By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

The Comins Lake and associated fisheries ad hoc committee voted to recommend to the county commission for approval and/or support and to acquire secondary applicant letters of support from the Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Department of Wildlife (subject to approval from NDOW) and other associated entities with support and to identify a conceptual project scope and budget from NDOT and NDOW as to their preliminary review of the grant opportunity and how it best fits the needs of their vision for improvements to the Comins Lake project.

“Let us get you the money and you can decide how best to use it or to use it at all,” White Pine Community and Economic Director Jim Garza said.

The ad hoc committee consists of Bill Miller, Laurie Carson, Bob Miller, Jim Garza and Dan Papez. Representatives from NDOT (Randy Hesterlee), NDOW (Marcus Jones) and the Water Advisory Committee (Bill Butts) were in attendance in an advisory capacity.

The committee also identified goals for the project scope, including improvements to the dock, the parking area, the fishing area, building a wildlife conservative area and mitigating the mercury at Comins Lake.

Also discussed was removing the pike and restoring the fishery and possibly extending the lake. NDOW representatives expressed some concerns saying that County’s focus should be on restoring the fishery, which can be done without dealing with the mercury issues at Comins Lake, which may positively or negatively affect the lake from an ecology standpoint.

“From an EPA standpoint on this, they say don’t disturb the sediments because we don’t know,” Marcus Jones said. “It could make it better, it could make it worse…We can restore the fishery without addressing the mercury and bring the dollars back into this community without dealing with the mercury.”

The ad hoc committee is charged with applying for a federal lands access program grant. There is $250 million available in both 2013 and 2014. The deadline for this year is Aug. 15, meaning the committee must move quickly to gather all the necessary information to fill out the application.

“I feel very comfortable we can put a really nice package together within 10 days if everyone comes together,” Garza said.

The committee made plans to make contact with NDOW offices in order to talk to them about the grant application. Jones said he was not in a position to be able to commit NDOW to back this grant application. Hesterlee said he had received confirmation from state DOT offices that they will back this grant application.

“What we need to know is whether or not NDOW will support this grant application,” Papez said.

The grant application for the Comins Lake project, which is expected to be a five to seven year project, is meant to give an overall idea of the project.

“Our application is basically going to be an overall shell of projections that we want to go after and we’ll refine it,” Garza said. “It allows us to do engineering, planning and everything like that as part of the deliverable that we can spend the money on.”

The biggest issue facing the committee is time. With the deadline for grant applications less than a month away, committee members must move quickly in order to get all the information necessary to prepare the document.

“I have to have the contract done by Aug. 9,” Garza said. “I probably need to sit down with everyone as soon as possible and recommend the primary applicant, which is the county, the office of Community and Economic Development with NDOW and NDOT as partners of support.”

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