Cougar’s fairy tale
To the Editor:
Let me cut to the chase: I love the Bodie Hills. As a Mono City homeowner, the Bodie Hills are literally my backyard. I recreate in the Bodie Hills year round: I both ski and hike there. I have seen more wildlife than most places, as well as unparalleled wild flower shows.
I am concerned there is a fairy tale circulating in North County. It goes something like this: Cougar Gold explores for gold in the Bodie Hills. They strike it rich, and bring lots of jobs and money and other amenities like ball fields and hospitals to our area. When the gold is all mined, they restore the Bodie Hills to the degree we never even knew they were there. I LOVE this fairy tale. Like most folks who live around here, I am totally struggling to make a living … I’d love more jobs and money in this area. I’d love a hospital in Bridgeport!
Unfortunately, my experience tells me otherwise. I have driven through many towns in Nevada and Utah where I’ve observed such nice amenities — in fact, fancy ballparks often jump out at me. However, what strikes me is the contrast between the boarded-up buildings, how run down the ballparks look, a general feeling of a very depressed town, juxtaposed against the evidence of once-upon-a-time wealth. The sight of tailing piles, and learning about what a mess the town is now left with, tells the real story.
My research and experience also tell me that the reality (as opposed to the fairy tale) goes something like this: at first the town is really happy … jobs are created and local businesses do well. But then folks start to notice that along with the money and jobs, the crime rate is also going up, and there are more bar fights and drugs. Often a series of trailers are moved into town somewhere, trailers that make FEMA trailers look good.
Then when the mine closes (say the price of gold goes down … could happen), we discover that the mining company didn’t allocate enough money for the restoration, they declare bankruptcy, and the taxpayers are left to clean up the mess.
In fact, that is exactly what happened in 1992 with Galactic Mining Company in Summitville, Colo. Remember Galactic? They wanted to mine in the Bodie Hills. However, their plans fell through due to a small inconvenience called bankruptcy. Turns out their Summitville gold mine had been leaking cyanide into the Alamosa River watershed, and in fact, destroyed 15.5 miles of river. When Galactic walked away, we, the taxpayers were left to foot the ~$200 million clean-up bill.
We already have one superfund site up the road at Monitor Pass. But not to worry — Cougar Gold’s CEO [Marcel DeGuire] reassured folks at their town hall meeting (in Bridgeport on Feb. 15 that Rough Creek drainage flows into Nevada, so if they did contaminate the water, it wouldn’t be Bridgeport’s problem. (Yes, he really said that!)
Give us the towers
I am writing in support of the Crowley Lake Cell tower. As a 10-year resident of Crowley Lake, I (along with family and friends) have put up with the incredible inconvenience of having no cell service in Crowley, at our home, in our cars, or even just walking around the area. Friends and relavtives coming to visit don’t understand. Job opportunities have been lost due to the lack of service. Important calls involving personal matters have been missed on numerous occasions. It is incredibly annoying, to say the least, but the lack of cell service in our area may very well also be a very dangerous thing.
Currently in the world, the premier technology is cell service. People all over the country and the world have come to rely on cell service as they have no other technology. We rely on it to know where our children are when we cannot be with them, if a spouse on a business trip has arrived safely, and in emergencies, in a way that no other technology has allowed for, to call for emergency services in record time, saving the lives of the people who depend on it.
Except here in Crowley Lake , where we have no reliable, dedicated cell tower, when emergencies happen, people are at great risk because they cannot call for help in the way they would anywhere else … on their cell phones.
Two examples: At around 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, my daughter and I were driving home from Mammoth Lakes. As we approached the Long Valley area, the wind had begun to blow to the point that we had to search out each and every snow pole to make sure we were staying in the middle of the highway.
About 100 yards from the Crowley Lake/Hilton Creek offramp I watched the car in front of me hit his brakes (his brake lights flashed), and suddenly veer into the median. (I have been in this situation numerous times when you can’t see the road or where you are going … basically the road disappears!) Because it was so windy and visibility was so dangerously low, we were unable to stop without risking injury to ourselves, so we did what anyone would do … we used one of our cell phones and called 911. But we knew we wouldn’t be able to talk for long, because of the lack of dedicated cell service in Crowley.
And, as predicted, the call cut out just as we made it to the offramp to go home. Now I don’t know if there were any injuries to the driver or passengers that night, but if there had been, and if they had been severe, should people’s’ lives be at risk in the Crowley Lake area because we don’t have a cell tower?
On another stormy night during New Year’s weekend, I assisted a poor family from Bishop which had been stuck at the Crowley Store since 2 p.m. (by then it was about 6 or 7 p.m.) during another crazy, windy snow storm. A member of their family had been in an accident earlier in the day, and they had driven from Bishop to come pick up that family member when their own car had gotten stuck in a drift on their way up. They had been trying to contact another family member who said he would come get them, but, of course, the minute he entered the Crowley Lake area, he lost cell service. They were at the Crowley Store, begging to use the phone all afternoon because their own cell phones had no service, and couldn’t reach the man coming to rescue them either.
The whole thing was like a nightmare for this family and their children who kept saying they just wanted to go home. None of them were dressed properly for the weather, as i expect they didn’t think they’d be in the elevations all that long … just to pick up their relative and go home … but it didn’t work out that way. I picked them up and drove them first to look for their car (they’d become very disoriented and didn’t know where it was) towards Tom’s Place, where there was cell service, but they were unable to reach their relative. Then, we drove back towards Mammoth Lakes, still looking for the car.
They were finally able to reach their relative on their cell phones as we approached the airport, and were able to communicate to him to come back to Crowley Lake (he didn’t know where the heck they were because they didn’t answer their cell phones, and had no idea they weren’t getting service in Crowley Lake or the surrounding area and so he had begun heading back to Bishop).
The point of this rambling, confusing story, is that the entire mess that night could easily have been avoided if there was a cell tower in Crowley Lake .
The crazy dead-spot that is Crowley Lake is dangerous for residents and visitors alike. Technology is not going to go backward. People are not going to go back to the days of only accessing land-line phones. The people living in and traveling through our area have the right to expect cell service in our area, and to deny it is just plain dangerous and backward.
Susan M. Berger
4-H is one of the most positive organizations to which young people can belong. 4-H teaches responsibility, good sportsmanship and is a positive influence in a young person’s life. The Arrowhead 4-H club is located in Mono County, covering the communities of Benton, Hammill Valley and Chalfant. For the past several years, the 4-H club has been meeting at the Chalfant Community Center. The 4-H members get together once a month and have a business meeting.
They learn the proper way to conduct a meeting, and members are given the opportunity to tell about their projects and give teaching demonstrations to other members. Now, Arrowhead has hit a snag with the use of the Chalfant Community Center.
Mono County does not seem willing to allow 4-H members to use the community center. When attempts are made to communicate with the “higher-ups” of the County, they either don’t respond or have some excuse. Since when do the community centers belong to the government of Mono County? It has always been the understanding of local residents that the community centers are for the residents to use.
These 4-H members are a great bunch of kids, doing positive things in the community, and learning to be good citizens. We have tried to explain that to the County, but it appears they don’t care. The major challenge to Arrowhead 4-H is that there are very few places in Chalfant or Benton in which we can hold a meeting.
Help our club out. If you live in Mono County, please call, email or write your Supervisor and ask them to allow the club to use the Chalfant Community Center. If you don’t live in Mono County, contact someone in Mono County Government, and let us all put pressure on the County to give these great bunch of kids a place to meet.
Arrowhead 4-H Project Leader
No clarity from Cougar
I attended the Cougar Gold Mining Company presentation at the Board of Supervisors meeting [on Feb. 15] in Bridgeport. Thanks to Board Chairman Hap Hazard for running a very efficient and respectful meeting, and to all the Supervisors for their thoughtful comments and questions. The bottom line message from Cougar Gold Mining seems to be: “We want you to support removing the Wilderness Study Area designation from this area where we want to mine (Paramount Mine/Rough Creek). Even though we can legally apply to BLM for a mining permit under the existing law, we don’t want to deal with more layers of environmental regulation. If you, Mono County, don’t do this for us, we will take our toys and go home.”
An interesting message, especially since Cougar Gold Mining representatives had just proudly shown the audience photos of how they carefully followed environmental regulations during their initial drilling phase.
If you are going to mine in such a special place, it must be done right. Cougar Gold, under grandfathered rights, could submit a plan to the BLM, continue exploratory drilling and move on to mine development. The mining executives stated they need the CLARITY of knowing they don’t have to work within a Wilderness Study Area, to make the RISK worth it.
I ask Cougar Gold, as I did at the meeting, “Where is the clarity for Mono County and the Bodie Hills?”
You are not providing any details of size of the mine, mining processes, depth, whether cyanide will be used,will this be an open pit mine, transport of ore, whose communities the trucks will go through, how many jobs or ANYTHING. You only say the WSA designation needs to go (which only an act of Congress can do) before any more information is provided. You knew when you bought the mining claims in 2004 that the WSA existed, yet you decided to take the risk. You will probably just turn around and sell your rights, which would become much more valuable if the WSA is removed, to yet another mining company in a long line of companies that have been poking around the old Paramount diggings site for years.
We here in Mono County want to be good stewards of the land, and if mining is going to happen, it had better be done responsibly. Cougar Gold Mining Company needs to be honest and open about their plans, and quit acting like a spoiled child threatening to leave if it doesn’t get its way. The health of our landscape, clean air and water, and wildlife shouldn’t be RISKED to a mining company unwilling to provide their own CLARITY.
Please release me, let me go
Dear Mono County Supervisors:
After attending most of the board meeting on February 15, 2011 and the Cougar Gold town hall meeting the same evening, here are some of my thoughts.
I have been a resident of Bridgeport for 38 years and a business owner in this community for about 18 years.
In regards to the Bodie Hills Wildlife Study Area, which was much of the topic of discussion during both meetings, I would strongly encourage you as a board to recommend the release of the area from WSA status. I believe that irregardless of the potential of any mining operations that may or may not occur in future decades, that it’s time now to once and for all release this property for multiple use and for the benefit of the residents of Northern Mono County.
There was a lot of discussion of the economic impacts that a mining operation may or may not have to the community of Bridgeport. I would like to submit to you that the economic impacts of this property remaining open for multiple use at this time already create a huge positive economic impact on the local community. Each year there are hundreds, if not thousands of motorcyclists, jeep enthusiasts, four wheelers, hunters, rock hounds, hikers, campers and folks in search of a pan full of gold that roam around this WSA both in motorized and unmotorized vehicles. Many of these visitors use Bridgeport as a base for their explorations into this WSA which brings countless dollars to this small, tourist-driven community. I can tell you from my experiences in both the restaurant and retail businesses in Bridgeport that when trying to make a living in the service industry here, every cheeseburger counts. I believe that if these hundreds or thousands of visitors were to stop coming to Bridgeport to enjoy the Bodie Hills because this WSA was made into an actual Wilderness Area, every business in this community would suffer, every motel room rental lost, every gallon of gas, every fishing lure, every souvenir, and every cheeseburger not sold would hurt this community drastically.
Let’s think about the area surrounding Bridgeport. To the West of Highway 395 in the Bridgeport area lies the Hoover Wilderness, as beautiful a wilderness area as you’ll ever see. Leading up to the boundary of the Hoover is mostly Toiyabe National Forest land which has roads that take you into the Virginia Lakes, Green Creek, Twin Lakes, Little Walker and Sonora Pass areas. Most of these roads are for the most part in and out access roads with very few interconnecting roads. The lack of roads on this side of the highway has presented the perfect scenario for Wilderness and National Forest land to be preserved for generations into the future. On the East side of Highway 395 from Conway Summit to the Nevada state line on Highway 182 there are several roads including the Bodie Road, Aurora Canyon Road and the Masonic Road that take visitors into the Bodie Hills and the Bodie Hills WSA, these main roads have a myriad of interconnecting roads that were built or created during the gold mining days when Bodie was booming. These interconnecting roads have enabled visitors to utilize this property for a multitude of uses for many decades and as long as the property in question isn’t designated as a Wilderness Area these visitors will be able to continue using this property well into the future.
In closing, I respectfully submit that in the short term, the removal of the Bodie Hills from its WSA status is of great importance to the economic viability of the community of Bridgeport. It’s the obligation of the Mono County Board of Supervisors to help facilitate this.
James E. Reid
Preserve this paradise
We are a few of the approximately 40 active members of Coogan Fly Fishers who could be reached on short notice to sign onto this letter.
Coogan Fly Fishers is a club whose members and families have stayed, fished in, enjoyed the wildness and spectacular landscape, and patronized the local businesses of Mono County for decades. Over the years our members, individually and collectively, have spent many tens of thousands of dollars in Mono County.
We are writing today to urge you to support the preservation of the wonderful cultural and natural riches of the Bodie Hills.
In our visits to Mono County and the Bodie Hills, we have had the great pleasure of experiencing and learning about the richness of Bodie Hills’s cultural geological, floristic, and animal resources and heritage. We respect that those who are privileged to live in Mono County also care deeply about this special country. Nonetheless, common sense and humility tell us that no one can possibly know or understand the full and irreversible extent of damage that development of a large gold mine in a place like the Bodie Hills could cause without years and years of careful consideration and scientific study. Even then, we do not believe that the short-term economic benefits of a mine will outweigh its environmental and economic costs. For this reason we urge your Board not to take a position in support of lessening existing protections for the Bodie Hills as has been requested by Cougar Gold, or in support of development of a gold mine.
We want Mono County and the Bodie Hills to remain the natural paradise that it is today. We want our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to be able to experience the pristine air, dark night skies, clean waters and trout-filled streams whether they visit Bridgeport or Tom’s Place. As the trustees of public lands that are cherished by people from all over California and the world, we are counting on you to help preserve and ably steward for the next generations the natural riches that you are privileged to live among and that the rest of us dream about.
Coogan Fly Fishers
Editor’s note: This letter was signed by 16 people from towns ranging from San Francisco to Tiburon to Redding to Bend, Ore. The letter was sent by Christopher Allen of Hillsborough, a founding prtncipal of the firm Stillwater Development LLC