Federal officials have closed a popular, spring-fed swimming hole about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, and it’s unclear when it might reopen.
Ash Springs has been closed to the public since July 6 because of safety concerns, said Victoria Barr, who heads up the Bureau of Land Management’s Caliente field office.
The warm waters flowing from the spring system just off U.S. Highway 93 in Lincoln County attract crowds to the BLM pool and an adjacent pond on the site.
Barr said the springs were closed after a law enforcement ranger noticed a pool wall looked ready to collapse on a swimming child.
“Right now, conditions are unsafe, and we’re worried about someone getting hurt from falling rocks,” she said. “We’re still trying to figure out what we need to do with it now.”
Fixing the problem isn’t easy. A pair of federally protected fish — the Pahranagat roundtail chub and the White River springfish — live in the water flowing from the spring system. Before any work can be done, the BLM must consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and conduct an environmental review that will include input from the public.
Repairing the pool also could require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors construction activities all wetlands and navigable waters.
Barr could not say how long the process might take, but she said recent “sequester” cuts to the federal budget could slow the environmental review and any construction.
“I think it’s fair to say weeks at this point,” she said of the duration of the closure.
Lincoln County Commissioner Ed Higbee said the pool at Ash Springs is “very popular” — so much so that in recent years local residents have had a hard time using it because of the crowds from outside the area.
“That’s a great asset to us, and I hate to see people not be able to use it,” Higbee said.
The 59-year-old grew up in the Pahranagat Valley and used to swim in the spring water as a child. “Management” of Ash Springs is a fairly recent phenomenon, within the last 15 or 20 years, he said.
“There was a lot of time when no one did anything with it,’’ Higbee said. “It was just natural.”
Local officials have talked about trying to get the BLM to transfer control of Ash Springs to Lincoln County, Higbee said. But considering the amount of paperwork required just to repair a pool wall and protect some endangered fish, he acknowledged such a transfer seems unlikely.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.