recent study confirms what county leaders and residents have long suspected: The Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository becoming reality in nearby Nye County, Nev. will be bad business for Inyo.
Because tourism is the primary driver of the local economy, Gruen Gruen and Associates conducted surveys of visitors in Death Valley National Park to gauge likely socioeconomic impacts.
In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors last month, Claude Gruen told county leaders that Inyo could expect to see dramatic drops in tourist visitation, which would only worsen if there is a radiation leak at the site.
“Should the Yucca Mountain repository for high level nuclear waste become operational, its impacts on Inyo County’s people, economy and local public sector fiscal base will be unique in that these impacts will all be negative,” the report, “A County at Risk: the Socioeconomic Impacts of the Proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository on Inyo County,” states.
Gruen said that surveys conducted throughout Southeast Inyo show that, upon initial announcement of the repository’s opening, the county could expect to see visitation drop between 17.3 and 26.3 percent.
If the repository operates for 10 years or more with no incident of radiation release, visitation could improve, but would still be between 5 and 14.7 percent lower than current averages.
According to the study, if Yucca Mountain goes online, Death Valley National Park would lose between $16,141,000 (best case scenario) and $18,409,000 (worst case scenario) in tourist dollars.
Tracking that, Gruen said the county could expect to lose between 15 and 1,770 jobs, which would mean lost taxes for Inyo. Gruen said the revenue loss to the county treasury could range between $343,000 and a little more than $4 million.
“Not quantified in our analysis are losses stemming from investment and hiring decisions discouraged by the actual or perceived risk itself,” Gruen said. “Further, our analysis cannot quantify the full results of damage done to those local businesses that serve tourism jointly with other sources of demand, who will find their gross business receipts falling faster than their fixed costs as tourism demand declines.”
Gruen went on to say that there is no easy solution to the socioeconomic impacts to the county and, if Yucca Mountain does open, Inyo would probably be forced to abandon tourism as its main economic driver.
“The only option that would mitigate the risk to the economy and public fiscal base of Inyo County would be a successful diversification of the economy from its present reliance on tourism,” Gruen said.
The study suggests the county could look at utilizing natural resources in the area, including mining, solar and geothermal energy.
“Given the high level of federal and state land ownership in the county, this is only likely to occur if a concentrated effort is spearheaded and funded by the federal government to increase and speed up the use of the county’s natural resources,” Gruen said.
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius said that the study will be a useful tool for the county if the federal government decides to move forward with Yucca Mountain, which was placed on the back-burner by President Barack Obama earlier this year.
She said that, should the repository be brought back to life, Inyo could use the study to prove to the federal government that Inyo County will see negative impacts.
“This is certainly a tool that Inyo County was missing when discussing Yucca Mountain,” Arcularius said.