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County backs federal land for West Wendover

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ELKO – Elko County Commissioners support the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plan to convey land to the City of West Wendover for development of an industrial park and will send a letter to the BLM encouraging final approval.

“Like the other cities and towns in Elko County, West Wendover’s growth has been stifled by being surrounded by federal land. The proposed action will expand the land area available to West Wendover, doubling their footprint and allowing them to plan for their own growth and economic development,” wrote Elko County’s assistant manager and natural resources director, Curtis Moore.

Commissioners voted at their Aug. 3 meeting to send Moore’s comments to the BLM’s Elko district.

The Elko BLM’s Wells Field Office has released the environmental assessment on the proposed West Wendover Land Conveyance Project and is taking public comment through Aug. 14 on the plan that would provide roughly 6,366 acres to West Wendover and to Tooele County, Utah for runway protection.

“Most of this goes to Wendover,” Moore said.

The land is currently just outside West Wendover city limits, but he said that “I imagine they will annex it.”

Patricia Ryan, public affairs officer for the Elko BLM District, said in an email Aug. 4 that if the conveyance is authorized, “approximately 705 acres would go to Tooele County. Depending on the alternative chosen, approximately 5,661 acres or 5,311 acres would be conveyed to the City of West Wendover.”

The U.S. Air Force deemed the land excess in October of last year, and the BLM stated that under the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023, conveyance of the land is authorized to occur in phases, and the BLM may release up to 14,595 more acres once the Air Force has determined future needs for the remaining land.

“It’s a good idea. It secures their growth for many years,” said Delmo Andreozzi, chairman of the commissioners.

The BLM also released a finding of no significant impact for the proposed land conveyance that will be at no cost to the city and Tooele County, Utah, but the document isn’t signed yet. The finding includes restrictions against interfering with flights near the Wendover Airport.

The airport is on the Wendover, Utah, side of the twin communities.

Commissioner Rex Steninger asked Moore if there is enough water for the new acreage the city will acquire, and Moore said the city believes there is sufficient water rights. The city has extra water rights near the Long Canyon Mine operated by Nevada Gold Mines and water rights in the Pilot Valley area.

West Wendover City Manager Chris Melville told the Elko Daily Free Press last month that there has been interest in the property since the 1990s when the Air Force indicated it no longer “had the need to use that property, which was part of the old Wendover Bombing and Gunnery Range.”

During World War II, Wendover was buzzing with military personnel and the Enola Gay plane that eventually carried the first atomic bomb to Japan was based at Wendover before that historic mission began. The old barracks buildings and old aircraft buildings are on the Utah side, as is a museum.

According to the EA, roughly 6,251 acres of the lands to be conveyed have already been declared excess by the USAF, while the remaining 115 acres is for an area known as Landfill K, which is in the process of being cleaned up and remediated by the USAF.

The proposed land conveyance is separate from the more than 80 acres the City of West Wendover purchased from the BLM last year to develop a downtown at the west end of the city. The city paid $840,000 for that parcel.

The West Wendover City Council awarded the downtown infrastructure contract to Great Basin Engineering Contractors in Elko this summer.

According to the BLM, comments on the land conveyance proposal can be mailed to the BLM Wells Office, Attn: Aili Gordon, 3900 East Idaho St., Elko, NV 89801 or remailed to WellsFO_NEPA@BLM.gov.

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