinez-Guzman was arrested Jan. 19 and jailed on $500,000 bail in Carson City.

Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury said the agreement to prosecute the murder charges first was “unusual but not unprecedented.”

“Generally, the jurisdiction that catches a defendant proceeds with its prosecution first,” Woodbury said.

But “when we have a way to make the process a little easier on people victimized by a crime, and when those people tell us they want the murder case to go first, we absolutely listen and do our best to honor those wishes,” he said.

Prosecutors say Martinez-Guzman acknowledged killing the Davids and that his DNA was found on the revolver also used to kill Connie Koontz and Sophia Renken.

Trump invited the Davids’ daughter, Debra Bissel, granddaughter and great granddaughter to attend his State of the Union address as his guest, and introduced them during the speech in the U.S. House chambers.

“Just three weeks ago Debra’s parents Gerald and Sharon were burglarized and shot to death in their Reno, Nevada, home by an illegal alien,” Trump said. “No one should ever have to suffer the horrible heartache they have had to endure.”