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Gold Rock RV Park residents told proposed natural gas pipeline poses no great threat

August 04, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

GOLD ROCK — "Oh!" Bobbi Antons exclaimed after she unlocked the door of the Gold Rock RV Park's museum/office/gift shop.

A fruit bat with a 5-inch wingspan flapped lazily in her direction.

Moving quickly, Antons popped into her office and grabbed a magazine.

She spotted the bat and scooped it onto the edge of the unfolded periodical. Holding it as far away from her body as her arms would allow, she carried it outside and tossed it into the arid desert air.

The bat flapped away in search of shade.

Antons is one of the managers of the RV Park and Trading Post off Interstate 8 near the Cargo Muchacho Mountains in eastern Imperial County.

After shooing the bat, she went back into her office to grab the business card of a power company representative.

A representative from Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. left a card earlier this year when he put on a presentation for Antons, her husband and co-manager, Tony Antons, and a group of Gold Rock residents.


The presentation detailed PG&E's plans to build a natural gas pipeline near the homes.

Less than a mile from the 60-year-old settlement of RVs, trailers and custom-made houses which the Antons manage, 500 cubic feet of natural gas could stream through a stretch of a 215-mile long pipeline.

The international pipeline from Blythe to Tijuana will be built if the California stretch of the project is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory and California State Lands commissions.

The commissions' environmental impact report of the 79.9-mile long California stretch — which would run from Blythe through Interstate 8 near Ogilby Road on its way to Mexico — was recently released and will be open for public comment until Oct. 25.

The 215-mile North Baja Pipeline is a $230 million joint venture of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, San Francisco-based PG&E and a Mexican power company.

Construction of the 79.9-mile California stretch of the pipeline will be handled by PG&E, according to Michael Clark, a Sempra spokesman.

If approved by federal and California commissions, the pipeline will supply natural gas to power plants in Northern Mexico and Southern California.

Of particular concern to Antons and Gold Rock residents is the stretch that could pass their homes. She said some residents asked the PG&E rep if the pipeline would be safe.

Using charts and graphs to show how the pipeline would be built and the precaution with which it would be installed, the PG&E man made a convincing case — according to the Antons — that the existence of a pipeline near their park would pose no great threat to the 100 or so residents who call it home during the busy winter season.

Tony Antons sat on a stool in the corner of his kitchen Friday morning sipping his coffee and talking about the pipeline with his wife.

"There are trade-offs in everything in life. There are benefits and risks in whatever you do," he said.

Between 1986 and 2000, an average of 25 people died each year in pipeline accidents, according to an Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal story.

Tony Antons isn't worried.

He glanced at last Wednesday's Journal containing the story with passing interest.

He used to work for a pipeline company and said the companies these days have much better safety precautions.

"Technology is years ahead," he said.

Without referencing the story, he succinctly summarized a facet of the story reported by the Journal.

Pipelines carry nearly all the natural gas and 65 percent of the refined petroleum transported through the U.S. They are more efficient than trucks, barges or railroads — and safer. New lines are generally easier to inspect than old ones, according to the Journal.

At the Gold Rock presentation, the PG&E rep explained how a "pig" would scope the 36-inch tube for fissures and cracks and relay the information to a computer, which would shut down portions of the pipeline in the event of a problem, according to Tony Antons. A "pig" is a mechanical scoping instrument.

Bobbi Antons said the safety portion of the presentation was informative but some residents told her afterward that even with "pigs" patrolling the pipeline, the actual construction associated with burying the pipeline could harm the habitat of the desert tortoise.

Antons has heard grumbling from locals who accuse the U.S. Bureau of Land Management of closing land to off-roaders out of concern for the well-being of tortoises and other endangered species but rolling out the red carpet for "big money" players such as power companies.

"This area is loaded with endangered species … " Tony Antons said.

" — especially the people," his wife added.

Lynda Kastoll, a BLM realty specialist, said the agency will thoroughly analyze the environmental impacts of the pipeline project before signing off on it.

Bobbi Antons said the power companies bankrolling the project and all government agencies involved in the permit process have gone out of their way to make sure "no one is against the project."

While others might grumble, she thinks the companies and agencies have done a good job considering and planning for the possible impacts of the project.

Antons is much more concerned with the bats that nest in the shady areas of her park during the day than the prospect of a pipeline.

"They bite you know — and some have rabies," she said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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