BARSTOW • About $7.2 million in federal stimulus funds will go to projects in the Mojave National Preserve.
The National Park Service announced its list of about 800 park infrastructure projects totaling $750 million to be funded by the stimulus package Wednesday. About $97.4 million will go to 97 projects in California.
The projects in the Mojave National Preserve include installing solar panels on the roof of a park office in Baker and solar electric-powered lights in the maintenance yard, restoring habitat, gating off and closing abandoned mines, maintenance on back country park roads and spraying dust suppressant on Kelso Dune Road.
"In general, this recovery act is going to help with deferred maintenance projects, it's going to help visitors, and it's going to provide jobs for local economies," said park service spokeswoman Holly Bundock.
Bob Bryson, chief of resource management at the Mojave National Preserve, said the stimulus funds will allow the park service to carry out projects that have been in the works for some time but have lacked funding.
There has been a push from the Department of the Interior's inspector general and from others, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to deal with the issue of abandoned mines in the parks, he said.
Bryson said the abandoned mines remain a popular tourist attraction and he was not aware of any deaths in mines in the Mojave preserve, but people have died in Death Valley and in other areas of the desert, including near Calico Ghost Town.
Bids must be awarded on the projects to be funded by the stimulus money by the end of September 2010, he said.
"It's great we're able to do things we wouldn't be able to do (otherwise), but the problem is being able to do it relatively quickly, because after all, the idea is to be able to get the money out to the private sector and create jobs," he said.
Bundock and Bryson did not have an estimate of how many jobs would be created by the projects in the Mojave. Bryson said most of the work would be contracted out to small businesses.
Officials in the park service's Washington, D.C., headquarters looked at shovel-ready projects in the categories of construction, deferred maintenance, energy efficient equipment replacement, trail maintenance, abandoned mine closures and road maintenance, Bundock said.
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BLM seals abandoned mines in the desert
The Bureau of Land Management is moving to seal abandoned mines in the Mojave desert.
Working with a new public/private partnership called Fix a Shaft Today!, the BLM recently sealed a mine shaft in the Mojave National Preserve near the Nevada border and one on BLM land near Ludlow, according to a release from the bureau. The Mojave National Preserve, California Department of Conservation Mine Reclamation, 4Granite Inc., and PUF-SEAL partnered with the BLM on the projects.
Before closing the mines, the BLM surveyed them to make sure they were not being used as habitat by bats or other wildlife, according to the release. The California Department of Conservation Abandoned Mine Lands Unit has identified about 165,000 mine features on 47,000 abandoned mine sites in the state.
BLM spokesman David Briery said that the bureau expects to get funding for abandoned mine closures from the stimulus package, but have gotten no official word.
The BLM California Desert District is kicking off a public scoping period for an assessment that will address safety hazards associated with abandoned mines. For more information, contact Sterling White at 951-697-5239.