Mojave Desert Boondoggles: The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project

Cadiz

“…the voice of the desert is the one which has been least often heard.
We came to it last, and when we did come,
we came principally to exploit rather than to listen.
Joseph Wood Krutch

It’s long been acknowledged that the Mojave Desert provides the most ideal location for our prisons, landfills, renewable energy plants, military installations, military bombing ranges, and royalty-free access to minerals and water. In what other ways could man possibly benefit from the realm of desert bighorn sheep, seasonal wildflower blooms, desert tortoises, and wild desert springs? Unfortunately, this is the traditionally held [ignorant] view of and behavior toward the the California desert and its “resources”.

Bonanza

THREATENED: Bonanza Spring and the Clipper Mountains

The publicly-traded company Cadiz, Inc.  grows citrus and avocados on its 45,000 acres of privately held desert land in Cadiz Valley (water intensive farming in the desert?). Cadiz proposes to mine 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater (shared) every year from beneath Cadiz Valley while claiming that pumping from the basin would not affect Bonanza Spring (seen in the attached photos), or any other springs in the adjacent Mojave Trails National Monument or the Mojave National Preserve to the north. U.S. Geological Survey geologists assert that only 5,000 to 6,000 acre-feet per year of recharge is possible (this is, after all, the driest desert in North America). It’s simple math: drawdown will exceed recharge (Never Forget: Owens Valley and the LADWP). For nearly two decades, Cadiz, Inc. has tried to advance their project and for nearly two decades it has failed. Why?

“Access to new water supplies is extremely critical to the continued vitality of our cities,” says California Senator Tony Cárdenas in a promotional document defending Cadiz. But will a private water sale to one county benefiting a mere 400,000 people offer relief to a metropolitan area of 13 million? Cárdenas falls right in line with those who believe that coastal cities can sustain infinite growth (“vitality”) without an adequate local water supply. It is both illogical and irrational for a coastal city to suggest that it requires desert water for its “vitality”.

The California desert conservation community has been successful repeatedly at beating the bullsh*t served up by Cadiz; forward movement has been blocked again and again. That is, until the nightmare 45th President of the United States moved into the White House. Why would POTUS have an interest in the remote California desert and in a water project that serves less than half a million? Why would this unremarkable water project on the remote Mojave Desert make Donald’s Top 50 Priority List of Emergency and National Security Projects? Why, follow that money trail!

In late July, the 45th Administration confirmed David Bernhardt, a highly controversial pick, for the Number 2 post at the Department of the Interior:

“Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on David Bernhardt, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior, to recuse himself from all matters concerning the Cadiz water extraction project. Bernhardt is currently the head of the natural resources division at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the lobbying firm that is representing Cadiz.” “Given the fact that your current firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, is contracted to lobby on behalf of Cadiz, Inc., I remain deeply concerned about any potential conflict of interest should you serve as Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior—the agency responsible for oversight of the federal lands related to the Cadiz proposal,” Senator Feinstein wrote.”

Yes, you read this correctly. David Bernhardt represents one of the most egregious and recent conflicts of interest arising from this Administration.

With your help we will can protect the Mojave and stop The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project because it is so wrong on so many levels. Several hours worth of nauseating reading can be found in the numerous links below.

Protect and preserve Your Mojave Desert – thank you for reading and opposing this damaging and dirty project. #RememberOwensValley #CadizSUCKS

Federal policy change criticized for giving ‘free pass’ to controversial desert water project

Will Cadiz Project Drain Desert Aquifers?

The ludicrous plan to pump Mojave water to L.A.

Opinion: AB 1000 Would Protect California’s Deserts From Trump

The scheme to pump desert water to L.A. could destroy the Mojave. California’s Legislature needs to block it

WATER IS PRECIOUS IN THE DESERT. SPEAK UP TO PROTECT IT.

Cadiz Water Project should be nixed

TAKE ACTION: Protect California’s Precious Desert Water Resources!

State Legislation Introduced to Protect Water Resources, National Parks and Public Lands in California Desert

Cadiz: The Desert Water Pimps

Interior head says public lands can make U.S. a ‘dominant’ oil power

Secretary Zinke’s Magic-8-Ball approach to policy making

Trump eases the way for a controversial water pumping project in a California desert

Mojave Desert Feinstein asks Trump administration to protect desert water

Cadiz Inc. would harm the Mohave. Here’s how

Cook: Orange County Water District Should Distance Itself from the Cadiz Water Project

Feinstein to Zinke: Don’t Let Cadiz Destroy Pristine Desert

The Absurdity of the Cadiz Water Export Scheme

Feinstein: Trump Nominee Should Recuse Himself from Cadiz Water Project

Water extraction project would be destructive to California’s Mojave Desert

Desert Water Project Would Threaten Tribes’ Sacred Lands

How you can tell Trump cares nothing about water: He’s supporting the ridiculous Cadiz project

The Unique Mojave Desert Oasis at the Center of the Cadiz Controversy

National monument boundaries protect our heritage: Guest commentary

Protect the Groundwater Beneath Our National Treasures

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

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Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition: September 16-17, 2017

ExpoThe Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition at the historic Oasis of Mara in Twentynine Palms, CA, presents a juried art exhibition, opening reception and awards, art market, artist booths, art classes, nature walks, historical lectures and exhibits, live music, and culinary treats. Events are staged at five cultural venues in the Oasis of Mara: 29 Palms Art Gallery, 29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms Creative Center & Gallery, Old Schoolhouse Museum, and Joshua Tree National Park HQ & Oasis Visitor Center on National Park Drive. This art exhibition and celebration features art inspired by or depicting the unique natural beauty or cultural history of Joshua Tree National Park.

I hope you’ll join me for a weekend of desert art on September 16-17, 2017. You’ll find me both days at the Art Market on the Lawn from 10am to 4pm showing mine. You might also consider joining us for the Artist Reception on Saturday, September 16 from 5-8pm at the 29 Palms Art Gallery. Lots of outstanding art (63 artists in total) is found in this year’s expo and you deserve to see it.

For more information, maps, etc.:
Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition website

Event Venue Map (PDF)

Schedule of Events (PDF)

See you in 29 Palms on September 16-17!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

When the going gets tough, the tough go hiking

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I’ve been particularly neglectful of this blog for a long time and this likely is not the first time that I’ve said that here. So let me say it again: I intend to rejuvenate this blog and begin posting more photographs to it (with or without many accompanying words). Business and life keep me scrambling and busy and social media (namely Facebook) has become my standard way to share and disseminate ideas, links, photographs, and content. While Facebook is fast and easy and posts there tend to draw many more eyes, that’s not a good reason to back off here on my own platform. My archive houses tens of thousands of images and I plan to start popping them on here. I hope you’ll stay tuned. Thanks for being here with me.

Photograph: two photographer/hikers walk up a remote canyon in Death Valley National Park.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael

Soda Mountains: VICTORY FOR THE MOJAVE DESERT! San Bernardino County Supervisors REJECT Soda Mountain Solar

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Updated 24 August 2016: VICTORY FOR THE MOJAVE DESERT! San Bernardino County Supervisors REJECT Soda Mountain Solar!

THANKS to all who pushed so hard to get San Bernardino County to deny the harmful Soda Mountain Solar project. This project has been hotly contested since 2009; first being fast-tracked, then de-prioritized, then sold, then bought by Bechtel, then back in the fast lane, then hamstrung by the City of Los Angeles’s decision not to buy the power, then approved by the Interior Department, then sold to Regenerate, and yesterday (Aug 23, 2016) denied by the San Bernardino County board of Supervisors. Hands in the air!

Tens of thousands of Americans opposed this project, as did scientists, the National Park Service, and damn near the entire California desert. This was a remarkable doing and could not have happened without the concerted effort of thousands of community voices and leaders. The National Park Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stood up against this bad project. So many organizations said no. Pushing back on this bad project draws a line in the sand that bad projects don’t get a free pass to harm our parks, our wildlife, or our communities.

SB-SupPlease thank San Bernardino County Supervisors Lovingood (email), Gonzales (email), and Rutherford (email) for their powerful votes. As our walk was not easy, neither was theirs – the Unions pushed really hard. The incredible organizing done by Sierra Club and the Alliance for Desert Preservation, in addition to so many groups and activists, made a huge difference. Thank you!

Many people thought this couldn’t be accomplished. A special place lives to fight another day. A wise decision and a good day for Mojave National Preserve, for our communities, and our desert. Forget Texas – don’t mess with the California desert!

Previously published:

On February 12, 2016 the Obama Administration demonstrated great leadership and foresight with its designation of three new National Monuments in the California desert (Sand to Snow, Mojave Trails, Castle Peaks). A mere eight weeks later, on April 5, 2016 – this same Administration lost its mind and approved a hotly-contested solar project on previously undeveloped California desert wildlands.

The Soda Mountain Solar Project has been contested from the get-go: By scientists, biologists, current and former National Park Superintendents, public stakeholders, and numerous other organizations and individuals who provided a plethora of logical and scientific reasons (via written comment submissions and during public meetings) why this project should not move forward at this location. First and foremost: the proposed project boundary is a mere 1/3 mile from the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve. Allow me to say it again just in case you didn’t catch it: Our federal government approved an industrial project a mere one-third of a mile from one of our third-largest National Park unit. Among numerous other significant impacts, this project would severely threaten the lives and migration patterns of bighorn sheep who reside and move through the Soda Mountains.

Please have a look at the photo heading this post. Proponents of this project claim that they have mitigated visual impacts of the project from within the Mojave National Preserve by removing from development lands north of Interstate 15. My photograph illustrates either the Bureau of Land Management‘s (BLM) disingenuousness or that it knows much less about the land we have entrusted it to manage than does this landscape photographer. That’s a two way view: the Kelso Dunes, Providence Mountains, and Granite Mountains of the Mojave National Preserve can all be seen in the background. If one places themselves in these locations inside the Preserve post-development, solar panels will fill in the background. Are these the views we want and expect from inside a unit of our National Park system?

During public and private meetings over the last few years, Bechtel was urged to take this project elsewhere where it could not destroy previously undeveloped desert and seriously threaten wildlife. Guess which finger they held up in reply?

During public and private meetings over the last few years, the BLM and Department of Interior were asked to not permit this project to move forward where it would destroy previously undeveloped desert and seriously threaten wildlife – there are better and more sensible options. Guess which finger they held up in reply?

This solar proposal has no power purchase agreement and the City of Los Angeles has stated that they will not purchase power from this project due to its environmental impacts.As Chris Clarke points out in this KCET article, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and San Bernardino County are doing a better job at protecting the California desert than the Bureau of Land Management (an agency entrusted by the public to protect our public lands in the public interest. Note public interest, not corporate).

The Center for Biological Diversity  suggests that “a recent report identifies nearly 1.5 million rooftops throughout Los Angeles County that could be used as solar power generators that would create 19,000 megawatts from rooftop solar. The total rooftop solar potential for the city of Los Angeles is more than 5,500 megawatts (more than 15 times what the Soda Mountain solar project would generate), which could power the city on most days since the highest-ever peak in Los Angeles was 6,177 megawatts.”

Dear President Obama: Why would you protect but then sign-off on the destruction of my beautiful Mojave Desert in the span of only eight weeks? Visitors come from around the world to tour and enjoy these vast and unspoiled landscapes.

Given that this project ignores and defies directives set forth in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (six years in planning) and given the massive science against and opposition to this project, I am left wondering who took the bribe? 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Read more on the following pages:

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

The Greatest Gift

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In this sunlit desolation of rock and thorn, where the sun beats down through an unending march of days and the desert silence which broods among the boulders and Ocotillos is broken only by the harpings of the wind, we can spread freely the net of our minds to gather those priceless, fundamental stirrings of the infinite which are most easily come by when one is close to nature. Marshal South

I recently celebrated my birthday in Death Valley National Park. Reasoning that all my clients are wonderful people and a joy to be around (this is no lie) – especially considered in the context of photography and Death Valley –  I chose to schedule photo tour clients on my birthday. While some opt for more civilized days or nights on the town with a fine dinner, friends, and a show, my time spent quietly in nature amidst the sun-burnished desert holly, half-billion year old canyons, and ancient night sky are among the simplest of joys – they make me happy. I don’t need any wrapped presents or candles or cake – these are the gifts I want and love.

I’m always a little hesitant to share my “methods” with my clients. I meet most of them at their lodging, where they’ve often spent a comfortable night under a roof with the possibility of evening television entertainment. They are often surprised when they learn that I forgo lodging and sleep under the stars. Not camped in a tent – literally, on the ground and under the stars (never in “developed” campgrounds). It is not a budgetary constraint – it is a choice. Sometimes the kit foxes visit me at night (sometimes walking around on and smelling my sleeping bag – “lie down, kit!”). Often I hear my coyote friends nearby reveling in their hunt. I have no fears about sleeping beautifully this way – much worse (and louder) things can happen in any city on any given night. There is no quiet like the quiet of my preferred Death Valley sleeping sites.

My “method” ceased being a choice long ago – after a great many years of doing it this way, sleeping under a tent canopy or roof feels wrong when there are planets, meteors, and a raging night sky to lull me to sleep. Rest assured, I’ve had plenty of middle-of-the-night rain drills which send my scurrying like a wood rat. My ancestors slept like this; it feels right to follow in their steps and try to understand a little of their existence and their communion with nature. It cannot be so terribly different from my own experiences.

One of Lynda’s goals was to experience and photograph the Milky Way. Any day or month of the year, I get to experience this brilliant flaming Galaxy over the Death Valley night sky. And while I don’t care so much about making photographs of  it – I observe it nightly in real-time H.D. with my own eyes – I don’t take it for granted. Never for a second.

In a world which often seems to be speeding (and spiraling) out of control, I feel eternally thankful and blessed for these gifts. The gift of sight lets me see nightly that infinite galaxy overhead. The gift of sound allows me to hear gentle desert winds rake across the hairs of my outer ear. And the gift of simply being allows me to take pleasure in the simplest joys which were enjoyed by my ancestors (and which are frequently lost on modern man).

Thank you for a most wonderful birthday in Death Valley, Lynda and Jim!

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For information and photographs, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on Facebook.

The Artist as Activist

To my readers: I apologize for the raging quiet that has permeated this blog for a number of months. Booming business, my father’s failing health, and a plethora of other commitments and obligations fight for my time and this blog suffers for it. I hope to be be able to increase my posting frequency in the coming months.

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Sheep Mountain Wilderness and Proposed Wilderness Additions. Photo © Michael E. Gordon

Say Hello! to the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument! Photo ©2010 Michael E. Gordon

My being and spirituality has always been directly tied to nature and wildlands. I was born in Los Angeles (a distinctly different city nearly 50 years ago) and first experienced and fell in love with the local San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and Sierra Nevada mountains as a very young boy. While many of the memories of those early experiences are no longer with me, the experiences themselves have indelibly shaped and defined the person I was to become. I studied the obligatory classics of my preferred genre: John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner. If it was not my experiences that would shape me, the words of these writers certainly would have. Their books became my bibles, and the only thing I cared about (and still care about) was spending as much time as possible in wild nature: In my happy place, away from people, away from civilization (or “syphilization” as Abbey called it). I distinctly recall my mother back then telling this teenager that he had no business complaining about anything if he wasn’t willing to vote or put his money where his mouth was. It was she who was responsible for creating the activist I was to become. I was registered to vote by the age of eighteen and by my early twenties had a fat three-ring binder containing hundreds of copies of letters written to and replies received from Presidents, Senators, and Congresspersons about all the issues that concerned me and our planet.

In the decades since, I have walked, hiked, and climbed thousands of miles in California. I have summitted hundreds of its mountains (including many of the state’s highest); have been a volunteer patrol ranger on the San Bernardino National Forest (for which I received the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2008); have served on the Board of Directors for the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association; and am currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy. Since 2007 my photographs have been instrumental in the campaigns of The Wilderness Society, Campaign for America’s WildernessNational Parks Conservation Association, Pew Charitable Trusts, among others. Throughout my life I have fought for the preservation of wildlands and for doing what is right for the land. The latter is a position which Aldo Leopold argued for nearly 75 years ago. His ideas were brilliant and before their time yet few listened. 75 years later, wildlands have shrunk right along with our glaciers and much of our country is on the brink of ecological collapse.

In his piece on Politicizing Art, my good friend and workshop partner Guy Tal writes about disassociating his own political convictions from his photographic work and explains why he chooses not to be a public activist. Many artists choose a stance similar to his. Using my own photographs and art for activism and conservation seemed to me necessary and mandatory from the start. I have always believed that the most honorable purpose for my photographs would be their use in conservation and I desired following the footsteps of Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, and the Sierra Club tradition of using photographs and coffee table books to advance legislation and protection for wildlands.

In 2010, under contract of The Wilderness Society, I began photographing what at that time were termed “Solar Energy Zones” on the California desert. I was only then beginning to understand the possible and forever damage that could occur on my beloved Mojave Desert. My heart was crushed as I photographed vast swaths of desert wildlands that were impossible to envision covered in thousands of solar panels, 500-foot tall thermal power towers, and eagle-killing wind turbines. I have since committed to photographing all threatened California desert wildlands, and am proud that my photographs have been used to help kill at least three proposed ill-sited development zones (Pisgah, Iron Mountain, Palen).

In recent months, I have attended numerous public and private stakeholder meetings opposing utility-scale renewable energy developments on undisturbed California desert. I always have large prints in tow. While it’s easy to dispute confusing language and policies (such as with the recently-released 8,000 page Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan), the right photographs are able to clearly and powerfully demonstrate exactly what is at stake. Last week, I was invited by the Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association to lobby the Los Angeles City Council against entering a power purchase agreement from the proposed Soda Mountain Solar Project. I had two 60″ panoramic prints in tow and their impact was undeniably felt. A few weeks prior I was invited to a private meeting with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to discuss the Silurian Valley solar proposal. Again, I had large and small prints in tow (both landscape and wildlife) and their impact was undeniable.

In 2010, under contract of The Wilderness Society and the San Gabriel Mountains Forever campaign, I created a catalog of images to help advance the then-proposed National Monument designation for the San Gabriel Mountains. I am very happy to report that President Obama is screwing up traffic in Los Angeles today (October 10, 2014) to announce our newest National Monument!

Should artists avoid politicizing their art? Should photography and politics never be mixed? My personal life, spirituality, and profession are all intermixed and dependent upon nature and wildlands. I will not peacefully and passively accept the development and destruction of my beloved lands any more than I’ll permit an act of violence against a loved one.  If not me, what other artist will stand up and fight? If the power of beautiful photography can convince others of the need for protection and conservation of our vital wildlands, I want to be on the front line and I want those photographs to be mine.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on FacebookGoogle+, and  Twitter.

STOP the Proposed Silurian Valley Wind/Solar Project!

©2013 Michael E. Gordon

©2013 Michael E. Gordon

Dear Readers and friends of the California Desert, I need your help opposing the proposed Silurian Valley Solar/Wind Project which is slated for development southeast of Death Valley National Park. The proposed project would be a 200 megawatt solar facility consisting of multiple arrays of photovoltaic panels, 44 miles of service roads, a project substation, an operation & maintenance facilities including an aerial generation transmission line and will impact 7,219 acres of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approximately 10 miles north of Baker, San Bernardino County, along State Highway 127. Silurian Valley remains in a nearly pristine state just outside Death Valley National Park, just north of Mojave National Preserve, and is directly adjacent to the Hollow Hills Wilderness and Kingston Range Wilderness areasthis is simply the wrong location for this project. In mid-2013, National Geographic released a special publication entitled ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Places‘ in which the Mojave Desert was named as one of the 100 most remarkable destinations:

“Far from the madding metropolitan crowds of Las Vegas and Los Angeles that surround it, the Mojave Desert offers the balm of silence and solitude. Canyons, giant mesas, mountains, towering dunes, and vast, dust-dry plains make up one of North America’s most elemental landscapes. It is a world little touched by humans, save for the odd crumbling mine or homestead, but one which nature adorns with the beauty of the Joshua tree and spring’s brief-lived wildflowers…”

©2013 Michael E. Gordon

©2013 Michael E. Gordon

Renewable energy projects should be smart from the start, but the  proposed Silurian Valley Solar/Wind Project is a poster child for inappropriately sited renewable energy projects which threatens scenic view-sheds and critical wildlife habitat in a presently undisturbed valley. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommends that BLM reject the proposal “because of its potential for substantial adverse effects on trust resources including desert tortoises, migratory birds, and golden eagles. The proposed project would introduce a substantial amount of human impact into an area that is currently undisturbed”. Solar panels belong in urban areas, on roof tops, canopies over parking lots, public parks, along freeways, train tracks, and other suitable locations within the areas where it is consumed – NOT on our public wildlands and NOT in Silurian Valley.

With your help we can help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to understand the full range of impacts this project proposes for wildlife, viewshed, Death Valley National Park, and adjacent Wilderness Study Areas. Together we can ensure that the BLM does not blindly approve this harmful project (what’s wrong with “green” energy?).

©2013 Michael E. Gordon

©2013 Michael E. Gordon

I urge you to please submit your written comments by the May 28, 2014 deadline to:

Katrina Symons
BLM Barstow Field Manager
2601 Barstow Road
Barstow, CA 92311
or by email at Silurian_Valley_Solar@blm.gov

Please share this post widely with others who care about our National Parks, protecting public lands and open space from industrialized corporate development, preserving desert wildlife and views, and with those who care about holding subsidized developers responsible for not harming our world-famous deserts (tourists travel from around the world to take in our vast and timeless desert views). PLEASE HELP STOP the Silurian Valley Solar/Wind Project!

Additional reading:

Basin and Range Watch Silurian Valley page (comprehensive details, maps, photos)

USDA Fish & Wildlife Service comments AGAINST the Proposal

* Silurian Valley Solar: Beautiful Bureaucracy at Work

* Mojave Desert Blog: Ode to Silurian Valley

* The Wilderness Society: California’s Silurian Valley

* L.A. Times article: The Wrong Sites for Solar

* Sacrificial Land: Will renewable energy devour the Mojave Desert? (High Country News)

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website. You can also find Michael on FacebookGoogle+, and  Twitter.