Thursday, September 12, 2013

Visit to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve- flood damage- 9/2013

My visit took place on Tuesday, 9/10/2013. There had been a major rain event in the southern California desert about a week before which resulted in roads being washed out in the Mojave National Preserve and at Joshua Tree National Park. I decided to visit the preserve because I figured it also might have been hit with a flood event also.

Recently I have written here about my objections to Questar adding a 16 inch oil pipeline through the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve to go with their gas line, an event like this one is one of the reasons not to build it. Based on the damage that I saw, I can only speculate what would have happened had an oil pipeline been already in place there.

Here are a few screen captures from the extensive videos that I shot yesterday while at the preserve. Note to representatives of groups with an interest in helping fight the pipeline, I will be happy to burn all these videos to a dvd and send them to you at no charge.

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The exposed gas pipeline section above has always been like this as far as I know, at least I have noticed it there before. The photo intent is to show all the debris left this time from this event.

The video screen captures above are from the marsh to a couple hundred yards south of the 1.5 mile marker. The rest of the screen captures will show damage done to the re-graded dirt road, controlled by Socalgas. These photos and a email regarding the damage have been forwarded to the person in charge along with a special favor request that they have their road grade operator try to divert the water flow away from Senor Cottonwood(the hangman tree as the gas company manager called it) and fill in some of the lost ground on the north side of the old and venerable tree. In my opinion, this recent flood event has set the stage for this tree to topple over if another major event occurs or two. Growing up in the dirt roads of Georgia, I know the wonders that a good blader(grader) can accomplish.

I might add that I was very impressed with the gas company manager and I want to say for the record that this road is necessary for their folks to come in and check on the pipeline, they have the easement and the pipeline has been there for decades, it ain’t going nowhere. They are being “good neighbors” here and if they can give the old “hangman tree” a few more decades or even centuries by doing a quick diversion cut with the road grader, then they have earned my respect.

I did tell the gentleman right up front that I opposed the Questar oil pipeline and not the gas company, I knew they had been there for ages and weren’t going anywhere.

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In the above photo, the power of the flood waters resulted in the new dirt road being washed out here to a depth of around 3 feet, exposing the buried main supply gas pipeline. This section has been buried here for decades and is located north of the “hangman tree.”

As I told the gas company, the road basically has been totally destroyed by the power of this recent flooding event. There is no doubt in my mind that if some gas company workers had been in their 4wd trucks riding this dirt road that day in the performance of their duties, they would not be alive today. Folks this was a well graded dirt road- just look at the photos above! What kind of flow rate could carve out a 3 foot deep gouge across this road? The power is just mind boggling. And this damage shown is miles below the preserve. Incredible!

I am no weather historian but I have been coming here off and on for almost 10 years and I am telling you that this flooding event could easily be called a “Ten Year flood” as I have seen nothing like it here. In fact, I will go so far as to say it might have been a 50 year flood. We are not going to be able to tame Mother Nature here who is doing her absolute best to kick us out of the canyon but at least we can try to work with her. I have seen how quickly nature worked to try to take back what the dirt road claimed, if they re-blade it in a year it will look more natural in the setting with plant life returning, I can live with that and the workers could still drive up looking over their buried pipeline, which has been trouble free, as far as I know. I see a need for it to be repaired, without question, but it may take a month for the permits needed. In the meantime, hikers be careful- it was like rock climbing in some spots.

In the videos up closer and within the preserve proper, I tried to make folks aware of how the proposed oil pipeline would fit in(it won’t) and what changes would be made to the natural landscape. Up there the canyon is narrower and the flood take the path along the wall of the canyon, so the pipeline would just have to follow the existing gas line. The problem is that an oil pipeline requires a clear cut wide road be kept open and in good condition along the whole route, in case of spills and for maintenance. That will be a problem in this nature preserve. Sure they could try horizontal tunneling under the marsh but how would that effect the natural geology? The water is only at the surface there due to the uplifting of solid rock to stop the underground river flow- ramming at least a 1 1/2 foot tunnel through the rock, what would that do to the ecosystem?

I reiterate my offer to burn all the day’s video to disk and to provide it free of charge to responsible parties who have a stake in the outcome with the Questar Southern Trails oil pipeline extension. Please email me with your contact information as well as your company or organization info. Here are a couple of videos from within the marsh area of the preserve itself.



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