GOLDFIELD, NEV., FEB. 12 -- Unpopulated Bullfrog County, created from scrub land in a bid to assure the state of federal dollars if the government builds a nuclear-waste dump in Nevada, violates the state constitution, a judge has ruled.
Judge David Zenoff said Thursday that the county stretched state law "every which way" and left too many constitutional issues "hanging in the air."
Nye County, from which unpopulated Bullfrog County was carved, had challenged the 1987 legislature's creation of the state's 18th county. Zenoff, a former state Supreme Court justice brought in to hear the case, issued the ruling after less than 30 minutes of oral arguments in District Court.
Zenoff said the governor's authority to appoint three commissioners for the county ran "contrary to the democratic process" and contributed to its failure to provide representative government.
"Obviously, we're very pleased," Nye County District Attorney Phil Dunleavy said. "It confirms what we've been saying all along. As far as I'm concerned, Bullfrog County is dead and it should be."
Attorney Frank Daykin, representing the legislature and Bullfrog County, said the Legislative Commission, scheduled to meet Wednesday, must decide whether to appeal Zenoff's ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Legislators created the county out of a 144-square-mile chunk of Nye County as a way of giving the state control over federal funds available for the proposed dump. Yucca Mountain in southern Nevada is one of three sites under consideration.
If Bullfrog County had been selected, the U.S. government would have had to compensate the county -- which would have been state-run with no residents -- an estimated $8 million to $25 million a year, officials said. Nye County stands to lose revenue should the new county remain on the books.
"Personally, I hope the legislature doesn't appeal it because it's brought enough embarrassment to Nevada and should be allowed to lay in peace," Dunleavy said.