In a fitting start to a patriotic weekend, Reps. David Valadao (R-CA) and Susie Lee (D-NV) chose to spend the Friday of Memorial Day weekend on an American Congressional Exchange trip. The pair toured Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District including a critical minerals mine, an innovation hub, and Lake Mead.
The two members represent neighboring states with much in common, including strong agricultural production and water resource challenges—fittingly, the trip came just a few days after the historic water agreement between California, Nevada, and Arizona.
The day began with a tour of Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine, a critical minerals mine that procures elements crucial to magnets used in the burgeoning electric vehicles (EV) industry. Mountain Pass leaders highlighted the challenges they face, including the stranglehold China currently has on this market. For example, a remarkable 15% of the world’s materials for EV magnets come from the Mountain Pass mine but are subsequently shipped to China for processing.
The second stop was Black Fire Innovation in Las Vegas, the centerpiece of applied research and innovation for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV). By combining the power of big tech with the research resources of UNLV, the center accelerates progress in the hospitality, gaming, and entertainment industries. The two members toured the technology incubator, which is focused on fast-tracking the testing process for new innovations, and heard from leaders how the federal government can bolster their innovation efforts.
Next stop: Lake Mead, where guests can see the drop in water level over the past 23 years, which is obvious from the dramatically different coloration in the rocky shoreline. Included in the visit were officials from the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the Colorado River Commission of Nevada. Looking out over the lake, Reps. Lee and Valadao discussed the significance of the trip along with how to balance environmental protection and future water yields with agriculture, economic development, and population growth.
Finally, the day concluded at the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center. Both members were impressed with this federally funded “fusion center,” where law enforcement across 20 agencies shares information in real-time. The center supports local, regional, and national partners and accesses threats and suspicious activity reporting to prevent acts of terrorism and targeted violence.
Reps. Lee and Valadao’s trip was the third ACE trip of 2023, with more planned throughout the summer.
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