DCNR Budget Update

[Editor’s note: This is an email sent in June by Director Allen Biaggi to DCNR employees.]Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources

Good afternoon to everyone in DCNR.

To say these are trying times is an understatement. State revenues continue to be weak, resulting in the need for DCNR’s administration and budget staff to evaluate further cuts for the 2009 fiscal year as well as the next biennium (more below). These reductions have the potential to fundamentally change the way we do business and achieve our agency mandates. I will continue to work with the agency administrators to identify the necessary budget reductions while still providing essential services to our customers and regulated communities.

I would like to thank DCNR’s Deputy Director, Kay Scherer for her hard work and professionalism in understanding the extremely complicated reduction directives and guiding us through this process. It is critical we make our reductions in a logical and strategic way, understanding the implications to our programs, employees and Nevada’s citizens. I want to make this process as transparent as possible and keep the lines of communication open with all DCNR employees.

Allen Biaggi

Budget update

The fiscal situation heading into FY 09 has worsened and the Budget Office has asked the Department and its agencies to identify by Friday, June 20, additional reductions for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

In addition, the Governor has called the Nevada Legislature into special session beginning Monday, June 23, to consider the state’s significant revenue challenges, identify potential solutions and act on some of these ideas. The agenda for the special session has not been announced at the time I am sending this email, but the media has said sources define it as a broad agenda.

Beyond that, I have not been provided any specifics other than the speculations that all of us can read about in the news, including potential postponement of employee cost of living increases.

Our goal is to do everything possible to keep you employed in the Department, perhaps by holding open positions that come vacant to add to cost savings, or identifying open positions in the same class elsewhere within the department for transfer.

With regard to the special session of the Nevada Legislature, keep in mind that all options are on the table. As a result you may hear some outlandish and even disturbing proposals brought forward. Don’t panic. Keep in mind the legislative process is one of compromise and usually the extremes are moderated in the end. If nothing else it should be a fascinating process to watch.

Pam Wilcox retires

On Friday, June 27, Pam Wilcox will serve her last day as a state administrator, a role she has held for 28 years. I will certainly miss Pam, and I wish her the very best in her retirement. Pam has skillfully led the divisions of State Lands (including the land office, land use planning, Question 1 team and Tahoe team) and Conservation Districts.

Since Pam announced her retirement many individuals have expressed their admiration and best wishes for the future. Individuals have told me to “wish Pam the best and thank her for all her good service and good humor” and “Pam has dealt with many complex issues affecting Nevada. She always contributes well to solutions because of her clear, logical thinking. She uses this thinking to deliver answers in simple to understand and straight forward language. She will be missed.”

I welcome Jim Lawrence, the current deputy administrator, as the new administrator of State Lands and acting administrator of Conservation Districts. Jim has been with State Lands for nine years.

Climate change draft report

A number of DCNR personnel have been working diligently to help draft a report requested by Governor Gibbons on climate change in Nevada and what Nevada can do to help address the issue.

The draft document should be posted online this week for a 30-day public review and comment. It will be available on the State Energy Office’s website.

State Parks receives a solar utility vehicle from BP

ARCO and its parent company BP are donating a solar SUV buggy to the Nevada Division of State Parks. Governor Jim Gibbons and personnel from DCNR will be at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park on Wednesday to accept the vehicle from the energy company.

This vehicle will be a tremendous asset to help manage the 520 acres at Spring Mountain Ranch. Parks personnel will be using it to help maintain the park, for demonstrations at the Earth fair and for educational purposes to the numerous school groups that visit the ranch. Alternative technologies such as this must be the way of the future in the face of environmental impacts and the high costs of fuel. I am thrilled that State Parks will play a role in the demonstration of this new technology.

Water hearing scheduled

The Division of Water Resources is holding the last of three hearings over water right applications filed by the Las Vegas Valley Water District to import water from rural Nevada counties into Las Vegas.

As you know, this has been a contentious issue that has received worldwide attention. The Department’s role is to remain objective and fulfill its statutory obligations. Specifically, State Engineer Tracy Taylor is tasked with deciding how much water can be appropriated in these applications that were filed for unappropriated water.

State water law maintains that Nevada’s water belongs to the state, in trust for our citizens, and transferring water from one region to another has historic roots beginning mostly notably with the Marlette water system which transferred water into Virginia City during the mining boom of the late 1800s. That water system is still in service today.

The Las Vegas pipeline project is different in magnitude, however, and so far two hearings have been held to determine how much ground water is appropriate to allocate to the project. I commend the State Engineer and his staff in the Division of Water Resources for continuing to handle these high-profile hearings with objectivity, fairness, professionalism and within the confines of state law.

The third hearing, covering Snake Valley in eastern Nevada, begins with a one-day hearing schedule for July 15 at the Legislature. The full hearing will commence probably in early 2009.

Environmental Protection participated in Vigilant Guard exercise

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) June 12 and 13 as part of the State of Nevada’s Vigilant Guard 2008 emergency response exercise. State and local exercise planners, along with Nevada Emergency Support Function personnel, developed a large-scale realistic scenario dealing with the effects and aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake in the Reno-Sparks-Carson City-Lake Tahoe area. For NDEP personnel, the challenges included damage to water and wastewater facilities; potential releases of contaminants to the air, soil and groundwater; disruption of electric and natural gas service; hazardous materials spills; and assessment and disposal of contaminants hidden among the rubble.

NDEP’s EOC worked in conjunction with the State of Nevada’s EOC, the Joint Information Center and five other local EOCs in a coordinated response to the simulated disaster.

The goal of the exercise was to evaluate and refine emergency response procedures, so responders will be better prepared in the event of a real emergency.
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