Nevada Congressman Steven Horsford answered questions and heard concerns from members of the Ely community at a town hall meeting Friday at Bristlecone Convention Center.
Horsford represents the fourth district of Nevada, which includes rural areas such as White Pine County. He said the point of the town hall was to get out and listen to what the people in his district want done in Washington.
“I believe that the only way I can effectively represent the people of the fourth district is if I’m out listening, understanding their concerns and hearing what it is they want the priorities to be,” Horsford said.
One of the issues discussed was the application of flooding elevation designations by the
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and how it’s forcing locals at high elevations to pay for unnecessary flood insurance.
“From a real estate stand point, it has been very difficult, nearly impossible to sell certain homes in certain areas,” Kenna Almberg, owner of Desert Mountain Reality, said in regards to the effect the flooding designations has had on property values.
Horsford said policies that were generated by FEMA after the hurricanes in the Northeast and South have been broadly applied and there should be a “dialogue” with the federal agency to see if any changes need to take place for communities like Ely.
“What we heard here tonight is that there are residents that are being required to pay more for flood insurance for their home. Others are being told that they have to disclose when they go to sell their home that they may be in a flood zone, even though the criteria standard for why they are in a flood zone isn’t there,” Horsford said. “So my commitment is to bring representatives from FEMA either here to the community or to figure out a way to conduct a workshop with the residents so that they can talk directly with those agencies and we can get some answers as to why this is the case and if any changes can happen, then what those need to be.”
Former Mayor of Ely George Chachas asked the Congressman about another hot button issue, the measures being taken to protect the Greater Sage Grouse. Congressman Horsford said it’s vital to keep the Sage Grouse from being listed as endangered due to the economic ramifications it would have on the state and local communities.
“The consequence of it being listed will effect mining development here, grazing rights and the ability to do economic development in the region, so it is a real serious issue,” Horsford said. “There is a sense of urgency among the Nevada delegation. We are working lockstep bi-partisan.”
Horsford pointed out Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller just released a mitigation plan for how they want to see federal agencies proceed, led by the Bureau of Land Management, and that they’re soliciting comments from the community on the plan before it goes any further.
Other issues discussed were the proposed interstate 11 that would run through Nevada. County Commissioner Richard Howe told Horsford, who is co-chair on the project, that he wants White Pine County to not be left out of the discussion.
“What we heard here today is that White Pine wants to be at the table and I agree that they should absolutely make the case for why this region of the state should have an opportunity to be part of the interstate corridor. I look forward to working with the county commission to consider their recommendations,” Horsford said.
Chair of the White Pine County Democratic Party and City Councilman Sam Hanson thought it was “fantastic” to have Ely’s small community get a chance communicate with their representation to help make a difference.
“People are so turned off on the federal government that it is frightening. So to have him come here and to be that link between them and the national government is so incredibly important,” Hanson said.