Effort would remove contaminated soil from Tonopah Test Range


BEATTY — The Beatty Town Advisory Board had relatively few questions about the transport of low-level nuclear-contaminated soil through Beatty, but more about a proposed off-road race.

Presentations on both took place during its May 8 meeting.

Tiffany Lantow, from the U.S. Department of Energy, gave the presentation on the project involving the removal of contaminated soil from approximately 120 acres on the Tonopah Test Range.

The soil was contaminated by a test that was conducted in a reinforced concrete bunker in 1963. It was not a nuclear explosion. Conventional explosives were used, but the device did incorporate some plutonium and uranium.

Lantow explained that the material being transported to a disposal site on the Nevada National Security Site is similar to material that has been taken there from various locations around the country for decades. She said that these shipments will take about 15 weeks this summer, with about 20 truckloads per week.

Beatty resident Ann Marchand asked if there were roads on the former Nevada Test Site that could be used to transport the material rather than using U.S. Highway 95.

Lantow said that there were roads, but it would cost more to repair them enough to be able to use them than the whole project was costing.

Town Board Chairman Dick Gardner asked what would happen if a truck had a flat tire, and Lantow explained that the contractor doing the trucking would be responsible for getting it fixed.

Off-road race

The other presentation was by Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts.

The group wants to establish a closed-loop off-road race course centered around Beatty to conduct a four-lap, 250-mile event.

A group representative, Ken Thatcher, explained that it was easier to get permission from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for a point-to-point race than for a closed-loop course involving multiple laps.

The board had some reservations about the request based on experience with the races organized by Best of the West, which have sometimes left the roads on the course damaged.

Thatcher said that their type of event is very different from the ones conducted by Best of the West. “We don’t have the high vehicle count and the high-powered vehicles they do,” said Thatcher.

He explained that Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts is a non-profit, community and family-oriented organization and that it wants to protect the land.

The organization has been working on BLM permitting for the first running of what they envision of an annual event in Beatty. It is planned for Oct. 7-8. Thatcher said that before their events they sponsor a “fun run,” which is limited to 35 mph and that the money from that event is given to the community involved.

Karl Olson, principal organizer of the VFW’s annual off-road poker run was quite concerned about what a race could do to some of the roads the poker run uses. He was especially worried about ones that they have been working with the BLM to get designated as jeep trails. He said that heavy use could damage them and make them unusable in the future.

Thatcher said that Southern Nevada Off-Road Enthusiasts likes to conduct its races on “hard-packed” roads. He and another representative said that they have two weeks to return a course to “pre-existing condition” after a race, and that they start right away on any utility roads they use.

Olson said, “I’m not against the race. I think it could be a good thing for the community. We just have to make sure that the BLM sees to it that they darn well repair it,” speaking of any damage to the roads.

The board voted to send a letter to the Board of County Commissioners asking that they “leverage” the BLM to approve the race course. The vote was unanimous, with Chairman Dick Gardner commenting that “Other groups have left a bad taste in our mouths.”

Other business

Other than the two presentations, the board also listened to reports from community organizations. They also approved the final draft of their budget for the next fiscal year.

Marchand reported that the Chamber of Commerce was, of course, working on Beatty Days. She also said that they were working on finalizing design and easement permits for the town entry signs.

Erika Gerling said that the Town Square Park was looking great. “I just hope they get the fence in before the plants get eaten,” she commented, referring to the actions of wild burros.

Vonny Gray said that the musuem would be closing for about two weeks while they worked on moving and organizing exhibits to incorporate the space in the museum’s new annex. She said they intend for the displays “to have more of a flow and be more organized.”

Gray said that the museum is looking for an employee to cover for the existing employees when they are unavailable. She also said they welcome any volunteers who would like to help.

One thing the board did not do is agree to sign a letter from a group called Organized Karma that included some loosely worded recommendations to the BLM on the use of public lands.

The request from Organized Karma died for lack of a motion.

Richard Stephens is a freelance writer living in Beatty.