By Nick Worth
District IV Navajo County Supervisor David Tenney reported on his recent trip to Washington, D.C., at last Thursday’s RealAZ meeting in Snowflake.
Tenney told the gathering of business, educational and civic representatives that he and RealAZ Executive Director Hunter Moore met with Arizona’s congressional delegation while in Washington for the National Association of Counties meeting.
Tenney noted that between the two of them, they met with Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick, David Schwiekert and Matt Salmon, as well as Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. They also met with Jim Peña, deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and Robert Bonnie, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Tenney told the group the purpose of the visits was to advocate for funds to “bridge the gap” between the White Mountain Stewardship Contract, which ends in August, and the second phase of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), which is due to start thinning work in the White Mountains area in about four years.
Tenney noted that there is a lack of acreage ready for thinning. He said 56,000 acres were burned in the Wallow Fire, so there is now no “shelf stock” acreage to act as a cushion.
Moore told The Tribune-News the White Mountain Stewardship Contract came about because wood based industries wanted a long-term guarantee of a supply of wood before they spent the money to locate in the area. He said the 10-year stewardship contract had a goal of getting industry back into the forest, along with a goal of forest restoration.
The funds Tenney and Moore are advocating for would enable the Forest Service to get acreage ready for thinning. He said environmental clearance work, marking of trees for thinning, monitoring the logging operations and all the related administrative costs are included in the funding needs.
“This is the funding the Forest Service uses to get the acres ready,” Moore said. Once that is accomplished, he said, the Forest Service can issue task orders and put the jobs out for bid.
Moore said the goal is to ensure enough acreage to keep the wood based industries going.
Tenney told the group that more than 20,000 acres of forest need to be thinned in order to support local wood-related industries.
“We don’t want to see these saw mills and pellet mills that have come here go away,” Tenney said. “That’s what we’ve been advocating for.”
He said the 4FRI project cannot be counted on to take care of the thinning needs in the White Mountain area.
“4FRI doesn’t affect what we’re doing here with the White Mountain Stewardship cntract,” said Tenney.
Tenney said his and Moore’s message was well received by the congressional delegation and that he felt positive about the visits.
“I feel like the lines of communication are good going both ways,” he said. He also said they have received good support from local forest managers.
In other business March 13, RealAZ:
* Heard a presentation on Preferred Sands by mine manager Ben File.
File told the gathering Preferred Sands is located in Sanders and on the Navajo Reservation. The mine and sand processing facilities are part of the Preferred Sands company, which is the third largest producer in the U.S. of “fracking” sand for the oil and natural gas industry.
According to File, the mine is located 6.5 miles east of Sanders and is strategically located to provide sand to the southwestern United States.
In fracking, oil producers pump water and sand under pressure into horizontally-drilled wells, some as long as 20,000 feet, where it fractures the rock, releasing the oil or gas.
He said Preferred Sands can provide six different finished products for its customers. The mine and processing facility run 24 hours per day, four days per week, and currently employ 45 full-time employees. At peak production last spring there were 115 full-time employees on the payroll.
The company can produce from 4,000 to 5,000 tons of finished sands per day.
Asked how many years he expected the sand deposits could last, File replied, “Centuries. We have access to mineral rights on 10,000 acres of land. We go through seven acres per year.”
He said Preferred Sands currently sells within the U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico, and is hoping to start exporting to Argentina.
* Heard an update on the City of Show Low ACA Rural Development Grant from City Manager Steve North.
North said the grant would be used to install a water line to a pellet mill currently located in Show Low.
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By Nick Worth