Saturday, July 27, 2013

This video from the most highly regarded pipeline laying company in the industry foretells the future of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

Let the record show that the backporch recognizes the Michels Corporation as being the Big Dog of the pipeline business. I do not doubt their technological prowess or abilities or their commitment to the environment.

But having said all that, the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is too valuable and too delicate to withstand the clear cutting that is shown throughout this video.

This new oil pipeline must not be allowed to go through the BMCP, it must be re-routed and the best way to make that happen is to start talking about it now.

Just imagine that this work is being done across the marsh.

Let me give an update on my efforts to publicize this issue.

A message left at the rec.birds Google forum where folks have written about the birding at the BMCP
has received 4 page views and no response. My message left at a prominent desert protection website finally received a one sentence reply that mail was slow and that they were aware of the situation. To date, I have received no comments and hardly any page views- now let me clue you guys in on something- I know how to write and get good results with search terms. So I know that my site generally shows up in the first few pages on Google, if not the first page, when I write about a topic. I have finally come to the conclusion that people just don’t care about this nature preserve.

All I can say to that is we will see how much crying you will be doing in the future when they ram this 16” oil pipe slap down the middle of Big Morongo Canyon. Like I said in a previous post, when you chain yourself to one of those big cottonwoods to try to stop the caterpillars, it is all over but the crying.
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The old cottonwood tree in the above image has guarded the dogleg canyon down the hill from the BMCP for centuries, but its’ time may be about up as the oil pipeline may be routed right through it. Click on the image to see it full sized.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Time to take it up a notch, if we are to save Big Morongo Canyon Preserve from Questar’s oil pipeline scheme.

Before the commentary, let me update you on the conversation I had with the Southern California Gas representative. I can’t spell her name so I will leave her name out of this.

Socalgas has 2 pipelines that go through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a 6” and 16”, both buried. As we know, the Questar Southern Trails gas pipeline also runs through and is also buried. Socalgas has the easement and SCG is the one that rebladed the dirt road a few months ago, that was verified by the lady that I talked to. She did not know which way the Questar route would take nor did she know which of their pipelines went where at that junction that I wrote about up near the marsh.

So I have pretty much reached the limit for what I can find out from them as an independent blogger.

Here is the choice that I face. I say “I” because to be quite honest about it, I am not seeing any results for this series of posts that I have done. That’s fine with me, I’ll keep writing but it ain’t so fine for the future of the BMCP. I would also like to mention that an email sent to one of the leading desert groups that fought to save the BMCP from the transmission lines through their website went unanswered.

I am not surprised by that last, perhaps it was lost in the mail.

I learned one thing from my involvement with the BrightSource Ivanpah SEGS imbroglio. The proponents of that project were in the driver’s seat from the very beginning; the opponents were playing catch up the whole time, always following the other side’s lead. They had the connections, the money, the bureaucrats, the remote location, the works. They seemingly had people on the inside, in the government and within the big environmental organizations, laying the groundwork and helping write the rules, years before the first earth was dug and the first tortoise was disturbed.

It is all so obvious now in hindsight. But this knowledge gained from experience out there and from observing the struggles with the Keystone Pipeline, will help those of us who wish to stop this latest pipeline from destroying the preserve that we love.

We need to start addressing this issue now, helping shape the future debate and the Questar course of future action. This pipeline needs to be diverted around sensitive ecological and environmental locations. It must be relocated, no matter what. We have to start now.

Those of us who think that this treasure must be saved have to begin a smart campaign now to get Questar to rethink the pipeline route now, before the plan starts becoming a reality.

We are early in this process. Questar told me that no decision has been made to either build the oil pipeline section or which route it would take. That is plain old B.S. Questar didn’t get to their prominent position in the pipeline business by not building pipelines, they got it by building them. Period.

This pipeline section will get built; the only question in my mind is will it destroy sensitive treasures or be built around them.

I believe the answer to that central question will depend upon us.

I have been told that quests like these are quixotic ones, that may very well be true. But I do not want to go to my grave knowing that I didn’t at least try to help the desert that I care about, this preserve that I care about.

The 3 gas pipelines are already there, that fact will not change. Questar made the decision around 2001 to take the existing oil pipeline and convert it to natural gas transmission, that should not give them the blanket right to add on a 16” oil pipeline lying adjacent to the existing one, one that would require up to a 50’ wide permanent clearing along the route, as well as up to 100’ wide clear cuts just to build it.

We don’t want the area below to look like the photo below it.
080410bigmorongohike 022
In the photo above, the oil pipeline would likely run along the hillside behind the marsh, with a resulting 50’ clearcut in place in perpetuity, or until the shutdown of the pipeline in the future.


The photo directly above shows the clear cut area that the Keystone Pipeline crew made for access to the tree where the protestor’s were, in their attempt to stop the pipeline from going through a Texas nature preserve in October, 2012. This area is around150 feet wide, 50’ more than would be required at BMCP. Btw, the folks were arrested and the pipeline did go through the preserve.

Let me be clear. I am not looking to lead this struggle. I have some ideas yes but am not the type to lead this. My contributions will be money if I have it, site visits, photography and video of the area, internet research, this blog, my car for volunteers to ride up in, etc. I can offer some tactics and strategies gained from 59 years on this planet.

This fight needs to have youth involvement. After all, the young will inherit this world that my generation has done its’ very best to destroy in search of the almighty dollar. It’s not bad enough that we are sending them across the planet to fight battles for the corporations, now we must ruin every sacred place here for them as well.

Basta! Enough already!

This fight needs to start now. One way to start is to spread the word and to ask for help.

Here are a few things that can be done to get the word out:

BMCP is a world class birding destination. If you have contacts in the birdwatching community, tell them about the proposed pipeline.

If you are on mailing lists for environmental issues, pass this on to them.

Spread the word via social media as well. Get the word out. Get it out early so we can convince them to reroute this pipeline or stop it cold.

If this gets to the point where we must mount a blockade or camp out in a perch in a big cottonwood tree, it’s all over but the crying.

I need help here at this site. If anyone would like to try a guest post on the subject, I will put it up. Same with comments.

We need to learn the lessons that were taught to us at Ivanpah and at Greenpath North and stop this oil pipeline train before it leaves the station.

Just to show you that it can be done, here is a story out of Kansas regarding a nature preserve and the Keystone Pipeline. The difference is our job will be tougher due to the existing pipelines and the fact that an existing oil pipeline that ran through the preserve was converted to gas a decade or so ago.

Pipeline Rerouted Around Nature Center

Keystone Pipeline from Alberta Tar sands could Decimate 220 acre Kansas Nature Preserve

It is not too late if we start battling now.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Current pipeline map, Big Morongo Canyon Preserve area

From the Cartography unit at the California Energy Commission.

ScreenHunter_03 Jul. 13 16.21

ScreenHunter_04 Jul. 13 16.22

So you can see that a 6” gas line and 16” are running through the preserve
and Questar would like to add another 16” line for petroleum. The bureaucrats
would look at this map and say no problem adding it.

It is just a map on the wall to them. When Questar finishes their survey and decides to run the pipeline this way, the bureaucrats will approve it, just like they approved Ivanpah and Blythe solar farms.

If something doesn’t change, this pipeline will be built right down the middle of BMCP. Questar is not going to want to go to the expense of routing this pipeline east of Joshua Tree when they already have the right of way here.

It will be up to us to persuade them to not route it through this priceless ecological treasure.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Coincidence? Couple of posts about an oil pipeline and look who visits the backporch.

This visit tells me to keep up the struggle to save Big Morongo Canyon Preserve from being “Keystoned.”

ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 12 17.00

ScreenHunter_02 Jul. 13 10.28

Never heard back from the messages I left yesterday. Guess I will have to try again Monday.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

My pipeline survey visit to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Plus background info.

As promised, I made bit up to BMCP yesterday where I hiked down the Canyon trail to marker 1.5 mile, in an attempt to follow the existing pipeline and to get a feel for what has been done here in the past and may be done in the near future.

I also got proof that the Questar Southern Trails pipeline runs smack down the middle of the preserve.
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ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 11 00.15

The above sign is along the Canyon Trail before the one mile point. Nearby along the trail, I saw this chilling sign below.
ScreenHunter_02 Jul. 11 00.17

This is a sign for the Four Corners Pipeline Company in Long Beach stating that there is a petroleum pipeline in the area.
More on this development down the page.

I came across 2 places along the trail where the pipeline is exposed, here is one below. I believe it is near the 1/2 mile mark. It looked like it was a 6 or 8 inch diameter pipe.
ScreenHunter_04 Jul. 11 10.05

Understand that if the addition of the oil pipeline is approved, the 16 inch pipeline would be laid alongside this one.

I thought it was horrendous news finding that oil pipeline warning sign. This
morning I did further research and discovered the real story. In around 2002 Questar asked for permission to convert their oil pipeline to gas and it was done. So the pipeline in the picture above, built to ship crude, now ships natural gas. Questar undertook the conversion to help supply gas to California utilities during one of the energy crunches that we periodically endure here.

So we have two different gas pipelines running underground through Big Morongo Canyon and now they would like to add an oil pipeline. I had questions about how it would be built, what was involved including pumping station infrastructure and so I reached out to one of the pre-eminent internet forums for petroleum engineers. Here below is the correspondence from yesterday, starting with my original post.
ScreenHunter_05 Jul. 11 10.17

2 replies
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ScreenHunter_07 Jul. 11 10.19

This morning I have placed calls to SoCalGas, the media contact person at the California Energy Commission and Rick Aragon who is the area manager for Questar. Hopefully I will get more information from one of these contacts to put a little meat upon the bones of the skeleton. I plan to delve more into the CEC website to see if they have any info there regarding this pipeline for Questar and the gas company one. By the way, the lady at the number for excavating on the gas company sign did say that there pipeline is a different one, so there are 2 pipelines there.

I discovered that the pipelines split near the south end of the marsh and one leg heads toward the hills alongside the Yucca Ridge Trail and the other goes along the other side of the marsh and runs underneath that trail with the old car wreck on it- which path is Questar’s? That is a big question to get answered and I hope to hear from Mr. Aragon soon.

What BigInch said above is chilling about a 75’ temporary right of way and is inline with the photos from the other day showing the pipelaying heavy equipment in action. It will devastate certain areas of the canyon, damage that will last for decades. To build this oil pieline will require that the dirt road that has been bladed up the canyon to the 1.5 mile point, to continue all the way along the length of the pipeline, meaning it will have to go into the main part of the preserve itself. There are 2 separate wooded areas that will have the road going right through them, no way around that. There must be a road so that technicians can inspect and repair leaks if necessary. Here is an example.
ScreenHunter_08 Jul. 11 10.35
In the scene above, the pipeline cuts through the woods to the trail in the distance- all of this would be cleared for the 75’ needed to get the heavy equipment in to lay the 16” pipe.

One possible scenario is that the oil pipeline might diverge from the gas line and be routed along the opposite side of the canyon where it widens near the wooden fence. This would avoid the environmentally sensitive marsh area but would put it near Bighorn country. And as said earlier, a dirt road along there would be necessary. There is always a pipeline road, never seen one without one in all my time driving and walking in the deserts.

I will update this post when and if I get call backs from those I contacted. I also will do more drilling into the CEC website for details.

On a personal note, from my experience with the BrightSource Ivanpah project, it pays to get involved early, the earlier the better. Questar goes to great pains to say that no decision has been made with this but the bottom line is that they make money off crude oil and natural gas being shipped through their network of pipelines. The route through the Morongo Basin is already in place and my guess is that would be the preferred route. They are already there. So we need to get all the info we can now and start the process of helping people make up their minds. We had better start doing it now because as we found out, the public relations departments at these companies are pretty good at getting their side of the story out which always goes like this- jobs, jobs, jobs!
Watch an oil pipeline construction here.

I will also contact a few people via email and alert them to this new development as well. You can help by sending the link for this post to anyone that you think might be interested in stopping the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve from being “keystoned.”


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Late start but now heading up to BMCP

Via Casino Morongo where I will drop off my girlfriend and her father, while I go on and spend some time at the preserve.

Not enough time nor am I in the shape I was a year ago so will not hike down to Senor Cottonwood but only to the mile 1.5 marker, which is about where they stopped the regrading of the old pipeline road last year. I am going to try to follow the pipeline up as far as I can, possibly offtrail, and do photos and video of the area and to try to figure out which way the route would go and the damage that would be incurred if it is built.

I have also joined a petroleum engineers online forum and have questions up regarding details of how this would be built and the additional infrastructure needs that would be required.

I need help here, if anyone has a friend who is in any way involved in gas or oil pipelines, I would like to pick their brains, Please email me any thoughts or comment here with the info.

We are getting started with the fight to either stop or shape this right now at the beginning, no sitting on our asses while they line all their ducks up in a row! I am making a plea for help to anybody who would like to help preserve the worldclass Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and other desert locations.

Let’s not allow our Morongo Basin to be “keystoned!”


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Questar is not going to “Keystone” the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve!

Okay folks. I talked with Mr. Steve Chapman of Questar this morning. We talked for about 8 minutes or so and seemed like the voice of reason and quite forthcoming about the process. In a nutshell, the company is in the exploratory phase and no decision has been made to even build the pipeline nor what route should be built once the decision has been made to build.

There are a whole lot of studies etc that must be done such as NEPA.

I did mention that if a decision was made to build in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, it would be a battle royal, a firestorm of protest would erupt over the decision. He indicated awareness of the environmental sensitivity of the area and did mention that he had driven up the dirt road, but not in the preserve itself.
ScreenHunter_07 Jul. 09 18.45

Mr. Chapman did mention a couple of times that this is very early in the process and that no decision had been made, and I will take him at his word.

If this is true then this gives those of us who oppose any further development within the BMCP and its’ adjacent ACEC a little breathing room; time that could be well spent in planning a response to the proposed development, learning more about it, and beginning the process of educating the people and their representatives to the potential danger that this development would mean to BMCP.

Here a few photographs taken from the web of oil pipelines in the desert to peruse for a few moments.

This will do for now. As mentioned yesterday, the plan is to go up to the preserve tomorrow and do a hike and take more photos and videos. If I am able, I will be going up tomorrow morning and hopefully will have another post up by noon on Thursday, so come back then.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in the cross hairs again!

Questar, operators of the Southern Trails Pipeline, are planning on adding a 16” oil pipeline to the existing gas one, which will run from Essex to Whitewater out in the California deserts; the only question being will it go east of the crown jewel, Joshua Tree National Park, or west via a route which will take it through the Morongo Basin, and most likely Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.

Here is the Questar map showing proposed routes for the extension. This is a screen capture from the source where I heard about this project, the Mojave Desert Blog. Link to the article below the picture.
ScreenHunter_03 Jul. 08 12.40

Here is the link to the official Questar handout discussing the pipeline proposal.

I have taken the liberty of copying a select portion of the handout which shows who to contact if you would like to discuss the potential routes for this pipeline.
Questar has hired a consulting firm, Paragon, to work on the route and shepherd the pipeline into the bureaucratic approval process, I already have a call into Mr. Lemont’s answering machine. Feel free to call him yourself as well and express your opinion. I will explain this cross out right above my signature below.
ScreenHunter_04 Jul. 08 12.43

So far, the only pipeline that I have come across going through the Morongo Basin is Socalgas’ line that runs down through the middle of the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Here are a couple of screen captures from their website showing the location.
ScreenHunter_02 Jul. 08 12.18

ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 08 12.16

The big green area is the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Below is a screen capture from one of my videos from January of this year showing where the
proposed pipeline would come through, note the pipeline route marker in the photo.
ScreenHunter_06 Jul. 08 13.02

Another link is to the Questar Pipeline system site:

As you may know, I have spent a lot of time hiking, photographing and making videos in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. I don’t want to see it ripped asunder to add another pipeline, even if it does run right next to an existing one. You have to see this area to appreciate what I am unable to put into words. Use my site search feature and put in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve or Big Morongo and look at all the photographs and posts. This is home to a large bighorn sheep population as well and this is where I became known as the “bighorn whisperer.”

This is just the beginning and I am still doing research. Who knows maybe there is another pipeline running up through the area along Hwy 62, I intend to drive up again asap and find out, that’s for sure.

So stay tuned for further info. I am probably heading up in 2 days and should know more after that recon trip. So come back here in a few days.

Late addition. Mr. Lemont called me back and gave me the number to the Questar main contact, Steve Chapman, and I will call him and give you more info later. Btw,he also told me that the local paper had talked to this person for a story which I will look for and give you the link to later. They are already busy at work preparing the people for this pipeline that is coming.
Crude oil pipeline could take route through Morongo Basin

Okay, I spoke with Courtney Vaughn who wrote the news article linked above and it definitely will go through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve if they choose the western route around Joshua Tree National Park and right now Questar is studying the routes and also the decision to build it. She also is very aware of the past history with the Stop Greenpath North campaign to save the preserve a few years ago. Once further news develops they will most likely write a followup article she said.

I will make this prediction- Questar better be ready to rumble over this if they make the decision to go through the Morongo Basin. I definitely will be heading up to BMCP on Wednesday and will take plenty of pictures and video.

I went off half cocked last year when I discovered the rebladed and graded dirt road that follows the pipeline. I actually was very suspicious that perhaps it was to be for the purpose of allowing a second bite at the Greenpath apple, it never occurred to me that they might want to build another pipeline alongside the existing one!