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News Briefs from March 12-13 Inyo County Board of Supervisors Meetings

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News Briefs from March 12-13 Meetings 

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors made its annual visit to Southeast Inyo last week, hearing from constituents and  partners in far-flung communities and even taking the time to honor one of the County’s most remote employees.


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Fifth District Supervisor and Board Chair Matt Kingsley (l) and Risk Manager Aaron Holmberg (r) present Facility Operations Supervisor Shane Riley with a “Most Improved in Safety” award for improvements at the Shoshone Road Yard. The award was presented during the Board’s March 12 meeting in Tecopa.

During the Board’s March 12 meeting at the Tecopa Community Center, Risk Manager Aaron Holmberg presented Facility  Operations Supervisor Shane Riley of the Shoshone Road Yard with a “Most Improved in Safety Award.” Riley was lauded  by the Board and Tecopa community members for his commitment to excellent public service and overall diligence and  dedication.

Riley’s honor was the third of three Safety Awards given out this year; Health & Human Services and the Ag  Commissioner’s Office received the first two for improvements at the Wellness Center and the George L. Milovich  Agricultural Maintenance Building, respectively. The awards are given at the discretion of Risk Management following  the annual comprehensive safety audit that takes place every fall.

The annual safety awards acknowledge continuous improvement in employee and facility site safety and also encourage such improvements throughout all county locations.


Friends of the Amargosa Basin Program Director Cameron Mayer gave an update on the group’s efforts to earn  Congressional designation for an Amargosa Basin National Monument. Mayer noted that the group has been conducting  outreach with community members, Tribal nations, government agencies, and elected officials and is working to build a  coalition of partners through communication and meeting. The Friends group hopes a National Monument designation will  result in a holistic land management plan for an an area that already includes a Wild and Scenic River, Wilderness Areas,  Wilderness Study Areas, a National Historic Trail, and National Conservation Areas. It was also noted that the upgraded  status could be a boon to the area’s burgeoning ecotourism.

Mayer stressed that only federal lands are proposed to be included within the monument’s boundaries and that private,  state, tribal, and other lands not owned or controlled by the federal government will not be affected.

Chairperson Matt Kingsley encouraged the group to continue working toward garnering widespread grassroots support,  pointing out that the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group’s ability to bring different groups together was a major reason  Congress approved the creation of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area.


Roads and road conditions tend to be a major topic of discussion at the annual Tecopa meetings, and this year was no  exception. The Board heard from concerned residents and business owners about an ongoing problem with vehicles  speeding through their small community with little regard for public safety.

The discussion dovetailed into a presentation from Transportation Planner Justine Kokx on the County’s plan to apply for  grant funding through the state to make road improvements in the community – including additions meant to slow traffic.

Kokx pointed out that, in addition to speeding vehicles and vehicles failing to stop at signed intersections, Tecopa lacks  road shoulders, sidewalks, and pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities, and has gaps in connectivity. Proposed  improvements include adding a shoulder and striping on Old Spanish Trail to connect residential areas to the post office,  church, and restaurants downtown as well as bike lanes; adding bike lanes or a multi-use path on Tecopa Hot Springs Road;  and installing traffic calming measures like LED-lighted stop signs, high-visibility crosswalks, and vehicle speed feedback  signage. Kokx urged community members to weigh in on the proposals – especially the traffic calming measures – by  taking online surveys being offered by Public Works.


Earlier in the day, the Board held a joint meeting in Shoshone with the Inyo County Board of Education. In addition to  receiving a State of the Schools report from Superintendent Barry Simpson, the boards heard a request from Death Valley  National Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds to utilize a shuttered school in Furnace Creek for community activities and  events.

Reynolds noted that the Timbisha-Shoshone Tribe, Xanterra employees, and National Park Service personnel have  nowhere to gather as one community. Using the old school building for consolidating community events would add to the  local quality of life and also free up at least three desperately needed housing units for the Park, which has actually run out  of housing for employees. He said nothing in his request would preclude the building from being used as a school again in  the future if needed.

Chairperson Kingsley asked Death Valley Unified School District Jim Copeland and his school board to seriously consider  the Park’s request, even if Copeland has indicated he may be not in full support of it thus far.


The Board’s Tuesday meetings were followed on Wednesday by a workshop at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, where  Superintendent Reynolds gave an update on overall Park operations, including the status of roads that were ravaged by two  different storms over the last two years.

The Park continues to reopen roads weekly and welcome visitors from around the world – including those recently enticed  by the rare appearance of “Lake Manly” in Badwater Basin as a result of heavy rains. Those rains could also lead to  increased visitation this spring. Death Valley National History Association Dave Blacker hinted at a bumper year for  wildflowers, citing indications there could even be two separate super blooms.

The workshop also included a report from Southern California Edison Government Relations Manager Matthew  Paroulo, which sparked a lengthy discussion about power outages in Death Valley and possible solutions to the  ongoing problem. One such solution is the creation of a microgrid, which Park personnel propose could provide  resiliency to the power at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and DVNP headquarters, allowing for uninterrupted  communications between NPS law enforcement, emergency medical services, and firefighters with the Park’s  dispatch, the Federal Interagency Communications Center, San Bernardino, during emergencies. Park management  would be able to locally work with utility providers and local governments to more quickly restore service, and also  provide cooling at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center for the safety of employees, members of the Timbisha-Shoshone  Tribe, and visitors.

The project will need to go through several layers of approvals – as well as receive grant funding – before it can become  reality.

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