Reid bill would block Sloan Hills gravel pit plan

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid on Wednesday moved to block development of a major gravel quarry that has drawn complaints from residents at the southern end of the Las Vegas Valley.

Reid, D-Nev., introduced a bill he said would put a stop to the proposed Sloan Hills quarry on federal land outside Henderson. It would withdraw the 640-acre site off Las Vegas Boulevard South from being made available for mining purposes.

"The potential negative impacts of the proposed operation far outweigh any benefit the mine may provide," Reid said. "This legislation makes sure that the proposed gravel operations at Sloan Hills will not go forward."

About 400 residents protested the quarry at a public hearing in April 2009, most hailing from Sun City Anthem. More than 5,500 people have signed petitions against it.

The site had been designated by the Bureau of Land Management as suitable for sand and gravel development in plans dating to the late 1990s, and the site also was in Clark County and Henderson land use plans.

But in the intervening years, metropolitan Clark County has grown into the area that was once was miles from nowhere.

The proposed quarry is about three miles from the Anthem development, and slightly farther from other Henderson neighborhoods where residents have concerns about dirt and dust pollution, noise, truck traffic and the effect on their home values.

Two companies, Mexico-based Cemex and Service Rock Products of California, want to lease the BLM property, which contains high-quality construction aggregates that are used to make concrete.

Plans call for an open pit mining operation that would cart off millions of tons of sand and rock over 20 years.

"Citizens from all over Clark County have rallied against this project because of its potential effect on the health of residents and the toll that the blasting operations would have on an otherwise peaceful community," Reid said in a statement that accompanied his bill.

"The dust kicked up by the proposed gravel operation would undoubtedly complicate the current air quality challenges in the Las Vegas Valley and would be particularly troublesome for members of nearby, age-restricted communities that have seniors already suffering from respiratory problems," Reid said.

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is preparing to introduce a corresponding bill in the House this week, spokesman Stewart Bybee said.

Reps. Dina Titus and Shelley Berkley, both D-Nev., said they will be co-sponsors and will work for its passage.

"An open pit mine would cause increased noise, diminished air quality and more traffic that would seriously impact the quality of life for residents of the community," Titus said in a statement.

The BLM is preparing a draft environmental impact statement on the plan, and Reid last month asked the agency to set aside extra time for the public to comment on it.