Senate Democrats

Heliport Bill Nears Final Passage

Measure Passes House/Senate Conference Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Senators Harry Reid and John Ensign to provide long-term viability for helicopter tour operators, reduce noise for home owners, and safeguard one of Nevada’s richest petroglyph sites is now one step closer to becoming law.

The measure has passed a joint House/Senate Conference Committee. It should win final approval from Congress early next month.

The bill will convey 230 acres of federal land to Clark County for a new heliport landing site and set guidelines for helicopter flight paths over the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area to ensure that flights avoid sensitive cultural resources and wildlife areas.

“The growth in southern Nevada continues to present new challenges,” Senator Reid said. “With this legislation we are able to balance the needs of local businesses and home owners while protecting one of our most valuable historical sites, the ancient petroglyphs at Sloan Canyon.”

“This legislation is a reasonable approach for air tour operators, residents and the natural resources in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area,” Ensign said. “We are planning five years ahead for our community’s needs, which is a remarkable feat given the growth in southern Nevada. I am confident this will go a long way in preserving the interests of the Clark County residents and local businesses in the years to come.”

The legislation will convey about a third of a square mile of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management to Clark County for dedicated use as a heliport. The land is located just south of the Henderson city limits and east of Interstate 15.

The bill will also ensure that flights steer clear of the highest concentrations of sensitive and special cultural resources and minimize the impact on the bighorn sheep and other wildlife that live in the McCullough Mountains. Any helicopter flight originating from and/or landing at this heliport would be required by law to fly no further than 5 miles north of the southernmost boundary of the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and at least 500 to 1000 feet above ground level while in the NCA.

The legislation sets a $3 per passenger fee for each flight that flies over the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. Two-thirds of the money collected will be made available for the protection of the cultural, wilderness, and wildlife resources in Nevada. One-third of the funds will be available to the Bureau of Land Management to support operations at the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and the Red Rock National Conservation Area. The bill also creates a process through which the conservation fee can be increased by up to 50 percent every ten years to ensure proper funding for high priority projects at Sloan Canyon and throughout Nevada.