|Boulder City History
by Dennis McBride
Eldorado Valley Development
For most of Boulder City’s history, the broad sweep of Eldorado Valley has provided a long, peaceful approach from the city’s south. There wasn’t much going on out there in the town’s earliest days: the Kesterson Ranch once stood on the western edge of the valley, and in 1953 the pet cemetery was established. There was a water well on Dry Lake and the old Arrowhead Trail came around through Dutchman Pass and on to Searchlight and the Colorado River. Dry Lake served as Boulder City’s first golf driving range and airport, and generations of Boulder kids have sifted the puddles after rain for the long-tailed Apus that hatch there.
But ever since the 1950s pressure to develop this vast acreage has grown harder and harder to resist. Many kinds of development were proposed through the years, and though few actually happened, the possibility was always there that anything could be approved whether or not Boulder City wanted it.
The first significant proposal came in 1956 when Nevada Governor Charles Russell pushed for the state to acquire Eldorado Valley for a massive industrial development. In 1964, 1966, 1969, and again in 1986 housing developers offered to build a new city in the valley that would raise the population of Boulder City past 40,000. There were plans to build a commercial airport to relieve traffic at McCarran, and in the mid-1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission considered building an atom smasher in Eldorado Valley. A regional landfill and waste incinerators were suggested for the valley in the 1980s and ‘90s. There was even a plan at one time for Las Vegas to pump all its waste water through Railroad Pass and into Eldorado Valley to create an actual lake on Dry Lake that could be used to irrigate farms.
Aside from a couple of small gravel operations, it wasn’t until the 1980s and ‘90s that industrial development finally came to Eldorado Valley through unincorporated county lands on the northwest edge of the area: Tungsten Carbide and Pan Metals built facilities there, and Lopke Granite Products started the mining operation that’s been chewing away the McCullough Mountains ever since.
In part to have more control over what happened in Eldorado Valley, Boulder City bought it in 1995, promising that 80% of the land would serve as a desert tortoise preserve while much of the rest would provide a buffer to prevent development along the city’s western edge. Some land was set aside for a possible solar power facility, and some for recreational use. The Eldorado Valley accord was a promise to future generations meant to protect Boulder City from over-development and industrial pollution.
Whether that promise has been kept is a controversy that has broken more than one political career in town.
Sponsored by the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum.