Community News

Saline Valley Warm Springs Plan Finalized

DEATH VALLEY, CA – The National Park Service announced on May 10 that it has finalized the Saline Valley Warm Springs Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (plan/EIS). The document outlines the agency’s plan for managing visitor use, natural resources, cultural resources, and facilities at this backcountry site.

Saline Valley Warm Springs are located in a remote northwest corner of Death Valley National Park, 35 miles from the closest paved road. Recreational users developed soaking tubs and art installations starting in the 1950s. The site was managed by the Bureau of Land Management until it was transferred to NPS with the California Desert Protection Act in 1994.

The NPS started working on a management plan for the site in 2012. Inyo County, the BLM, and the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe participated in the plan as cooperating agencies. Several organizations were heavily involved in providing comments, including the Saline Preservation Association and Recreation Aviation Foundation.

There were opportunities for the public to provide feedback on the plan’s direction in 2012, 2014, and 2018. The NPS received and analyzed a total of 1,696 pieces of correspondence during these comment periods. The NPS made changes to the plan at every stage of the process reflecting the feedback received from the public, organizations, and agencies.

“What we heard loud and clear from many of the recreational users was a desire to ‘leave it like it is.’ We feel this management plan will maintain a feeling of unconstrained recreation while protecting natural and cultural resources,” said Death Valley National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds.

Things staying the same under the plan:

  • Existing soaking tubs at Lower Spring and Palm Spring would remain in use.
  • Upper Spring would remain undeveloped.
  • All art installations that were in place by January 1, 2019 in non-wilderness areas would be allowed to stay.
  • Airplane use of the Chicken Strip, in use for decades, would be authorized by a separate (pending) special regulation.
  • NPS would establish memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with user groups for maintenance and management of Saline Valley Warm Springs.
  • Public nudity is common at the site, and the plan is silent on this topic. Public nudity is not against Federal regulations, but lewd behavior is.

Things that would change under this plan:

  • Three camping zones would be established: 1) car camping areas; 2) walk-in camping with an associated parking area separate from the camping area; and 3) areas where camping is prohibited, including within 100 feet of source springs.
  • Artistic fencing would be added around source springs to prevent access by nonnative burros.
  • Existing mature palm trees will stay at Lower Spring and Palm Spring until they die of natural causes. No new palm trees will be allowed to grow and native plants will be added to provide shade.
  • All nonnative plants, including palm trees, at Upper Spring will be removed.
  • New artwork will be allowed only if it does not disturb natural or cultural resources, is of a temporary nature, and is removed by the visitor when he or she leaves.
  • The vehicle support facility would be removed.
  • The NPS would address concerns about water quality, storage of hazardous materials, and wastewater.

The plan will become effective when the NPS signs the Record of Decision (ROD), which will be on or after June 10, 2019. However, some aspects of the plan may not be implemented immediately.

The plan and associated documents can be viewed at parkplanning.nps.gov/SalineValleyWarmSprings. A printed copy will temporarily be available at each of the following locations: Amargosa Valley Library, Bishop Library, Death Valley Library, Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Lone Pine Library, Pahrump Library, and Ridgecrest Library.

Former Corporal in Sheriff’s Department Arrested

Former Inyo County Sheriff’s Department Corporal Nick Vaughn was arrested today by Investigators from the Inyo County District Attorney’s office on charges stemming from an alleged misappropriation of public funds.

 

After an internal investigation, the Sheriff’s Department referred the case to the District Attorney’s office for a criminal investigation.  After a lengthy investigation, a criminal complaint has been filed charging Mr. Vaughn with misappropriating over $10,000.00 that had been collected by him from participants in the Sheriff’s Department Work Release Program.  Participants in the program are required to pay certain fees to the Department, and it is alleged that a portion of those fees were diverted to Mr. Vaughn’s personal use or the use of other individuals.  Mr. Vaughn was the supervisor of the Work Release Program from approximately May, 2014 to March, 2018.

 

At this time, no other employees of the Sheriff’s Department are implicated in the investigation.

 

Mr. Vaughn was booked at the Inyo County Jail.  Bail on the arrest warrant was set at $15,000.00.

 

The District Attorney reminds the public that a defendant in any criminal case is presumed to be innocent until the contrary is proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bishop Elementary School Teacher Released After Lack of Sufficient Evidence

After being arrested on charges of child molestation on April 22, 3rd grade teacher at Bishop Elementary School, Eugenio Solorio was released from detention because the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office were unable to find sufficient evidence to file a complaint against him.

Charges against Mr. Solorio have not been dropped.” Inyo County District Attorney, Tom Hardy said. “After his arrest, my office determined that there was not sufficient evidence to file charges at that time; however, the case remains an open, ongoing investigation.”

Solorio will have to play the waiting game as the District Attorney’s Office can elect to prosecute him if they find new evidence that could convict him of molestation.

Hardy added, “Both DA Investigators and officers from the Bishop Police Department are working very hard on the case. Once the investigation is concluded, we will make a final charging decision.”

The Bishop Police Department, who arrested Solorio last week say they are “continuing to investigate the case.”

Time will tell as to whether or not charges will be filed against Eugenio Solorio, however, please remember that an individual is innocent until proven guilty.

Landon Kruse Saves Bronco’s Title Hopes Against Boron

The Bishop Broncos Baseball team are one step closer to winning the High Desert League after eking by against the Boron Bobcats on Friday 7-6.

Both Boron and Bishop desperately needed to win this game, with just three games remaining before the playoffs. Boron took an early lead in the game, going up 3-0 against the Bishop. Boron pitcher, Bryson Job had solid command over his breaking ball early, which fooled many of the Bronco batters. However, in the third inning, the Bronco’s bats came alive, scoring two runs to pull within one run of tying the ballgame.

After working to get the game within one run, the momentum swayed back to Boron in the fourth inning, when they scored two more runs. Bronco sophomore, Ace Selters found himself in some trouble with two outs in the inning. Boron catcher, Aaron Core made Selters pay when he belted his pitch to the outfield for a two-run double.

Selters finished his day pitching 3 and 2/3 innings, striking out five, and surrendering five runs on eight hits.

Landon Kruse then came in to save the day for this Bishop Broncos, pitching 3 1/3 innings, striking out eight of the thirteen batters faced. Kruse wasn’t the only hero in the game, however. The Bats came alive right after Boron scored two runs. The Broncos tied the game up going into the fifth inning.

Bishop faced even more adversity in their quest for a High Desert League title, when Boron went up by one run in the sixth inning. The run scored was the only run that Kruse gave up on the afternoon.

Afterwards, the Broncos were able to rally and scored two runs in the sixth inning. Kruse was able to strike out the final batter in the seventh inning to stave off the Boron comeback.

The Broncos will face Kern Valley on Tuesday, then they will close out the regular season against Frazier Mountain on Thursday.

The Fate of the Bishop Nursery Property Revealed

Rumors have been swirling about the fate of the property where the Bishop Nursery stands. There has been speculation that the property will turn into an apartment complex,  or affordable housing for low-income families. However, according to Bill Parris, the owner of the property, none of these rumors are true.

“The plan is to build standard-sized family houses, we are not building apartments and we are not building anything other than houses in a town that is in dire need of more houses.” Parris said.

Parris Construction Corporation based out of Santa Barbara have been permitted to build up to fifteen houses on the property. However, the plan is to preserve the nursery and build twelve houses instead.

“We have been approved to build fifteen houses by the City of Bishop.” Parris said. “Although that was the original plan, I have seen how important the Bishop Nursery is to this community, and I am going to do everything I can to make sure we can keep the nursery in tact.”

Parris still faces challenges with the city to assure his vision comes to fruition, but when asked about the chances of a mixed-use development that includes the nursery, he said there is, “an eighty-percent chance that we can preserve the business.”

The Bishop Nursery will face a few changes  if it is included in the building plans. Operations of the business will be on a “smaller-scale” with trees and other large plants no longer being sold.

Originally, the idea was to try and save the nursery in it’s current state. Parris, the current owner of the land loaned $50,000 to the former owner of the Bishop Nursery to try and save the business. Unfortunately, the President of Parris Construction Corporation noted that it was “not possible” as the business began to fall into disarray.

Progress on the new housing development is still very much in the early stages, with some of the most recent work involving the removal of some trees on the property.

Liz Merrill, the General Manager of Bishop Nursery discussed why it was necessary to remove the trees saying, “The trees needed to be cut in order to create an access point to Home Street as all of the property will be utilized.” She added that although they are removing trees right now, they will be replenished in the future. “Sixty-one trees will be removed, but over two-hundred will be planted.”

Michael Kubiak Hits Two Inside the Park Home Runs as Broncos Beat Serpents

The Bishop Broncos hosted the Mineral County Serpents in a non-league game on Thursday, beating the team from Hawthorne, NV 14-4 over six innings.

Senior, Michael Kubiak was the star player for the Broncos. The veteran shortstop scored two inside the park home runs. Although there were errors involved in both instances, Kubiak’s speed was on display as he streaked past the bags on two different occasions.

Errors proved to be the difference between the two teams, as the Serpents had eight total on the day. Seven runs were scored off of the eight errors.

Kubiak was not the only Bronco with a lively bat Thursday. 3rd basemen, Cal Omohundro and Jalen Waterson were effective at the plate as well. Omohundro hit a 2 RBI double in the third inning after he struck a liner to left field. As for Waterson, the left-handed batter crushed a ball over the right field wall for a home-run.

Thursday was an efficient day for the Bronco pitchers. Sophomore, Ace Selters pitched four innings, surrendering just one run over three innings pitched. However, Selters did run into a bit of trouble in the fourth inning after he walked multiple batters and loaded the bases. Head coach, Steve Omohundro visited the mound and elected to leave the young pitcher in the game. Selters then gave up a 3 RBI triple after the ball was smacked into the outfield. The score was 10-4 after the fourth inning.

Landon Kruse pitched in relief and threw two innings. After initially struggling with his command and location, Kruse was dialed in. The Sophomore’s fastball was working well for him, as he struck out five batters in two innings.

Up next for the Broncos, a trip to California City for a High Desert League match up.

Man Looking for Treasure at Manzanar Arrested

Thanks to a concerned visitor at Manzanar National Historic Site last weekend, law enforcement authorities were able to apprehend an individual using a metal detector and shovel inside the park boundary. It is a federal crime to dig for artifacts, use a metal detector, or take any items from the ground in Manzanar National Historic Site.

Shortly before 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, 2019, a visitor stopped at the front desk and reported seeing an individual with a metal detector. The visitor was able to describe the car and give the license plate. Manzanar rangers called Inyo County Sheriff Department, and within minutes a sheriff’s deputy and a California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden had arrived and detained the suspect. Law enforcement rangers from Death Valley National Park were called to investigate. The suspect faces possible criminal charges.

Manzanar Superintendent Bernadette Johnson expressed gratitude to the visitor and law enforcement whose actions helped deter damage to the site and loss of valuable cultural history. “Manzanar staff members take our responsibility to protect historic resources seriously,” she said. “And it is great to see that the public does as well.”

You can help protect our treasured National Park Service sites.  If you see something suspicious in any National Park Service (NPS) site, stay safe and tell us about it. Talk to any NPS employee for help, or give the Special Agents of the NPS Investigative Services Branch a call. We understand that it may take time to reach areas with cell or internet service. You don’t have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know: go.usa.gov/xPd8J

Round Valley Student Alexandra Morales Wins Inyo County Speech Contest

Inyo County Office of Education is pleased to announce that Alexandra Morales from Round Valley Joint Elementary School won first place at the 59 th annual Inyo County Speech Contest, for her speech: Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Enough! The second place winner was Paige Makris from Owens Valley Elementary School with her speech: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities. The third place winner was Kyle Schaniel from Seventh Day Adventist with the topic: Nuclear Fission. Also representing their schools were: Willam Young, Will Hennarty, Luis Leon, Marlene Castro, Jade Scott, and Harlee Bardonnex.

The Speech Contest was sponsored by Bishop Real Estate and held on April 11 th at the Jill Kinmont Boothe School. Students from Big Pine, Home Street Middle School, Owens Valley, Round Valley, and Seventh Day Adventist participated in the event. The topic was: How could lessons learned from historical examples of tragedy and triumph be applied to decisions we make every day? Audience members were impressed by the insightful and inspiring speeches from creative middle-schoolers striving to make our world a better place.

All speeches were evaluated on content and delivery by a panel of three community judges: Gerald Howard, Maggie Kingsbury, and Chris Langley. Inyo County Office of Education thanks these judges for their time and expertise.

In addition, ICOE would like to thank Bishop Real Estate Rasmuson & Associates for sponsoring the contest and providing the winners with trophies and cash prizes.

ICOE would also like to express gratitude to the school coaches for their time, effort and support for our students. The coaches were Tim Steele of Big Pine School, Mark DesRochers of Home Street Middle School, Vivian Hanson of Owens Valley School, Jennifer Morales of Round Valley School, and Sandy Burns for Seventh Day Adventist School.

Congratulations to all the participants!

Scotty’s Castle Projects Pass Environmental Assessment

DEATH VALLEY, CA – The National Park Service (NPS) has completed its final environmental reviews of proposed projects to repair flood damage at Scotty’s Castle. Meanwhile, work has already started on projects approved earlier. The popular historic site could be partially open by late 2020 and is expected to be fully open by late 2021.

A severe flash flood on the night of October 18, 2015 sent water, mud, and rocks rushing down Grapevine Canyon. The flood broke through the walls of the historic Garage, in use by the NPS as the site’s visitor center, and filled it with four feet of debris. Two other historic buildings were damaged by the flood. The main house escaped the path of the flood, but bore lesser damage from water intrusion from heavy rain.

The NPS prepared two environmental assessments (EAs), each of which addressed different proposed actions to repair flood-damaged infrastructure in Grapevine Canyon. The Bonnie Clare Road Reconstruction EA was finalized in May 2018, and approved proposals to reconstruct 7.6 miles of Bonnie Clare Road, install 4,000 feet of waterline under the road, reconstruct damaged portions of the historic concrete and wire fence, and stabilize the historic bridge and gatehouse.

Road and Highway Builders started work in December 2018 on all four of these projects under contract managed by Federal Highways Administration.

The Scotty’s Castle Flood Rehabilitation EA was finalized on March 12, 2019. Some proposed actions approved in this EA include repairing historic structures, replacing components utility systems, building a second public restroom, building flood control structures, and building a cooling tower for a replacement heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system. This EA completes the legal requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), but each project will need additional review to meet requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. “This is where things can get tricky,” said Abby Wines, spokesperson for Death Valley National Park. “Sometimes we have to make trade-offs. In a few cases, we are proposing significant changes to the historic district in order to protect the historic district. A purest might say that we shouldn’t build any berms, flood walls, or shallow channels because they weren’t in the historic district during the 1920s. But if we don’t build flood control structures, we risk losing a lot more in the next major flood. It would be great if we could magically protect the site without changing a thing, but it’s not possible.”

If things go smoothly, several major contracts should be awarded within the next 6 months.

The EA and Finding of No Significant Impact documents can be viewed at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/castle.

Wildlife Safety Bill Passes in California, Allowing the Consumption of Roadkill

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors approved correspondence for an act that will improve collaboration and documentation between agencies when accounting for wildlife deaths due to vehicles.

Senate bill 395, also known the Wildlife Safety act will provide better options for those who hit wildlife.

Currently, organizations such as CDFW, Caltrans, and CHP do not coloborate when it comes to documenting wildlife involved in accidents. With the new bill, the hope is that combined statistics will lead to less wild animal fatalities.

Another component of this measure will address what happens to a wounded or dead animal on the road. Currently, it is illegal to transport a dead wild animal. With the passing of this new law, animal carcasses can be moved and even donated.

The policy would allow for the meat of dead animals to be given to charities or prisons to feed people if it is deemed acceptable to consume. Some homeless shelters and prisons accept this type of meat for use in their pantry.

However, the meat is non-FDA approved, but depending on the injury, it can be deemed “safe for consumption.”

California’s Roadkill Bill was created by state senator Bob Archuleta, who said the measure would save “hundreds of thousands of pounds of healthy meat” from roadkill by using it to “feed those in need.”

Other states with similar laws include Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Washington, North Dakota, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kansas, and Florida.