The California Department of Toxic Substances Control is accepting written comments until Oct. 11 on the Army's request to continue the annual detonation of thousands of tons of bombs, land mines and artillery shells at an isolated California base about 55 miles northwest of Reno. Local residents, politicians in California and Nevada and the tribe have long complained about the explosions, which critics said intensified during the mid-1990s with the closure of other bases. Opponents claim the open burnings may be to blame for elevated cancer rates in Lassen County, Calif., and at the Paiute reservation about 35 miles northeast of Reno. Army officials defend the practice, saying it's safe and no toxins ever leave the base. The 30-year-old practice has been banned at other military bases. Environmentalists, Native Americans and rural residents sued the Army in April, saying the explosions and burning of munitions at the base near Herlong, Calif., hurt the environment and shake homes for miles around. Special crews at the base explode or burn about 12,000 tons a year of mostly old munitions, including ordnance from the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars.
Sierra Pacific Resources is selling its water division to concentrate on electricity and natural gas distribution. It merged with Las Vegas-based Nevada Power Co., and is in the process of acquiring Portland General Electric. The sale raises the possibility of outsiders becoming a major player in decisions involving one of the West's most politically complicated water systems - the Truckee River. Sierra Pacific got in the water business in 1922 when its predecessor, the Truckee River General Electric Co., acquired Reno Power Light and Water Co. For the past 10 years, Sierra Pacific has been involved in delicate negotiations with the states of Nevada and California, the tribe and the Interior Department to come up with a new agreement for operating the Truckee River. "Whoever buys that company would be obligated to assume (Sierra's) position in the negotiations," Bob Firth, who worked for Sierra Pacific for 30 years and now owns a water rights consulting business, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Any sale would have to be approved by state utility regulators. The company's water division, which serves 71,000 homes and businesses in the Reno-Sparks area, had revenues of $54.3 million in 1999, miniscule when compared to the company's total 1999 revenues of $1.7 billion.