Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Visit to the BrightSource Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System site on March 10, 2010.

For once, this blogger really doesn’t know where to begin, so I guess I’ll
just write this in a trip report format.

My day started with checking out of the Goldstrike Hotel and Casino in
Jean, Nevada at about 0700. By the way, my room had two queen size beds,
nice size bathroom with coffeemaker and hair dryer(obviously no use to me!),
tv and hutch, and a nice writing table and chairs. My price with a bus driver
discount was around $25. Great room for the price.

Next I drove down to stateline for a stop at the Carls Jr for a breakfast burger combo
with a coke classic. I already had my one liter water bottle in the car. While sitting
in the restaurant, I perused the Ivanpah Biological Mitigation file and a USGS map
of the area, trying to locate the route I would take.

My plan was to drive north on Colosseum Rd and cut over, if possible, to the site
of the 433 acre biological mitigation area on the north side of Ivanpah 3, and start
there, working my way down and leaving the car there. After crossing the power line service road, the dirt road became covered with sharp rocks, and I couldn’t chance
cutting my tires. The power line road was full of deep sand and appeared impassible
with my passenger car, a 2002 Chrysler Concorde LXI. See my March 13 blog post to
watch that video.

Now I had a problem, as I was nowhere near that location and would have to go it
on foot cross-country to get anywhere. The sun was bright and even though my
laptop was in my day pack, I figured that I might not be able to see the screen, so I
went on using my memory. I thought I was in Ivanpah 1, but after looking over the
maps later, I was right in Ivanpah 2.

After looking around I decided to hike over to the metamorphic hill, and climb it. From
the summit, I could look out and and figure the lay of the land, and make my next
move. I knew I would be able then to overlay the map in my memory onto the actual
scene in front of me. And along the way, I would have plenty of photo and video

So off I went, trekking overland through the creosote filled playas toward the meta-
morphic hills.ivanpahfieldtrip 004


As you can see in the above photo, to traverse this type of terrain, you really can’t
go in a straight line, you must pick your way through the landscape, taking advantage
of the spots without vegetation, and this takes time and some thought to best direction
to go. Along the way I encountered many washes, innumerable, such as the one below.
These photos are of the same wash, looking up the slope toward Clark Mountain and
downhill toward the freeway.
ivanpahfieldtrip 002

Clark Mtn above, and toward freeway next picture below.

ivanpahfieldtrip 003

In the above photo, please note all the animal tracks in the sandy wash, these really
stand out in this photo due to angle of the sun’s rays coming in. Here are a couple
of additional animal track photos taken in the washes in this area.

ivanpahfieldtrip 007

The next shot are tracks made by a different animal I believe.

ivanpahfieldtrip 009

Another thing I noted was the amount of animal scat deposited, it seemed
enough to open a fertilizer business!

ivanpahfieldtrip 010

Here is another track photo, I am unable to identify the animal that made this track and it is all over the washes,
any guesses?

ivanpahfieldtrip 014

Folks, there are simply an overwhelming number of washes in this area traversed by
me and each and every wash was full of animal tracks, and/or animal scat. I commented
on the following video, that it was like an animal highway through here.

There were also a variety of plants encountered along the way, here are a few.
ivanpahfieldtrip 013 
 Below is a real nice juvenile barrel cactus, I believe.

ivanpahfieldtrip 019

One wash I remember because the edges were quite tall, about 2-3 feet, and I
noticed the soil appeared to be damp from top to bottom. I thought, man, a flash
flood just came through here, and thought about how many heliostats that flood
would have taken out out, even if the ground was graded and packed. This Ivanpah 2
is right in the middle of a playa riddled with an unbelievable amount of gullies and washes!
Here is a photo of the wash in question:
ivanpahfieldtrip 006

And a video talking about it:

Anyway, I continued on toward the metamorphic hill and when I got right up to it
I shot this video of plants clinging to life on the rocky hill and pointing out that this
is prime GILA MONSTER territory.

By now it had started to warm up and I took off my jacket. I had removed my gloves
long ago, however, I kept my knit cap on my head to prevent sunburn. As mentioned
in a video, I decided not to attempt a climb of the main metamorphic hill as it was too
steep for this old bus driver,so I headed on. As I continued on my journey, I spied a
saddle or pass between the steep hill and a lower,gentler one, or so it seemed.
Off I went, making my way up the pass and then the at least 10% grade up to the top of the gentler hill adjacent to the left of the main hill.

Here’s a very short video of the view from the saddle:

And one from the top of the hill:

The above video has a panoramic shot going from Clark Mountain looking out over Ivanpah3
and the biological mitigation area to Stateline Pass and then on to stateline where I point out
the 500 megawatt natural gas peaker plant which puts out way more power with a much smaller
footprint than this ISEGS.


In this next video, I start heading down the ridgeline toward the next hilltop
pointing out the various plants growing on the loose lava type rock:

I ended up climbing across the next hill and running out of the energy needed
to climb up the next hill after that, so I carefully went down the backside of the
hill and started working my way around it back toward the way I came. I ended
up at the far tip of the smallest hill to the left, where I took this video and confessed
to violating the cardinal rule of desert travel, when you drink 1/2 of your water
supply, it is time to head back. I started my return trip with only 1/3 left!
I also panned toward and talked about the biological mitigation area and the new
distances from the project boundaries to the Mojave National Preserve and the
Stateline Wilderness.

One thing before I continue. I believe I saw one bighorn track, one hoofprint
in about the only soft spot on the hilltop, it was mostly loose or solid rock so
this was a total shock. I also saw an abandoned vehicle jammed in a wash
or big rutted area down on the frontside of the hill, viewable only from the
top of the hill. I saw no one at the vehicle and kept on my journey.

Continuing with the report, at this point, I decided to return to my vehicle, using
line of sight reckoning with a large transmission tower near my car as the destination.
So they are good for something. On the way, carefully avoiding the area, where I
conducted my fictitious, tongue-in-cheek interview with Sr. Tortuga, I did encounter
another burrow, only smaller, than the true, real, full-sized burrow that I did find
on my way in and that I will not publish in any way.
  Unfortunately I have been
encountering difficulties all day with my internet connection and I am not able to
embed any more videos today. Just go to my channel,morongobill, on youtube
for this and other videos including ones entitled Teutonia Peak, from the day before.

Off I went the way I came, trekking across the future Ivanpah2 site and when I
wasn’t planning my next step I was thinking about the future of this area, the northern
Ivanpah Valley. I spent at least 20 minutes on top of two of the metamorphic hills and
if this visit had occurred in the future about 3 years from now, and if this project is
built, there is no doubt in my mind, I would have been blinded by the glare from
thousands of mirrors, probably in a matter of seconds. And since my car never made
it to the vantage point from near the Stateline Wilderness, I can only imagine how that
view will be affected. No doubt it’ll be blinding as well, just not as intensive as being
right on top of it. So no doubt the simple act of looking at the scenery will be changed
as well as your appreciation of the view.

As I have stated many times, I am not a botanist, zoologist, scientist etc so I will leave
the technical jargon to those folks, but I can tell you, judging by all the scat and tracks
in the washes, the area is teeming with wildlife, not just desert tortoises. Why not mount
a wildlife camera in a wash or two to try to ascertain the numbers and quantities of animals
crossing the area? There is an abundance of plant life, I saw at least one, no doubt ancient,
creosote bush ring in the area I hiked through. Why should it be scraped over, it’s  probably
lived for hundreds of years.

These comments are referring only to the area I personally went through, I have seen the
photos from near and in the biological mitigation area, and am profoundly disappointed
that I was unable to do a personal recon there, I think the area I was in is deserving of
protection as well.

They talk about the fact that the area isn’t pristine, well I challenge you to walk through it.
I saw a few tire tracks sure, but came across virtually no trash or litter at all. I did see one
plastic pail near the road when I started out. I saw similar conditions by Cima Rd in the
MNP and that is a protected area.

I’ve talked about it being desert tortoise habitat, I’m for protecting it. No ifs, ands, or buts.

My main reason to oppose the project after putting boots on the ground at the site, is
that this is but one piece of the puzzle, in other words, to save the Ivanpah Valley from
it’s intended industrialized future, we have to fight all the projects, BrightSource here,
Next Light Silver State South there, and the Ivanpah airport boondoggle, these massive
gigantic projects will be the end of the peaceful, beautiful Ivanpah valley we know and
love, no doubt in my mind on that point at all.

So I have tried to show you videos and photos of the area but here is what I think you
should do on your next Vegas run. Exit I-15 at Nipton Road and pull over, get out of your car and look all around, that vista of over 30 miles looking from Clark Mountain and over toward stateline and then across the valley to the Mccullough Mountains and to the
oasis of Nipton and over to the Mojave National Preserve, see Castle Peaks way in
the distance, and over to the Ivanpah old town area, this all will be changed forever, if
these projects go through and the Good Lord willing, with help from people getting
involved like yourselves, and the misfortunes in the capital markets, overseas and
here, maybe they won’t.

If you do stop and get out and look, tell us about it. Folks all you have to do is click
on the word comments and you can leave yours. Your thoughts are welcomed here,
I keep saying it, one day you guys will believe me.

Those of you with 4wd, get off at Yates Well Rd, follow it toward the golf course till the
marked BLM road heads off, you can ride good road almost all the way up to the wilderness
area, you get the photos or videos and I’ll be very happy to publish them here with
your permission. I couldn’t make it up there, maybe you can.

Well, all in all, the trip was just too short, but I really feel a sense of accomplishment that I
was able to climb that hill and the one at Teutonia in the MNP and I think others should
do it as well. Let us know here at the Backporch how it turned out for you.

Until next time, vaya con dios my friends.