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Geothermal Drilling Rears It's Ugly Head at OW Again And More

There are a few issues going on in San Diego and Imperial Valley that are of interest to local off-roaders now.  In December I went to El Centro to the Desert Advisory Council meeting to hear what's going on with the BLM in the desert.  There were two topics of interest. First, there was a presentation by Ormat, a geothermal company.  They are interested in putting geothermal on the very east side of Ocotillo Wells.  Turns out they own property along the dump road  and are considering that location for a facility.  Before any decisions are made, they are going to do some investigating to see how much hot water is down there.  Right now, nothing is solid with this potential project, so we will continue to monitor the updates. 

Second topic was the DRECP.  This is the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Program.  In it, a variety of agencies  (BLM, Fish and Wildlife, etc) have examined the 10 million acres of California BLM desert and decided which areas will be available for renewable energy, transmission lines and which areas will be protected.  The plan has been under construction for a couple years and it just passed the final phase.  DAC member Randy Banis made a power point presentation showing which areas are getting renewable, transmission and protection.  He stressed there is a major problem here.  That when you put all these overlays up togethere, all the limited use areas are covered.  This is a real shame, because exploring way "out there" is the most fundemental joy of seeing the desert.  Yes, the open areas are being kept out of this, but there is so much more to the desert than open areas.  

 

The final publication of the DRECP marked the beginning of a 30 day protest period.  I am sure a variety of recreation and conservation groups have protested.  I personally submitted a protest on behalf of the Friends of Ocotillo Wells (I am vice presedent of FoOW)  I protested that they included the eastern side of Ocotillo Wells as available for geothermal energy development.  I'll keep you posted on whether my protest is accepted or not.

 

The Imperial Sand Dunes also has an advisory council and I sit on that.  We had a meeting in December to see how the dunes are doing mid season.  The BLM makes three reports, operational management, emergency medical and law enforcement.  Managment is going well.  They continue to push sand off the roads, have the trash dumped and maintain the signs around the PMV critical habitat.  They have 4 full time people maintaining these signs!  In emergency medical, there have been fewer injuries, but the ones that happen have been more severe.  At Thanksgiving, there were four fatalities in the dunes.  One drowning in the canal, one alone crash of an ATV and two separate head on collisions.  The BLM continue to use their two rescue buggies for emergencies in both the north and south dunes.  Law enforcement has been busy, as you might guess.  They have a deal with the forest service and you may see forest service rangers out there doing law enforcement on big weekends.  The BLM set up a checkpoint on the sand highway by 78 on the big weekends and cought a few people doing things wrong.  They arrested a couple DUI's and took in an illegal alien.  Funny thing about this checkpoint is you don't have to go through it.  You are legally welcome to go out in the dunes around it.  (I wouldn't go immediatly around it)

 

After the presentations, we discussed the Gecko Ranger Station.  This station is very outdated and the BLM very much would like a modern facility constructed.  The subgroup has begun a process, working with the BLM and United Desert Gateway to begin the planning steps for such a station.  While it will undoubtedly take years to complete, that will never happen if we don't start.

 

Did anyone see the article on the dunes in the San Diego Union Tribune?  I was interviewed by the author and we spoke for at least half an hour.  He kept trying to get me to admit that it is a lawless, crazy place.  I didn't budge because its not.  I made a number of points with him and stressed that even though a few people were hurt, died and arrested, statistically the numbers are not much different from any population of 100,000 people (that is appproximately how many people visited the dunes over Thanksgiving).  I stressed while there were a few people that had problems, 99% of the visitors had a great time.  The article turned out to be very possitive for off-roaders.

 

While talking about the dunes, there is still a legal action by the CBD against the recreational area management plan going.  It is sort of stalled right now and those in the know think it probably won't go anywhere, but you never know what will happen until its over. The Cleveland National Forest is going through a process now to close routes that have been identified on the ground that are not in the official route system.  Early last year I wrote comments at the scoping (or beginning) phase of this action.  They recently came out with the draft of what they want to do and surprise!  They want to close Carveacre Road!  This is the road that goes from Lion's Valley Road up Mt Lawson to Pancake Rock.  (Named by San Diego 4 Wheelers who put on a pancake breakfast there).  I have asked a variety of like minded folks to comment against this closure.  The comment period ended before this was published or I would ask all of you to comment.  If you like SDORC on Facebook or are on our email list, you heard about this and how to comment.  If you care, but aren't getting our dispatches, please go to sdorc.org and give us your email.  (We don't send that many, one or two a month)

 

CORVA heard that the plaintiffs in the Ocotillo Wells lawsuit want to review some evidence.  (I am also a CORVA director) We decided that we want to send our lawyer to this meeting to make sure no funny business takes place.  Problem is it will cost money that we didn't budget for.  We spoke to Desiree Bates, who runs the Fight for Ocotillo Wells group (different from Friends of Ocotillo Wells, of which Desiree and I are directors).  Desiree decided to open a GoFundMe drive and promote it on Facebook.  In one week we raised the money we need to send our guy to the meeting.

 

There are a variety of organizations working to keep off-roading alive.  Please join a few and like them all on Facebook, as well as give them your email address so you can find out when we need you to do something to help.

See you on the trail,

Ed Stovin

president SDORC

 



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