Supes head to D.C. to fight dunes closure

February 28, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Two members of the county Board of Supervisors will travel to Washington, D.C., and present the county's objections to recent limitations related to desert areas under the control of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Supervisors Wally Leimgruber and Gary Wyatt hope to deliver written opposition to desert area restrictions in person to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton on Friday.

"We are going to suffer economic impacts because of these closures," Leimgruber said at Tuesday's board meeting.

The Feb. 27 letter outlines some of the county's opposition to the latest of five stipulations.

The county is opposed to the installation of raptor anti-perching devices on power lines on the basis that raptors are known to build nests for generations on power structures.

The county opposes the stipulation's limits on mining expansions on the grounds that there are existing sand and gravel operations and a planned Creole limestone mine in the area. Each permitted mine has gone through the environmental process, the letter says. Further, a number of employees would lose their jobs.


"The proposed expansion restrictions will have a dramatic effect on the unemployment in the Imperial County," the letter says. "Finally, this (stipulation) seeks to restrict expansion in areas not even designated critical habitats at this point."

The latest stipulation has dozens of actions required by BLM in how the desert areas are used. The stipulation is part of five interim agreements resulting from an arrangement between the Bureau of Land Management, several environmental groups that had filed a lawsuit against BLM alleging it failed to consult with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service regarding potential impacts to endangered species from off-highway vehicle use in the sand dunes, and several off-highway vehicle groups. A decision to not litigate the issue by the federal government led to the proposed settlement.

The settlement and the stipulations have not been finalized and are pending before a federal district court in San Francisco.

Leimgruber and Wyatt will also carry a letter from the QuadState County Government Coalition with additional objections. The coalition consists of Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.

"This county board wants to be proactive in addressing this issue," Leimgruber said.

In other business, the county Board of Supervisors presented numerous certificates in honor of Black History Month to local black business owners, former baseball players, members of chambers of commerce, law enforcement officials and media personalities.

The certificates were for individual dedication, outstanding achievement and contributions to citizens of the community.

Sitting as the Air Pollution Control Board, the supervisors authorized $25,000 be spent on three photovoltaic feasibility studies, including the Brawley beef-processing plant, a generic warehouse in the Gateway of the Americas project area and a school. The project's full cost is $50,000. The Imperial Irrigation District will be asked to contribute the other $25,000.

The purpose of the feasibility study would be to reduce the peak load demand on IID's electrical system, generate cost-effective renewable electricity at peak periods, minimize and offset air emissions to the air shed and, in the case of the beef-processing plant, optimize the building's performance and energy efficiency.

Finally, the board approved seeking a $290,000 grant from the Department of the Interior to implement an inventory of the county's wetlands. It's anticipated the proposed wetlands inventory will provide a countywide assessment of wetland values, identify local restoration goals, forward site-specific criteria that should result in a high likelihood of project success and identify at least 20-30 potential sites in the designated regions that meet certain specific criteria, the application says.

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