Issue 28 - December 1999







The Death Valley Advisory Commission met in Bishop on October 28. Several developments were encouraging for the Saline Community. Park Superintendent Dick Martin reported that SPA had submitted a revised draft of its Cooperative Agreement (CA) with Death Valley National Park (DEVA), and that discussions on the CA were continuing. Hopefully, the Cooperative Agreement will give the Saline Community a continuing voice and role in caring for the Springs.

The Timbisha Tribal Homeland Proposal will require a full Environmental Impact Statement as the next phase of the public process. The EIS will need to address many concerns raised in the public comment period, including some 400+ letters sent to Dick Martin by the Saline community. Preparation of the EIS has been slowed down owing to lack of funds from Congress, and some key staff members have left the original team that prepared the proposal. The EIS is expected to be ready sometime this winter. 

The General Management Plan for the Park is also taking longer than expected. Because of extensive public comments (including some 300 letters from the Saline community), many parts of the GMP had to be rewritten, and these "substantial changes" will require a two-volume revised draft. This document is expected to be available for public review by Spring 2000. The revised draft will no longer offer a list of three alternative plans for the management of the Springs. Rather, the Park expects to develop a separate site management plan for the springs, which will also be open for public comment when it is written.

Unfortunately, some changes that were proposed in the plan seem to be going forward on an administrative level in spite of public comment.(See the _DEVA Compendium_ article elsewhere in this issue.)

Many thanks to all of you who wrote letters commenting on these two documents. You have helped to show that the Saline community can have a powerful voice in the public process. Complete sets of your letters on both issues were forwarded by SPA to Congress.

If you wrote a letter commenting on either the Timbisha proposal or the GMP, you should receive notification from the NPS by mail when the next version is available for review. Please request a copy and continue your valuable participation.



Arroyo Cleanup Project

Sometime in the early _70s, during the construction of most of the facilities at Lower Warm Spring, the folks who were creating the oasis we enjoy today cleaned up an enormous amount of trash. As was the custom at the time, they buried this trash near what is now the softball field. Over the past decades, the course of runoff has changed, and now this debris has been exposed, and is washing out into the arroyo. Broken glass and rusty tin cans are contributing to a safety hazard for hikers in that area. This fall, SPA and the NPS began a cooperative effort to clean up this site.

SAM Merk, Kathy Goss, and volunteers at the Springs filled a trailer with trash which was taken out of the Valley to a County landfill in early October. Special thanks to "Speedy Deb," who provided the trailer and much hard work! On Halloween weekend, "Garbage Mike" worked with SPA to organize a group of 20 volunteers (shown in photo) to attack the dump site. Ranger Jon Peterson furnished barrels and digging tools, and also hauled the full barrels out of the valley. Camp Host "Lizard Lee" provided cold drinks for the volunteers who filled six 55-gallon barrels in about two hours.

Peterson brought the empty barrels back the next day, and they are now sitting out by the wash waiting to be filled again. A week later, four of us filled one in only 45 minutes. There_s still plenty of trash to pick up. If anyone has some time to kill, please feel free to go out and fill a barrel. As they_re filled, they_ll be removed and emptied by the Park Ranger.

Projects like this one demonstrate our commitment to managing the Springs in a responsible manner, and show that we are serious about cooperating with the Park Service to address their concerns, as well.

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SPA Board Changes

Much as individuals change and evolve over time, so do organizations. As you can see by the front page of this newsletter, the SPA Board has undergone some changes this year. "Stuck Chuck" Weber resigned early this summer, and "Capt. Mike" Mooney did the same in September. Both cited personal reasons and the desire to move on to other things as their reasons for leaving. Under SPA's Merger Agreement, a departing Board Member has the option of nominating his/her replacement. As their replacements, Chuck and Mike nominated Kathy Goss and "Major Tom" Ganner, respectively. Both these nominations were accepted unanimously by the Board.

Dave Bybee, who has been SPA's Spokesperson for several years, has moved to Vancouver, Washington and become involved with hot springs organizations there. Since Dave is now several hundred miles away, and with the fresh energy of the new Board members available, it made sense to redistribute some of the responsibilities and duties that had been heaped on him. At the Board meeting in September, it was decided that "Silver Bob" Renton would take over as SPA's liaison with the National Park Service, handling all communication and dealings between SPA and the NPS. "Major Tom" is assuming the role of Secretary, and will be responsible for maintaining the mailing list. SAM Merk is to be SPA's contact person for dealings with the Timbisha Tribe. Kathy Goss, the only full-time Inyo County resident on the Board, will be joining SAM Merk in handling our business with the County. Dave Bybee will remain as SPA's contact with environmental groups. Michelle Hamilton has taken on the duties of SPA's Treasurer.

We thank Chuck and Mike for their past contributions and wish them the best as we move on. With our Cooperative Agreement in the works, along with the other issues now before us, there's plenty of work to do. We believe this arrangement gives us the best chance to accomplish the published goals of the organization.




By the time you read this, The National Park Service should have completed the installation of three vault toilets at Saline Valley Warm Springs. According to Jed Davis, chief of maintenance for Death Valley National Park (DEVA), the decision was made to replace the existing volunteer-built outhouses with vault toilets because of the possibility that pit toilets may contaminate the water sources at the Springs. However, no hydrological studies were done to validate this opinion.

The Park did consider the possibility of installing composting toilets, which are used in remote settings in other National Parks, but decided that composting toilets would not be able to handle the user load at peak visitor times, and would require too much maintenance.

One double unit will be placed just below the location of the present north outhouse at the Lower Springs. A single unit will be placed on the south side of camp at the Lower Springs, a bit north of the location of the old outhouse. A third unit will be placed at the Palm Spring. The plan calls for the removal of both existing pit toilets at the Lower Springs once the vault toilets have been installed. For now, at least one outhouse will be left at Palm Spring, to supplement the single vault toilet.

The new vault toilets will still be cleaned by the visitor community and/or the Camp Host and will require pumping only once a year, or perhaps once every two years. Toilet paper will be supplied by NPS in case lots. If you've ever used government issue toilet paper, you know that there will still be a need for, shall we say, more "user friendly" supplies. Please don't hesitate to keep donating your favorite brand to augment what_s furnished.

Over the years, our outhouses have been dug, maintained, and supplied by volunteers. Just because our volunteer services will no longer be required in this one area, please don't think that the spirit of volunteerism is extinct at the Springs! There are many other activities and supplies that require volunteer support. Please check with our Camp Host or contact SPA by phone, letter, or e-mail to inquire what you can do to help.



Spring 1999 Burro Roundup

Earlier this year, 87 burros were removed from Saline Valley by a private adoption agency . A helicopter was used to drive the animals to an area where wranglers could capture them. If these burros hadn't been removed for adoption, they could have been killed by the park -- there is a certain quota each year that must be either killed or removed. NPS itself does not remove the burros, so you get the picture. The cost to the taxpayer of this operation was $229/head.

There is also an ongoing removal operation in the Lee Flat area. With the assistance of John Hunter, 11 burros have been removed so far, at a cost of $291/head.

Also there was a BLM-assisted helicopter/wrangler collection in the Southern Panamints in 1999. Ninety-four burros were removed; the cost was $475/head.

The Park’s objective for 2000 is removal of 250-300 burros, from the entire park. Those not captured and removed could be subject to "Direct Reduction" (i.e. shooting) by the Park. SPA’s understanding is that Saline Valley will be a primary focus of burro removal in 2000.



Camp News

According to Assistant Camp Host "Bird Bob," many of you have been asking, "Where’s North? What happened to him?" North will no longer be an Assistant Camp Host simply because he got a better offer. On October 16th, North was married to Dee Dee Anderson in a ceremony at Lake Tahoe. Good Luck to the bride and groom!




The Inyo County Health Department has requested that we include the following advisory in this newsletter.

Health authorities recently cautioned users of hot springs to avoid putting their heads under water because of the threat of a rare amoebic infection. A rare free-swimming amoeba, Naegleria fowleri, has been known to cause a deadly nervous system infection known as primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM.

The amoeba enters the body through water in the nasal passages and invades the brain by way of the olfactory tissue. Symptoms appear in 2 to 15 days, and are indistinguishable from those of acute bacterial meningitis. PAM is successfully treated with Amphotericin B, but if untreated is likely to be fatal.

To prevent PAM, avoid immersing your head or face in any warm body of water (above 86_ F), especially in places where PAM has been implicated previously.

Very few cases of PAM have been reported over the 25 years it has been recognized. The only known sources in the state of California to date are Deep Springs, California (1991, 1978, 1971) and Oasis, California (1982). There has NEVER been a case associated with the Springs in Saline Valley.

For more information, please contact your doctor or County Health Department.



SPA is Online!

Given the popularity of the Internet, and the suggestions of many of our members, SPA finally has a website. We’re posting road conditions, news updates, and any other pertinent information the community might need. The URL (web address) is:

In keeping with SPA’s policy of publicity containment, the Valley is not identified by name in any part of the website that would result in its being found by a search engine. Please make a note of the web address now, so that you will be able to locate it with your browser.

We will also be publishing future issues of the SOURCE online. If you would rather read this newsletter online, please email us your name and email address, and we’ll send you a notice each time there’s something important published on our site. With the rising cost of publishing and mailing these newsletters, it would be a real help to be able to bring everyone the latest information in a timely manner without spending the $900 or so that a full mailing costs us. SPA's email address is:

We are in the process of updating our email list. If you have ever sent us your email address in the past, please send it again now so that we can consolidate our files.

Of course, we’ll continue mailing newsletters to those who would rather get hard copies.

SPA also has a new mailing address. We can now be reached at:
PO Box 1603 Inyokern, CA 93527.



New DEVA Compendium Released

On November 11th, Superintendent Martin signed the new Compendium for Death Valley National Park. This document defines the rules that are specific to the Park, and are in addition to the regular NPS regulations that apply to all National Parks. The entire document is rather lengthy, and much of it is beyond the scope of this newsletter. However, we believe it is/ important for the community to have access to this information, so SPA has posted the complete document on its web site at:

As you read the Compendium, you will discover that some items apply specifically to Saline Valley. The SPA Board shares your concern over some of these issues, and we will be attempting to address them during our efforts to conclude a Cooperative Agreement with the NPS.



Hunter Canyon Cleanup

While we’ve been focusing on the goings-on with the NPS, the BLM has been busy in the valley, too. They hired a contractor to raze the cabins and trailers in Hunter Canyon, and haul out all the old equipment and debris left from the mining operation. Recent visitors report that they did a very thorough job, leaving little but bulldozer tracks and burn marks.

This area is now the trailhead for the "Lonesome Miner’s Trail" which accesses the BLM’s Inyo Mountains Wilderness Area. The trail was explored and named by the late Wendell Moyer, whose family still owns property in the Valley.



Fire Pans

As we mentioned in the last issue, the campfire problem is really getting a lot of attention from the NPS. So much attention, in fact, that the new Compendium specifically requires campers in Saline Valley to carry their ashes and unburned charcoal out of the valley when they leave. The reasoning is that in a popular camping area without designated campsites, there is no way to concentrate the damage to one place. Rather, campers build a fire wherever they wish to camp. This leads to the problem of charcoal and campfire debris being scattered around the entire area by wind, animal and human activity.

Certainly, no one wants to eliminate campfires at the Springs, and we don't want numbered designated campsites either. We believe there is a better way to address this situation.

SPA has been delivering metal fire pans to the Valley, and distributing them around camp. The pans are in two styles. Some are cut off steel barrels, about 22" in diameter and 5" tall. Others are rectangular, approximately 24" by 18". Either style should be able to contain plenty of firewood for even a roaring campfire. When the fire is out, you can easily dump the ash into a container and take it with you and dump it in the trash when you get home.

By voluntarily addressing this problem, the community can show the Park Service that the Saline Warm Springs is a unique community that doesn't need to be regimented like other Park Campgrounds. Hopefully, they'll understand and won't feel the need to try to designate campsites.

A special "Thank You" to Bernie Hribar of Advanced Metal Services Inc. for donating the rectangular pans, and to SAM Merk for making a special trip to deliver them in time for Christmas.