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County opposes BLM plan to close some desert roads

March 27, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

A U.S. Bureau of Land Management plan to close some desert roads and rights-of-way is being opposed by the county Board of Supervisors, which cited a 136-year-old federal statute asserting its access to such routes.

During Tuesday's board meeting, the supervisors voted unanimously on a resolution upholding the 1866 law.

Revised Statute 2477, which was initially granted to build roads essential to the settlement of the western United States, has become popular in recent years when counties discovered they could use it to block environmental groups and other interests threatening to close their land.

Access routes in the county are used by law enforcement, search and rescue teams, fire protection agencies and resource management. County Supervisor Wally Leimgruber said the county needs to keep such roads accessible.

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The BLM, under the draft Northern and Eastern Colorado plan, would close access to county roads. The plan could be finalized soon.

According to BLM documents, the plan proposes alternatives for managing threatened, endangered and sensitive species and habitats on federal lands administered by federal agencies including BLM.

The plan will amend the bureau's 1980 California Desert Conservation Area Plan.

The planning area encompasses about 5.5 million acres in eastern San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties, BLM documents state.

Leimgruber brought the rights-of-way issue to the board as an emergency item.

The supervisors also approved a one-year, $451,115 contract with the county Department of Social Services and Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program to manage the transportation costs for 406 eligible participants.

The proposal is in response to a state mandate that county social service departments provide transportation for welfare-to-work participants.

The board also:

· as the county Air Pollution Control District Board, approved a $10,000 maintenance contract for air-monitoring stations;

· approved $64,950 to remodel county offices at 801 Broadway in El Centro, for alcohol and drug rehabilitation crisis services;

· asked the state Department of Water Resources and state Department of Health Services to replace the water treatment plant at Red Hill Marina County Campground;

· approved $1.7 million in Workforce Investment Board contracts to Imperial Valley College, IVROP and Campesinos Unidos.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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