Debbie Coffey     © Copyright 2012  All Rights Reserved.


BLM overlooks arsenic & mercury, but gets rid of wild horses

In 2010, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the green light to the expansion of a mining project within the Triple B Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada, even knowing about mercury in the watershed and higher levels of arsenic in the surface water. Since grazing allotments seem to be in the hydrographic basin with “mercury deposition contributions to the watershed,” this would seem to put human food and health at risk. The BLM turned a blind eye and approved this project, and now they’re falling all over themselves to declare there’s not enough water for the wild horses because of “drought” and they now plan to waste taxpayer dollars on water trapping, and later helicopter roundups, to remove the wild horses.

But you can’t say they’re not rosy optimists. In the 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Bald Mountain Mine (the mining project given approval to expand operations), under Surface Water, BLM states:

 “In general, established background water quality levels are good with the exception of arsenic, which exceeds the 0.05 mg/l Nevada water quality standard.”

In other words, the water quality is good, except for all the arsenic, which is higher than a safe level. How much does it exceed the Nevada water quality standard?

It kind of makes you wonder if part of the BLM’s hurry to remove wild horses is to avoid having a bunch of horses drop dead in a pile somewhere from water contamination. Not that the BLM would care about the horses, but they wouldn’t want anything to further damage their poor (and continually plummeting) public image.

It seems that BLM’s idea of a “thriving ecological balance” and concern about “degradation to the range” is very selective. The only thing “green” about this is the money that’s being raked in while public lands are being raped. Again, the BLM has asked for public comments, which again, they will ignore. My comment about their latest plan to get rid of the wild horses is:
June 26, 2012

Mr. Byran Fuell, Field Manager
BLM Wells Field Office
3900 E. Idaho St.
Elko, NV 89801

 RE:  Water trapping in the Triple B Herd Management Area

Dear Mr. Fuell:

The following are my comments regarding the BLM’s water “resource concerns” and supposed “severe drought” to use water trapping to remove wild horses and “relieve pressure on springs or until a helicopter gather can take place.”

1)  If the BLM has legitimate “resource concerns” for water in the Triple B Herd Management Area (HMA), the expansion of the Bald Mountain Mine (BMM) shouldn’t have been approved by the BLM in 2010, since BMM is WITHIN the Triple B HMA and will now use an additional 250 afa (acre feet annually) of water.  Did the BLM prepare 1′ or 5′ water drawdown maps for this expansion project before approving the expansion (only a year and a half ago)?

2)  Did the BLM not anticipate droughts in the driest state in the nation when it considered that this additional 250 afa, meant that just this one project would use about 81,462,750 gallons of water each year?  BMM plans to mine for another 10 years, so it will use over 800 million gallons of water.  Didn’t the BLM consider that this might dry up streams in the Triple B HMA?

(Looking at the past history of the Bald Mountain and Mooney mines, even if they both used only 300 afa for only the past 20 years, that would mean they’ve already used 1,955,106,000 gallons of water.)

3)  When the BLM approved an additional (approximate) 3,418 acres of disturbance on public lands for the BMM expansion, (and all the extra water) did the BLM negotiate with Barrick to make accommodations for, or share, any water for wild horses?

4)  The Mount Hope Mine, near Eureka, seems to be only about 10-15 miles from the western edge of the Triple B HMA.  This mining project will also use a lot of water.  There could be a shared aquifer or interflow between aquifers, which could also affect water (and forage) in the Triple B HMA.

5)  I see from the BLM 2012 June Oil and Gas Lease Sale Nomination Parcel map, that the parcels are just outside the eastern side of the Triple B HMA.  These will use water and fracking (risking contamination of water).

6)  It looks as if a portion of the Triple B HMA and most, if not all, of the Cherry Springs Wild Horse Territory are in the Huntington Valley Hydrographic Basin.  Your office should be concerned that this basin seems to have the highest level of mercury deposition “contributions” to watershed in the state of Nevada.  What made these “contributions” (Hint: these are near BMM) and how can the BLM “relieve pressure” on springs from this?

7)  It seems the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had recent concerns about the BLM’s lack of protection of water resources from other mining projects in the Elko BLM District:    and

8)  Have any extractive “uses” (mining, oil and gas, geothermal) in the Triple B HMA and nearby areas, been asked to curtail water usage during this severe drought?

9)  Is water from any of BLM’s water rights permits in the area being utilized for water for the wild horses?

I urge the BLM to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) and include maps showing water sources currently available to the wild horses, data and maps of any possible water contamination and water monitoring plans.  While an EA is being prepared, I urge the BLM to continue to haul water (and hay, if needed) to the wild horses you have a mandate to protect.

I also urge the BLM stop wasting tax payer money to use helicopters to remove wild horses from this HMA.   A wild horse only drinks 10-20 gallons of water a day, very little compared with the uses above, and they cause much less “degradation” to public lands.  If the BLM plans to leave only about 472 wild horses on almost 1,683,000 acres of the Triple B Herd Management Area, the BLM continues to “manage” the wild horses to extinction.

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