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Ray Bryars: A small aircraft airport, really?

This local resident takes issue with an attempt to mischaracterize the nature of the Nevada County Airport in order to minimize its importance or potential impact in the Idaho-Maryland Mine project Draft Environmental Impact Report.

This opinion piece was originally published in The Union.


I’m gradually working my way through the Idaho-Maryland Mine project draft environmental report and can’t believe the amount of misinformation that I am encountering.

The latest is in the Hazards and Hazardous Materials section, on page 4.7-10, under the heading of “Nearest Airports.” The first paragraph states, “The closest public use airport to the project site is the Nevada County Air Park, a small aircraft airport, located east of Brunswick Road and north of Loma Rica Drive, less than one mile (approximately 4,000 feet) from the Brunswick Industrial Site.”

By referencing “a small aircraft airport,” it appears that there is an attempt to minimize the importance of the Nevada County Airport. There is no acknowledgment that this is a major base for the U.S. Forest Service and CalFire. The location places the airport 20 minutes from other airports, which during fire season provides robust coverage of Nevada County and adjacent counties. The county website,, has the following information regarding the airport:

“Nevada County Airport is home to the Forest Service and CalFire Grass Valley Air Attack Base. This center of wildland firefighting from the air is the permanent location for two Grumman S-2 air tankers that drop fire retardant, and two air attack aircraft that coordinate the efforts of the tankers and other firefighting assets and personnel. Aircraft from Nevada County Airport are on standby, ready to respond to fires throughout the foothills and mountains. When larger fires occur nearer to the airport, many other firefighting aircraft use the airport as a base for operations. Search and Rescue and med-evac aircraft also use the airport year-round for public safety missions.” In addition, I found the airport is used for law enforcement, business, transportation, tourism and education for youth through programs such as the Young Eagles Program.

It is shocking that Rise Gold ignores the huge positive benefit that the airport provides by stating that it is a “small aircraft airport.”

Does Rise Grass Valley want to minimize the importance of the airport so that we will ignore the fact that they will be transporting and storing explosives within 4,000 feet of the airport and right under some of the flight paths?

In the fall of 2021 we had two potentially disastrous fires just below the airport, plus the River Fire just a few miles south. Imagine what it would have been like if the planes that were fighting these fires became grounded due to the possibility of explosives being ignited. Many of us witnessed the great job that the firefighters did and are very aware of the extremely brisk spread that was only brought under control by rapid action by many brave firefighters and the pilots from the Nevada County Airport.

It amazes me that Nevada County allows a penny stock speculator with his history of running away from the Banks Island Gold toxic spill in British Columbia, Canada, followed by declaring bankruptcy, can be allowed to hold hostage the residents of Grass Valley and Nevada County.

There must be a way to stop wasting everyone’s time and put an end to the possibility of re-opening the Idaho-Maryland Mine forever. I implore our county supervisors to do the right thing for the community and end this whack-a-mole madness. The airport is vital to the safety, vitality and future of Nevada County.

Ray Bryars lives in Nevada City.


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