ELKO – Elko County Commissioners have declared a state of emergency for the county because of “heavy, continuous winter storms” that have led to major snowpack, road damage and Elko County resources “now stretched to their limits.”
Commissioners unanimously approved an amended resolution on March 21 for the severe weather events, and Chairman Rex Steninger said the declaration is “mainly a financial emergency.” He said the impact has been accumulating since November.
While the original proposed resolution was geared to March events, the amended resolution states that “beginning in November 2022, and according to current forecasts, the unforeseen atmospheric river conditions will continue to cause a series of storms to impact much of Northern Nevada, including Elko County.”
The amended declaration also says that “the severe weather system has impacted the health, safety and welfare of residents and livestock, damaged roadways and threatens to damage other infrastructure in the affected areas and adds that there is “damage which is yet to be determined in the most remote areas of the county.”
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The declaration concludes that commissioners “do hereby declare that a state of emergency exists within the County of Elko and all local resources were used to respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of the emergency caused by storm events.”
Elko County Manager Amanda Osborne said the next step is compiling an initial damage assessment that will be forwarded to the state. She said she is sending out forms to the cities, towns and Spring Creek Association for their damage reports, and “pictures would be really helpful to us.”
Jessie Bahr, president and general manager of the Spring Creek Association, told commissioners damage to roads in Spring Creek has been significant, road work “has exceeded our overtime budget,” and “our crews are tired. We are trying different strategies.”
She said she is hopeful the association can obtain federal funds or funds from somewhere else to help with road repairs.
Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi questioned whether the declaration covers potential hay emergencies.
He said snowdrifts could affect deliveries of hay to livestock, and with current road conditions “you can’t drive a good horse down some of these roads, let alone a cattle truck or hay truck.”
Osborne said the declaration would cover hay emergencies.
Nevada Department of Agriculture Director J.J. Goicoechea said in mid-February that heavy snow and low temperatures had already limited livestock operators’ ability to transport animals or feed, and Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado have jointly asked the Farm Service Agency for federal assistance.
Gov. Joe Lombardo declared an emergency on March 10 and amended it on March 11 to include Elko County. His declaration focused on severe weather beginning on March 9, but commissioners agreed to amend their resolution so it covers more than March.
Elko County’s emergency management officer, Lee Cabaniss, had told commissioners on March 15 that the county provided 15,000 sandbags to various locations because of potential flooding and “more are on order.”
Andreozzi asked that the county’s website continue to be updated with road conditions and the latest details. The county already is posting road closure details and details for emergency contacts and sandbag locations.
The list, which Osborne said was current as of March 21, shows that the O’Neill Basin and Twin Bridges roads in the county are closed, and there is standing water on all Osino and Ryndon roads; Spring Valley Parkway and Spring Valley Court, which have orange barrels in place; Spring Creek Parkway; Coal Mine Canyon Road; Last Chance and Burner Basin roads.
The list also states that dirt roads around the county are muddy, rutted and holding water in various areas, and includes more roads with standing water: Bullion Road, Lower South Fork Road, Lucky Nugget Road, Lower Lamoille Road, Fort Halleck Road, Old Devils Gate Road, Elburz Road and Kittridge Canyon.
Another post provides information on what to do in case of flooding, including warning that floodwaters can be dangerous to people’s health because of potential chemicals or bacteria, or live wires and more.
Also, in relation to the bad weather, Commissioner Jon Karr asked that the county’s “wildlife group” come to the next regular commission meeting to talk about mule deer quotas. He said the quotas were just released but don’t reflect the winter storms and how that might affect the deer and other wildlife.