This is a copy of the latest of the direct emails sent out to SPA members. If you want to be on that receiving list, send a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this communication I will cover a few elements (Toilet Management; Recreational Water Usage; Hazardous Material Storage; Auto Repair Support Services) of the Saline Valley Warm Springs Management Plan/EIS in the hopes of unraveling some of the nuances of the alternatives and developing a position statement that might help guide SPA members toward making constructive comments with a unified voice. I want to qualify this communication by saying that these are my personal thoughts as a 34-year member of the Saline community, and do not reflect an official SPA position. As SPA works toward crafting a position paper, your comments and feedback on these discussions are a valuable asset that will allow SPA to speak for you!
While I have been more or less discussing the elements of the EIS in the order they are presented, I am skipping the "Chicken Strip" Airstrip pending hearing from the RAF who have an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) agreement with the Park Service as to their position. SPA will likely support the position of the RAF, and it is appropriate that they take the lead on this element. I am postponing the elements on Stewardship for later.
Once again, the full set of elements and alternatives along with opportunity to comment can be found at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=297&projectID=39438&documentID=56823 and I am including a PDF file of the alternatives as an attachment to this email.
Any of the current alternatives (with the exception of the Restoration Alternative) seem reasonable. The Park Service "gets" that they need to be more responsive to the need for pumping the outhouses, and I believe they will be more proactive in this regard. SPA has stressed during several meetings with the Park Service the need for additional facilities at Palm Springs and I think they "get" this as well. They are currently suggesting moving the south vault at Lower Springs to Palm Springs. I wonder why they don't just "spring" for a new vault for Palm Springs. Perhaps a double hole vault? I recommend voicing your opinion clearly on this issue. Follow your heart, for your ass is on the line.
Recreational Water Usage
In my opinion, we need to voice very strongly our desire to see No Action taken on this element. I might only suggest the rewording of one bullet point, with respect to "introduction of human bodily waste into bathing pool is prohibited." I propose: Anyone who has consumed a six-pack of beer will be required to take a two-minute break from soaking every thirty minutes. (Okay, I have been far too serious for far too long and I am just starting to get a little goofy here … bare with me please!)
Full compliance with water quality and public health standards (routine testing of the source water), monitored by camp hosts is a can of worms that is so vague many people in the Park Service concede this would be impractical to implement. SPA is actively working to investigate and untangle the implications of this alternative. The camp hosts are not qualified or credentialed to take such tests and measurements of the water quality. This would fall to the state and be cost prohibitive. The county has removed themselves from any jurisdiction or involvement on these federal lands. We would rather the state not get involved, and the state would prefer to not be involved. It may be that in the long term, a simple solution might be to cover the sources and make them secure against inadvertent contamination. Let us let this compromise evolve in time, and in the meantime urge that the status quo be maintained and no action be taken, as there has never been any cause for concern or known health issues resulting from the use of the waters at Saline Valley. If you drink the water there, point that out in your comments!
Hazard Materials Storage
Auto Repair Support Services
I believe these issues to be closely related in the minds of the designers of the Management Plan. The Park will do what the Park will do in this regard. I will inquire as to what they are identifying as Hazardous Materials and relay that in a future email.
We all agree that auto repair support services are welcome and appreciated. I have heard from the Park that they consider the current Host's Compound to be excessive, and I am sure they will want to make sure that codes are being complied with. When I asked, the Park Administration could not immediately identify what those codes are.
I hear a lot of panic from people about what will happen if the "shop" closes … price of tows!, OMG!! Here is my two-cents: people should be prepared to take responsibility for their actions on the road and the state of repair of their vehicle. Everyone knows (or should and soon will) what they are getting into driving into the valley, and should be ready for the consequences. There is a lot of lee way (sorry … no pun initially intended) in that statement. I was host for seven years and got everyone pretty well patched up with a stacked roll-around tool box and a small cabinet of ATF, Oil, and epoxy. Oh yes, a decent pile of spare tires that the BLM made me remove when I left. If I could not fix a car, I had a tow bar handy, or a strap, or we went out and got a trailer, and we hauled the car out ourselves, generally for a small gas donation, beer, and a day of entertainment without paying $2000 to Lone Pine. If services are scaled back, it will not be the end of the world, but it might be the beginning of people becoming a bit more sensitive and aware of their driving habits!
That's it for my editorializing today. I have homework to do: find out about those Hazardous Materials
Please remember to give us your feedback as we work toward the Position Paper many of you have asked about. We are continuing to pursue a 30-day extension on the comment period, but must proceed currently on the assumption that such a paper should be drawn up in the next few weeks for member review. If we speak with one voice, our voice will carry further!
Stay tuned, more to come.