with bridge design

By JULIE FAIRMAN, Laughlin Nevada Times

LAUGHLIN — Just two weeks after receiving word that ENN Energy will no be building a solar manufacturing and generating facility south of Laughlin, Clark County is moving forward with finding other uses for those 9,000 acres.

“I’ve talked to the folks down in Laughlin, and they’re very anxious for us to begin aggressively marketing this parcel and the potential for it,” said Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak during the July 2 Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Nancy Lipski, Clark County’s director of Comprehensive Planning, and her staff are preparing to solicit proposals from international real estate firms capable of marketing the property - in whole or in part - to Fortune 500 companies. Once a firm has been selected, it will begin searching for entities that are economically viable and that are ready to “hit the ground running” in terms of construction and development, she said.

Sisolak agreed. “Laughlin is not interested in piecing this off and selling it to somebody with the idea of holding it and letting them profit from the speculation of it,” he said. “They want to see something built on it and developed on it to create economic development and jobs in the community.”

ENN and Clark County entered into a purchase agreement for the property in December 2011, contingent upon the Chinese-based solar cell manufacturing firm returning to the county within 18 months with commitments from three utility companies to purchase power generated at the facility. On June 18, ENN sent a letter to the county advising that it was unable to fulfill that requirement and, therefore, terminating its contract with Clark County.

Prior to ENN’s arrival, the county and the Laughlin Town Manager’s office actively pursued the economic development of the property, which straddles Needles Highway.

“There have been numerous other alternative power companies - solar and wind - that have talked to me about potentially using that (land),” said Sisolak. “It’s very difficult for anyone to use 9,000 acres. Even ENN was going to develop 3,000 or 4,000 and keep the others to develop in the future. The thought is maybe we’ll get nine companies, each one of them with 1,000 acres or something, instead of trying to get everything.”

Related to a discussion about the land is a conversation about a second bridge connecting Laughlin with Bullhead City and the Mohave Valley.

“Are we going to coordinate this with the bridge discussion we had?” asked Sisolak. “Because the bridge discussion is clearly going to impact the uses of the property.” Lipski interjected that any contract to purchase the property would have to include a right-of-way to connect Needles Highway with the bridge.

The potential for constructing a second bridge between the two communities has been ongoing for about 20 years, explained Denis Cedarburg, director of Clark County’s Public Works Department, at the July 2 meeting.

In 2005, the Federal Highway Administration earmarked $18 million towards the construction of a bridge. The county worked with the Regional Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration regarding several proposed locations for the second span. “In the end, the FHA only blessed one of the alignments; that was the farthest south alignment, the parkway alignment,” said Cedarburg.

“The one drawback is that the bridge cost is about $45 to $50 million. We only have about half of that money right now,” continued Cedarburg. “The bridge would have to be built in phases. We believe that’s do-able and possible. So we would use the initial funding that we have from the FHA and some of the funding we currently have in the Ft. Mojave Development Fund to initiate the first phase of that project.”

In response to a question from Commissioner Mary Beth Scow about whether the funds are available to finish the project, Cedarburg said, “Technically, you have to show that the bridge would be fully funded and completed over a 25- to 30-year period. So the first phase we can do. Looking out beyond that, you can put it on a program and plan it for funding in the future, and we believe that’s possible and do-able, and that’s typically what they do with large projects.” He added that the environmental assessment is valid for a period of 20 to 25 years.

The next step, said Cedarburg, is for the county to work with the FHA regarding a final design for the project. “Commissioner Sisolak has asked us to take the lead and move forward with that, and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.

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