Letter to the Editor: Impact ‘devastating’ for Cartago, Olancha


Submitted by Andre Long

Regarding Deb Murphy’s recent article on Olancha (http://sierrawave.net/olancha-cartago-the-gateway-to-the-sierra-nevadas/), here is the stone cold truth about the subject:

Cartago near Owens Lake. File photo courtesy of Scott Palamar

Caltrans has completely disregarded the wishes of the Olancha community from the very beginning of this project.  Why else would they construct a 50-acre open pit material mine and asphalt plant in Olancha at the end of Fall Road? Caltrans expects to remove approximately 765,000 tons of in-situ material and manufacture all the asphalt they need for the bypass (this is their estimate). They also plan to keep the plant indefinitely for future use.  This project would never have been placed in Lone Pine or Bishop.  However, because of the lack of political influence and general poverty of the area, Caltrans is placing this smack in our community while there are many other viable locations for this facility.  The impact will be devastating and will include the following:


Asphalt plants mix gravel and sand with crude oil derivatives to make the asphalt. The operation of this plant will likely release significant amounts of chemicals into the air including many cancer-causing toxic air pollutants such as arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and cadmium. Other toxic chemicals will also be released into the air as the asphalt is loaded into trucks and hauled from the plant site, including volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and very fine condensed particulates.


Removal of hundreds of thousands of tons of material will be accomplished using loud manufacturing and extraction equipment such as rock crushers, mixing drums, and excavators and will emit noticeable levels of noise, dust, and vibration.  Plus there will be additional noise of the tractor/trailer rigs that will be coming and going from the facility.

WATER QUALITY DEGRADATION                                                                         

Asphalt plants are also known water polluters.  As this plant will be located adjacent to Olancha Creek, the risk of contamination is real. One example of a dangerous asphalt plant contaminant is polycyclic aromatic compounds.  The entire community gets their water from wells in the same aquifer of the proposed plant.  Any discharge from storm and wastewater is likely to go directly into our wells, springs, and Olancha Creek.

So the next time you say that “CalTrans won’t leave the little communities in the lurch,” please check your facts as this proposed facility is a monumental travesty.  Moreover, we expect our local media to be concerned about environmental justice and support the community and not be part of Caltrans propaganda machine.

Andre Long

Very Concerned Citizen

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13 Responses to Letter to the Editor: Impact ‘devastating’ for Cartago, Olancha

  1. Deb Reese September 12, 2019 at 1:56 pm #

    Average citizen, you are mistaken. I have never been in favor of widening the existing Hwy 395. I grew up in Lone Pine and have lived most of my 70 years in Olancha. I live up Fall Road. I have attended CalTrans meetings, collected maps, asked questions and picked up all reading materials since 2005, when they first planned on starting the 4 lanes to begin in 2008. There has NOT been a drop in deaths with rumble strips. Double yellow lines do not stop some people from illegally passing, talk to our volunteers who pick them up off the highway and transport them to hospitals.
    I don’t know where you live, but there is not that much traffic going to Death Valley, my husband drives Hwy 190 twice a day and I can see the road from my house.

    Really public meetings don’t count for much in my experience. I have been to many of them in Lone Pine and Olancha through the years for various reasons. The entities that are having the meetings, such as LADWP, BLM, the schools, CalTrans, have pretty much already decided what they are going to do before the town meetings are held. It doesn’t matter what the public has to say ( a lot like our politicians these days) it is just lip service.

  2. Average Citizen September 10, 2019 at 3:57 pm #

    If any of you in favor of the bypass did your homework, you would know that that dangerous highway conditions occur at any 2-lane to 4-lane transitions. The locals were in favor of widening the highway along the exiting alignment, which would have improved safety and the community. Caltrans based their safety stats on data referenced before they widened the shoulders and put in rumble strips, which practically eliminated accidents. Track down former Supervisor Marty Fortney if you don’t believe me. And please refrain from making uninformed comments which put at risk the health and property value of other locals who actually want to live healthy lives and enjoy their Eastern Sierra lives.

    • Charles O. Jones September 11, 2019 at 10:18 am #

      Did your preferred plan include 4 lanes, separated by a median, similar to rest of 395 in the OV?

  3. sugarmags September 5, 2019 at 10:20 am #

    and the alternative of trucking asphalt in long distances is better? I don’t think so. Oh, and how about the material site used by Caltrans right next to Independence….used for a project and then reclaimed. Didn’t seem to be an issue.

  4. Trouble September 4, 2019 at 3:14 pm #

    Folks that are now complaining about the new route, should have fought to fix this problem 20 years ago! Fix the death trap!

  5. Earl Duran September 4, 2019 at 8:14 am #

    As an Olancha resident, I live on Fall Rd. I am worried they are going to ruin Fall Rd. with all the Trucks and heavy Equipment day and night. The air quality is already bad, from all the Dust coming off the Owens Dry lake, this is going to be a Nightmare for anyone living close to a loud stinky, nasty Batch plant. My question is why not move the Batch plant farther away from the community. The Water Quality also concerns me, what if our wells are contaminated? who will be held responsible.

    • Steve September 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm #

      Earl, at the last meeting held at the Olancha fire house. Cal Trans made a point of saying Fall Rd. will not be used for the project. All work being done will stay on the new alignment. They are not planing to rebuild Fall Rd or the narrow bridge that crosses the aqueduct. So they will not be using Fall Rd.

      I work on Owens Lake and the dust has been reduced by 96%, per Great Basin Air Pollution Control District. Most of the dust you see now is coming from “Off Lake” sources.

      Cal Trans will only issue a permit to operate the batch plant, to a contractor with an approved environmental management plan that will control all the issues raised by residents and stay in compliance with Cal laws.

      So we all should be happy once it is done and all the people that don’t want to drive threw Olancha wont have to and we will get a quiet main street out of the old 395.

      • Andre Long September 10, 2019 at 3:17 pm #

        In their May 31, 2017, response to LADWP’s comments on the Final Environmental Report, Appendix P, p. 7, Caltrans ADMITS AND STATES UNEQUIVOCALLY that there will be “additional traffic on Fall Road.” Since this open pit mine is in the middle of the project, how else are they going to access the site during the early stages of construction — build a two mile road from the south or north or simply drive up Fall Road?

      • Michele September 10, 2019 at 8:42 pm #

        A few years ago a property owner who has a few acres bordering Fall road cleared his land. I am not sure of the reason but I remember the consequences and so does everyone else who lived in the area. That will be nothing when compared to the estimated extraction and movement of 760,000 tons of material 1360′ from my house! Moreoever, travellers heading towards Death Valley will still need to take the old 395 through Olancha so there will be no quiet street, only an island between two busy highways..

  6. Steve September 4, 2019 at 7:10 am #

    My house is the closest to the plant at about 1/2 mile away. With the environmental laws today I am not in fear of the disaster you think it will be.

    But I am in fear of the death zone called Olancha and Cartago. Way to many have lost lives on this section of 395. If you live here you all know of the countless times it was a close call for you, family and friends.

    I will be watching the project finely get started in the fall of 2020. This is a good thing and it will save lives and make Olancha and Cartago a better place to live.

    • andre long September 10, 2019 at 5:54 pm #

      Caltrans provided the figure of 1/2 mile but houses on Summer Road are closer to 1/4 mile from the east boundry of this 50 acre open pit mine.

  7. Greg weirick September 4, 2019 at 6:58 am #

    Hello, there are 3 plants around Bishop and the one used in Independence to make asphalt was restored and is barely visible today!
    Batch plants as they are called, are located near highway projects to be environmentally friendly because of all the fuel savings from hauling long distance!
    Hot mix asphalt can only be hauled so far before its too cold to pave, so contractors have to batch locally in rural areas!
    Please learn more about a subject before needlessly firing up those who will just react without any research of their own.

  8. Charlie September 4, 2019 at 6:10 am #

    He has a good point. Further proof that scales are tipped against residents of Cartago and Olancha.


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