Geothermal in Ocotillo Wells

The BLM has published an Environmental Assessment (EA) to drill up to four geothermal test wells in Ocotillo Wells. There is a test well you can see that was drilled about 12 years ago along Poleline Road just south of Arroyo Salada. The 150-page document analyzes the effects of the project on a variety of resources including recreation. The bad news is that I don’t think we, as off-roaders, can do anything to stop the project. The good news is that where they want to do it should not bother us off-roaders at all. Should it be decided that a geothermal facility is viable, another formal process will need to be completed for the actual wells. One thing working against us is that there is lithium in the hot water down there and part of the desire to develop geothermal is to also pull lithium out of the water to sell.

Ocotillo Wells is a state park and it is managed as one. There is a memorandum of understanding between State Parks and BLM that allows State Parks to manage the BLM land in that portion of the park. The BLM still owns the mineral rights and some of the surface rights of their land and they are required to allow geothermal development if an applicant requests it. You may remember I wrote about the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in the past. I wrote comments asking that Ocotillo Wells be exempted from renewable energy projects like the BLM open areas to the north are. When the final DRECP came out I saw that my request was not followed, so I formally protested and was turned down. I think they knew there is hot water down there and want to be able to develop it should it be feasible.

They want to drill on the east side of the park close to Highway 86 between the Salton City dump and Salton City Airport. If you look at a map that shows the different ownerships in that area, you will see State Parks, BLM and private parcels. The BLM actually owns about 30 square miles in Ocotillo Wells. This project is looking at two of those square miles. On land east of Poleline Road we are required to stay on authorized routes and there are no routes in the area they want to drill. The EA is very thorough and it requires the project to look for all kinds of impacts relating to lizards, birds, plants, paleontological, archaeological, dust, water, visual and noise. The plan is here: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/1501368/20006097/250007153/Truckhaven_EA_Final_508.pdf. The comment period ends November 24. If you are unable to download it and want to read it (it is 13 mb), just email me at info@sdorc.org and I will email it to you.

 

Joshua Tree

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the people who brought you the trouble in the Glamis Sand Dunes with Peirson’s milkvetch, in Ocotillo Wells with the Flat-tailed Horned Lizard and the snowy plover in Oceano Dunes (Pismo), is asking to have the Joshua tree listed as threatened in the California endangered species list. If the tree gets listed, it may not directly affect us much, since federal land (BLM) is not affected by a State listing. What worries me is that a State listing could lead to a Federal Listing, which will cause us a lot of trouble on BLM land.

In the 79-page petition on page 19 I found this: “Due to the species’ patchy distribution within its range, highly variable population density (4 to 840 trees per acre) and lack of range-wide population surveys, a reliable estimate of Joshua tree population size is not available (USFWS 2018). Similarly, no range-wide population trends have been documented.” This petition is to the California Fish and Wildlife agency. The way it will go is it will go before the commission, who will determine one of three outcomes: dismissal, further study or listing. We feel listing is not warranted and will be watching this and submitting comments at the appropriate time.

 

Lost Lizard Fun Run

The 15th Lost Lizard Fun Run is history and what a great event it was. We had a large turn out and no problems along with a great route and a big raffle that included a winch, set of tires, a big screen TV and 25 separate kids prizes each with a smores kit and other toys. Our winning best hand was five fives! I have to hand it to Audrey Mason who coordinated all the details of the event. Audrey, you rock! Also to her husband KJ, who did great work on the route. A big shout out to Rob and Kathleen Smith who setup base camp, stored raffle prizes, and so much more. Can’t forget Jim and Jan McGarvie, M.A. Hillier who handled the pre-registrations, Nicole, Rick, Desert Doug, Jean, Renee, Desiree, Chris Boyer, Chad and Deana, Lolo and LESAR. A big thanks to our checkpoint crews: Outback 4×4 club, Vey’s, Tierra Del Sol 4×4 club, Creeps and Jeeps 4×4 club and Fire and Ice Heating and Air Conditioning. Checkpoints give life to the event and we had great ones this year. A big thanks to Alexia and Neil from the BLM for helping us put on a great event.