Sunday, November 23, 2014

Live webcam from Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, Moab, Utah

Curt & Alesia Stripeika, owners of the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery at the vineyard in 2014 - Click for larger image (

Live Feed From the Spanish Valley, Utah - the Moab Wine Webcam

Our new webcam, located at our sister website, Moab Wine is now online.  To check it out, simply click on this Webcam Link.  Either link will take you directly to the Moab Live webcam.  Be sure to bookmark the MoabLive webcams for easy return visits.
While you are there, check out our Links Page, featuring over 90 Moab-related websites, now under development as a Moab web community.  Many of our Moab website names are for sale.  If you are interested in learning more about this unique web community, or purchasing your own Moab website, click Here to contact us.
Included in the Links Page is, our new commerce website, where you will find unique Moab Jim items for sale.

Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery Webcam
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Camera View:
Welcome to the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery live webcam, featuring views of the vineyard and Moab's famous Slickrock in the distance. Facing north from the winery, the webcam shows the prevailing weather as it approaches Moab, Utah. Enjoy!
We hope you enjoy the only vineyard webcam in the State of Utah.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ride the D&RGW Narrow Gauge Rails with Twentieth Century Railroading Legend, Engineer Steve Connor

Locomotive No. 478 at rest in Silverton, Colorado in 1965 - Click for larger image (

Ride the D&RGW Narrow Gauge Rails with Twentieth Century Railroading Legend, Engineer Steve Connor

In 1965, my father, Dr. Loron N. McGillis and I visited Durango, Colorado. There we rode on the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) to Silverton and back. No longer a freight or ore hauler of any distinction, the narrow gauge steam trains were quaint, yet powerful. During our stopover at Silverton, my father and I photographed the waiting train and visited with its engineer.

DRG&W Engineer Steve Connor in the cab of Locomotive 478 at Silverton, Colorado in 1965 -  Click for larger image ( December 2013, while writing about our 1965 excursion, I included an image of our engineer in one of my articles. In the original photo caption, I referred to him as “our unnamed engineer”. When I published his picture, I thought, “Someone must surely know who this man is and will contact me with his name”.

In October 2014, I received an email from Mr. Paul Connor, who is the grandson of our 1965 locomotive engineer, Mr. Steve Connor. Over the course of several emails, I learned more about the Connor name in D&RGW history.

Engineer Paul Connor and Locomotive 476 stopped at Ah! Wilderness while on the way to Silverton, Colorado in 1977 - Click for larger image ( Paul wrote to me, “I am Steve Connor’s oldest grandson. My father, George Connor worked as a brakeman/conductor for the D&RGW. I spent the first twenty-one years of my career working for the D&RGW and Southern Pacific Railroad. After hiring out at Durango in 1974, I began there as a mechanical laborer/coach cleaner. In 1976, I started as fireman at Durango, and later worked out of Pueblo, Minturn, Alamosa and Grand Junction as a locomotive engineer/fireman. In 1995 I was promoted to Road Foreman of Engines and have held the same job since. After the Union Pacific merger with Southern Pacific, my title became Manager of Operating Practices, working out of Grand Junction.

All told, the Connor family currently has somewhere around one hundred and twenty years of railroading history in western Colorado. I say this because I am not certain of my great grandfather, Richard Connor's hire date. We think he started in the 1800's when the tracks were being laid into Durango.

Animas Canyon, near where John Connor was killed in a train accident in 1921 - Click for larger image ( youngest of seven siblings, for many years of his career Richard Connor was the section foreman at
Hermosa. His oldest brother, Jim, retired as a locomotive engineer at Durango. His brother John was a fireman and was killed in a train wreck in the Animas Canyon in 1921.”

Regarding his grandfather, Paul Connor wrote,
“Steve Connor was born in the section house at Hermosa, just north of Durango to Richard and Julia Connor. He hired out around 1923 and retired in 1971 with forty-eight years, but was furloughed for many years during the Great Depression. At times, when they were short of manpower, he made trips on the Rio Grande Southern. As the narrow gauge dried up, he would work at Durango in the summers and work out of Alamosa in the winters. The Alamosa/Durango seniority rosters were combined during those years. I always joked that by the time he was number one in seniority, there would be only Author James McGillis waiting his turn to speak with Engineer Steve Connor in the cab of DRG&W Locomotive 478 in 1965 - Click for larger image ( job left on the narrow gauge.

As you might expect, there are a lot of photographs of Steve Connor around but few that are this good. Your father really captured a great deal of his personality and a nice moment in time for me.”

Regarding Steve Connor’s experience, Paul wrote,
“The locomotive 478 was my grandfather's favorite of the three used on the Silverton Branch in those years. I am not sure why, but if I had to guess it is because it rode the best, the whistle was not as shrill, and it was then equipped with power reverse (long since removed). Steam engines possess personality in the way they fire, steam, and run. For lack of a better word, I would call them quirks. In the years I worked there, I had no particular favorite of the three. As a fireman or engineer you had to work around each of their personalities.”

Each October 15 for the past three years, I have closed the season while staying at the United Campgrounds of Durango RV Park. In cooperation with the campground, I operate a live webcam that features the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. If a webcam viewer is lucky, they may see the steam train running either north or south through the RV Park.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Locomotive 480 traveling through the United Campgrounds of Durango RV Park in 2014 ( October, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs only one round-trip train to Silverton each day. During the fall season, the railroad uses mostly their larger 480 Series or K-36 locomotives, so that they can operate a longer single train. By October, it is rare to see a smaller 470 Series or K-28 locomotive, with its lesser tractive power.

Still, if you visit Durango during the summer season, you might have the opportunity to see or ride behind locomotive 478, which was the favorite of twentieth century railroading legend and D&RGW Engineer, the late Steve Connor (d.1974).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Artist Costantino Proietto and Others Painted at The Capuchin Convent on The Amalfi Coast

Marion Grayson's Original Oil Painting of the Amalfi Coast, by C Proietto - Click for larger image (

Artist Costantino Proietto and Others Painted at The Capuchin Convent on The Amalfi Coast 

On July 4, 2011, I posted an article on this website regarding a relatively unknown twentieth century Italian modern impressionist painter. His name is Signore Costantino Proietto, but he signed his paintings “CProietto”. In our article, we mused about our C Proietto original oil painting and asked anyone else who owned one or had information on C. Proietto or his painting to please contact us and provide an image of his or her artwork.
An original oil painting of the pergolato, Capuchin Convent ruins at Amalfi, by Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876) - Click for larger image ( days later, Marion Grayson of Belton, Texas sent us the image of the Amalfi Coast painting shown at the top of this article. American relatives of Marion Grayson lived in Italy in the mid-1950s and they purchased her painting while there. Please click on the image for a larger picture of the Marion Grayson painting. When compared to my CProietto original oil painting, the similarities are striking. Although some architectural may differ, both paintings feature a single potted plant beneath the pergolato, with a view to the sea. Each painting, however, shows a different perspective; mine includes a view to the Amalfi Coast, and Ms. Grayson’s looks out to sea. Both feature afternoon sun and clouds rising from the horizon, rather than floating above.
During my research, I discovered the name of the place from which Costantino Proietto painted the Amalfitan Coast. In Italian, it is the “Amalfi dal Original Oil painting of the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi by Carelli Consalvo (1818-1900) - Click for larger image ( dei Cappuccini”. In English, we call it The Capuchin Convent of Amalfi.  Although no evidence of the fifth century chapel originally built on that site exist today, the foundation of the original monastery dates to 1212 CE. For the following 650 years, various orders of the Catholic Church owned and used the property. In 1882, the interconnected buildings and grounds became the predecessor to the Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel. In 1899, the property experienced a catastrophic landslide, destroying its original cave and some early buildings. Over the next century, reconstruction occurred in many phases, culminating in 2002. Today, the "hotel dei Cappuccini Amalfi" combines enticing luxuries, such as an infinity pool and al fresco dining on the terrace, yet the beauty and tranquility of the original site remain for posterity.
A view looking up to the monastery trail at the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi by Hermann David Salomon Corrodi (1844-1905) - Click for larger image ( in the 1870s or 1880s, artists of note painted seascapes and landscapes, both from the terrace itself and from locations, below and around the property. Notable among them were Italian artists Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876), Carelli Consalvo (1818-1900) and Hermann David Salomon Corrodi (1844-1905). Austrian artist Franz Richard Unterberger (1838-1902) and Danish artist Carl Frederik Aagard (1833-1895) also painted stirring scenes of the monastery and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Italian photographer Carlo Brogi (1850-1925) captured scenes from the terrace, which appeared on postcards as early as 1904.
It was during the mid-twentieth Century that Costantino Proietto stood A view of the terrace and pergola of the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi by Austrian artist Franz Richard Unterberger (1838-1902) - Click for larger image ( times upon the well-worn stonework of the old terrace, painting that classic scene, always from a new perspective.  It is rare in our world to find a place that retains its classic charm over hundreds of years. Destruction and reconstruction in and around classic monuments of the past may leave the monuments themselves in place, but rarely do the surroundings retain their original character. Even since C Proietto’s time, the terrace of the Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel has changed, yet its columns and pergola echo the 1880 or perhaps the 1580 feeling of that place. Even today, the contemporary coastal scene, oft painted by the masters of old, retains the look and feel of the original place.
During our research into original oil paintings by C Proietto, we located or received new and heretofore unpublicized scenes of the Amalfi Coast. One is from Marion Grayson, as mentioned above and another is from the Italian Wannenes Group, and its Art Auctions website. Each clearly shows the unique signature of my favorite Amalfi Coast artist, twentieth century Italian A view of the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi (ca. 1904), by Italian photographer Carlo Brogi (1850-1925 - Click for larger image ( Impressionist, Signore C. Proietto. Although his art becomes better known to the world each week, biographical information regarding CProietto is still scant. If any reader knows more about him, please contact me with the information. Once verified, I will be happy to provide attribution, as requested by the contributor.
When I was young, I remember seeing a realistic copy of the sculpture, Michelangelo’s David at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As David spoke to me across the centuries, his magnificent grace and power struck me. Viewing that sculpture at age ten changed what I believed art could be. In that spirit, I am now writing a parallel art mystery story using my superhero comic characters, Moabbey, Coney, Kokopelli and Silver Girl. You will find them at my website, Join me there for the exciting story, and be sure to tell the kids. Scene from the terrace of the Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel, by 20th century Italian artist, Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (

Email James McGillisEmail James McGillis

Monday, November 3, 2014

Grand County Council Drives Moab & Greater Canyonlands Over an Environmental Cliff

As old Moab, Utah fades away, it is being replaced with a new industrial desert - Click for larger image (

Old Grand County Council Drives Moab & Greater Canyonlands Over an Environmental Cliff

In mid-October 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Moab, Utah once again. While in Moab, I planned to visit some of my favorite haunts, see old friends and perhaps meet some new ones. I also planned to document some of the changes that are rapidly overtaking Grand County and Greater Canyonlands.

In 2014, a new gas well drilling rig sprang up adjacent to U.S. Highway 191, north of Moab and in sight of the Book Cliffs - Click for larger image ( some readers will recall, in the latter days of the second George W. Bush administration, there was an all-out push to lease every square inch of public lands for oil, gas and mineral extraction. The effort was so slipshod that lands near the Moab Golf Club and some directly over the well fields that supply Moab with its precious culinary water were included in the original auction proposals.

Through the good work of many in the community and with a change in presidential administrations, the most egregious examples of mineral exploitation were removed from the final auction process. Still, the opening of Grand County to mineral exploitation soon went into full swing. Grand plans like the Utah Recreational Land Exchange of 2009 (URLEA) expanded the template for oil and gas exploration in Grand County. The federal government,
A proposed railroad network spanning seven counties in Southeastern Utah would haul crude oil and tar sands to market - Click for larger image ( its Bureau of Land Management, divided Grand County into two categories. Some public lands were to be protected, but the majority was up for grabs as oil and gas fields.

Throughout this process, the Grand County Council took every opportunity it could to tell the federal government to keep out of what the council considered to be local issues. In October 2014, the council voted six to one to join six other Utah counties (Emery, Duchesne, Uintah, Daggett, Carbon and San Juan) in what they call the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC). Infrastructure, in this case will include roads, pipelines and a rail network designed to accelerate oil, gas and mineral extraction from the member counties.

Faulty welds abound on the new collector gas line on Dubinky Wells Road In Greater Canyonlands, Near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( add insult to the injury of the mineral extraction projects that the SCIC supports, the group plans to divert millions of dollars from “community impact funds" to pursue their goals. Rather than helping heal the land and the health of those affected by unbridled extraction of chemicals and hydrocarbons, the coalition plans to use the community impact funds to help build haul-roads, pipeline access and rail facilities. All of their efforts will now go full speed ahead to scrape, drill, pump and haul as much raw hydrocarbon as they can from the affected lands.

When asked why the Grand County Council could not wait until after the November 2014 election to join the SCIC or to put the matter to a public vote, council member Lynn Jackson retorted, "The people voted when the seven of Forlorn and underfed cattle find nothing to graze on at Poverty Flat, near Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( were elected up here". Despite the overwhelming number of written protests and the overwhelming number of citizens voicing their opposition at the final Grand County Council meeting on the subject, the Gang of Six extractionist boosters on the council voted to join the anti-environmental cabal of counties. Jackson was subsequently elected as Grand County's representative to the SCIC.

In the past, I have written about the “sense of entitlement” that many residents of Southeastern Utah feel about the public lands in the area. Some feel entitled to grow alfalfa with water diverted from Ken’s Lake (Puddle). Others feel it is acceptable to sell Moab’s culinary water to gas well drillers at bargain prices. Still others feel it is their right to search and remove artifacts New gas well rigs the size of small cities now dot the landscape in Greater Canyonlands, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( ancient cultures that once lived in the area. For many residents of the area, the predominant feeling seems to be, “This is our land and we can do whatever we want with it”.

In the past several years, arches, spires and even dinosaur tracks have crumbled, disappeared or been stolen by local residents. Still, there has never been a study completed to determine the health or even the size of the aquifer that supports all human and other life in the Spanish Valley and Moab. To my knowledge, no one has ever studied the potential seismic effects of oil, gas, potash or tar sands exploration and extraction in Greater Canyonlands. Through ignorance, greed or willful disregard for the greater good, will the “entitled few” spoil the
In stark contrast to rampant oil, gas and mineral extraction near Moab, Utah, the grape vines at Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery enhance both the culture and the ambiance of the area - Click for larger image ( that took nature eons to create?

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, the registered voters of Grand County have a choice between continuing to stack the Grand County Council with extractionist sympathizers or to go in a new direction and bring environmental sanity back to that elected body. Soon enough, we shall see the results.

Author's Note: November 6, 2014 - Moab Times-Independent - "Grand County voters buck national trend by electing moderates progressives to county council". By sizeable margins, Jaylyn Hawks, Mary Mullen McGann and Chris Baird defeated their more conservative-leaning opponents in an election in which 74.15 percent of active Grand County voters cast ballots.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

BLM/SITLA - Subterfuge and Obfuscation Exposed in Parcel-32 Land Exchange

Parcel 32 at Canyonlands Field, Moab Utah gives Utah/SITLA industrial land at cow pasture prices - Click for larger image (

BLM/SITLA - Subterfuge and Obfuscation Exposed in Parcel-32 Land Exchange

Early in his first term, President Obama signed into law the Utah Recreational Land Exchange Act (URLEA) of 2009. Its full title was, “To direct the exchange of certain land in Grand, San Juan, and Uintah Counties, Utah, and for other purposes.” At that time, few people realized that the phrase, “and for other purposes” would subvert the publicly avowed intention of that bill.

See a U.S. Army Black Ops visit to Parcel 32, Moab, Utah

If you read the official Library of Congress Summary of the enabling legislation, its wording is straightforward. It authorizes an exchange of federal lands for state owned lands within certain Utah Counties: 8/5/2009 - Public Law [Summary].

A 2014 view of BLM/SITLA Parcel 32 at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( the official summary states, the state and federal parcels exchanged were to be of equal value. Oddly, there is no mention of “recreational lands” in the official summary. Later, on an official web page, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) touted the supposed
“conservation and recreation value” of the URLEA. On that web page, BLM stated the following: “The BLM will acquire 58-parcels with high conservation and recreation value, totaling 25,034 acres, primarily in Grand County. These parcels will expand the BLM backcountry with world class recreation sites like Corona Arch and Morning Glory Arch. This exchange will improve the quantity and quality of recreational experiences for visitors to public lands and waters managed by the BLM. The State will acquire 34-parcels with high mineral development potential, totaling 35,516 acres, primarily in Uintah County. The state expects development of these high potential parcels to boost public school funding across Utah”.

A twin turboprop U.S. Army aircraft prepares to depart Parcel 32 at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( that BLM/URLEA web page, conversion of Exchange Parcel 32 to “light industrial use in future” received no mention. As URLEA became law in May 2014, the fate of those 352-acres was in direct contradiction to BLM’s “story line” about saving arches and promoting recreation within Grand County. Instead, prime open land in Grand County transferred to the State of Utah via its School and Institutional Lands Trust Administration (SITLA). At just over $2000 per acre, SITLA received industrial land at cow pasture prices.

In its “Protest Dismissed” document, BLM dismissed my protest of Parcel 32 valuation as “grazing land”. To quote that document, it stated,
“The EA disclosed the current and future anticipated use of Federal Lands by SITLA. The uses identified for (Parcel 32) include: Current/grazing and wildlife habitat; Future/continued grazing use for intermediate term; possible light industrial use in future.” Without citing any corroborating appraisal documents, BLM stated that their process took "future potential development into
A 2014 view from Parcel 32, looking east toward the La Sal Range in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (". If BLM appraised the industrial future of Parcel 32 against any comparable parcels in Grand County, where are those parcels located? According to my recent searches, there are no undeveloped industrial parcels for sale in Grand County, let alone a 352-acre parcel intertwined with its regional airport.

In its “Protest Dismissed” document, BLM writes that,
Environmental Assessment No. DOI-BLM-UT-9100-2013-001-EA (EA), completed in March 2013 (emphasis mine) in support of the exchange action, disclosed mineral leasing and development as the projected (sic) on many of the parcels the SITLA would acquire. The “EA”, made available for public review and comment via BLM’s Electronic Bulletin Board (EBB) in April 2013, addressed the potential impacts to resources associated with mineral development, and did not disclose any significant impacts associated with the proposed exchange.”

U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter Number 32 (with three bullet marks in its nose) prepares to leave Parcel 32 at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( Page 8 of BLM’s "Decision Record Signed", in
"Section B. Land Use Conformance", it specifically states that "parcel 32 (Moab) located in the Labyrinth Rims/Gemini Bridges SRMA" was "identified for retention In Federal ownership in (its) respective RMP". Later in the same paragraph, BLM employs obfuscatory 'double-speak', saying that Parcel 32 and two other parcels were included in the exchange because, "BLM determined that a planning amendment was unnecessary as the URLEA explicitly directs the BLM to exchange certain Federal lands, provided the exchange meets certain conditions". In that sentence we learn that BLM was required to meet certain explicit conditions for a unilateral conversion of Parcel 32 from its current protected status as federal grazing land and antelope habitat to future light industrial use. Nowhere else in the Decision Record Signed, the Environmental Assessment or the Exchange Agreement do we learn why "URLEA explicitly directs the BLM" to include Parcel 32 in the exchange or which of "certain conditions" were met. Whenever BLM uses the word "certain" twice in one sentence, we should be told what those certainties are.

U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter Number 32 prepares to depart Parcel 32, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( BLM EBB web page referenced in BLM’s “Protest Dismissed” document contains several conflicting data points. Referencing BLM’s reasons for denying my protest one at a time, here are the facts:

1. Contrary to BLM’s dismissal, the “EA” was not
“completed in March 2013”. In fact, the “public review/commentary period” did not start until 4/22/13. In fact, the EBB web page states; “4/01/2013: Environmental Assessment Being Prepared [BLM]”. Elsewhere on the same page, it states; “12/30/2013: EA Completed [BLM]”.

2. Farther on in its dismissal, BLM claims that the “EA”, as posted on the BLM EBB in April 2013;
“addressed the potential impacts to resources associated with mineral (emphasis mine) development”. Concluding, the "EA" “did not disclose any significant impacts associated with the proposed exchange”.

U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter with its "Parcel 32" markings partially obscured by radar-absorbing paint, at Parcel 32, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( The BLM document titled "
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)" was unavailable to the public in April 2013 and was not published until February 2014. In its “Protest Dismissed” document, BLM indicates that full disclosure of all relevant documents to my protest were completed and published not later than April 2013. Clearly, with the February 2014 publication of the FONSI, such is not the case.

4. As referenced on the BLM EBB web page, the much vaunted “EA” was not completed until;
12/30/2013: EA Completed [BLM]. Nine months prior to the publication of the “EA”, did BLM already know that it would “not disclose any significant impacts associated with the proposed exchange”? If the reader click’s the link to the final “EA” document at the bottom of the BLM EBB web page, the resulting Environmental Assessment is dated September 2013.

U.S. Army Black Hawk Number 32 warms up prior to departure from Parcel 32, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com5. The crux of the issue is; when, where and in what form was the Environmental Assessment released to the public? Was it in April 2013, as BLM suggests in its “Protest Dismissed” document”? Was it in September 2013, as the published “final EA document” indicates? Or was it completed on December 30, 2013, as the Electronic Bulletin Board page indicates? Any way you look at it, the content and publication date(s) of the Environmental Assessment represent a moving target.

In the conclusion of its “Protest Dismissed” document, BLM states,
“A protestor bears the burden of establishing that the BLM premised a decision on a clear error of law, error of material fact, or failure to consider a substantial environmental question of material significance. The protestor has not met this burden in this instance”.

Although I cannot claim that BLM has committed a
“clear error of law”, its inaccuracy and the conflicting publication dates associated with the “EA” represent a multifarious “error of material fact”.

Tandem skydivers arrive for inspection of Parcel 32, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( factual errors include limiting the scope of BLM’s environmental assessment to
“the potential impacts to resources associated with mineral development”. In so doing, I believe that BLM discounted the future industrialization value of Parcel 32. Nowhere else in Grand County is there a major parcel self-certified for future industrial use. If unilaterally converting 352-acres of open land to “future light industrial use” at Canyonlands Field does not qualify as having potential environmental impact, what does?

Do not forget the bargain price of just over $2000 per acre that SITLA exchanged for unique and now pre-sanctioned industrial land. As of this writing, the Grand County Council plans to use the final URLEA “Exchange Agreement” as the basis for future resource and land use planning. As such, BLM’s designation of
“future light industrial use” on Parcel 32 may well create its own self-fulfilling prophecy.

Moab Jim arrives by Learjet at Parcel 32, Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( law, the URLEA was to be an “exchange of equal value”. Only time will tell what profit SITLA will make from the sale of Parcel 32. My guess is that it will be many multiples of the $780,000 value that they exchanged. As SITLA plans for the sale of Parcel 32 into the private sector, I hope that it will be more transparent with its procedures than BLM was during the URLEA process.

As for the Grand County Council, its current makeup is stacked in favor of every possible form of mineral and industrial development. In May 2014, when the Exchange Agreement became federal law, the Grand County Council found its perfect foil. In July 2014, the council refused to disavow a planned “Hydrocarbon Highway” through the ancient and sacred sites at Sego Canyon. In its quest to pave Sego Canyon and to rezone Parcel 32 from “grazing” to “light industrial”, the Grand County Council now cites “federal law” as its legal precedent.

Will secret industrial Black Ops at Parcel 32 endanger Delicate Arch in Arches National Park? Only time will tell - Click for larger image ( SITLA does sell Parcel 32, I expect a bidding war between energy companies and Grand County developers. In the over hyped legal agreement that BLM and SITLA called a
“Recreational Land Exchange”, the phrase “and for other purposes” in that law will soon create a New Industrial Desert on Parcel 32 at Canyonlands Field near Moab, Utah. As the old saying goes, you cannot judge a book by its cover. In the case of the Utah Recreational and Exchange Act of 2009 (URLEA), the exchange of Parcel 32 was in direct contradiction to the name and spirit, if not the letter of that law. If BLM and SITLA wish to maintain any claim to being stewards of the land, both must disavow such subterfuge in the future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Trucking Industry Legend Kevin Rutherford Creates the Ultimate Freightliner Coronado RV Custom Rig

Truck guy, Kevin Rutherford and Leesa Campbell in front of their Freightliner Coronado tractor, with custom sleeper and Voltage fifth wheel RV, Paso Robles, CA - Click for larger image (

Trucking Industry Legend Kevin Rutherford Creates the Ultimate Freightliner Coronado RV Custom Rig

If February, 2011, as we pulled in at the Wine Country RV Resort in Paso Robles, California, I noticed something unusual. Squinting in disbelief, I spotted the longest semi pulling a fifth-wheel RV rig I had ever seen.
Up front was a new Freightliner Coronado on-highway traditional tractor with a flat top sleeper. Pure white, with lots of chrome and polished aluminum, it featured a full sleeper compartment. With its twin 150-gallon diesel tanks, one could drive this beauty coast-to-coast without a fuel stop. On the dual rear axles, four super-single tires took the place of the usual eight. If this rig were pulling a standard van, with super-singles all around, it would become a 10-wheeler, rather than an 18-wheeler. Fewer tires on the ground create lower rolling resistance, translating into higher highway mileage. The engine of success for the Freightliner Coronado has always been continuous improvement. This custom tractor was no exception to that rule.
To the rear, a modified hitch supported a triple-axle, Voltage Toy Hauler fifth wheel, manufactured by Dutchmen. With the Voltage alone measuring over forty-two feet, the full rig measured almost seventy feet. That, of course, did not include the little Smart Car, parked out front.
Freightliner Coronado Badge - Click for larger image ( 
After looking at this astounding road machine, I thought that the owner must be an on-highway trucker on vacation or an eccentric individual, to say the least. Freightliner Diesel tractors mated to fifth wheel RVs are common enough, but most such units look like a modified SUV. This RV tractor was the long-wheelbase type, typically seen pulling a fifty-three foot trailer along our interstate highways. It was not until the next morning that we met the owners of this unusual land yacht.
That morning, we sat enjoying a cup of coffee in the warm California sun. Soon, we saw a woman pull up in the Smart Car and unload groceries into the coach. Before we knew it, we were in conversation with Leesa Campbell and her husband, Kevin Rutherford. An accountant, with experience in trucking operations and truck building, Kevin also hosts a daily "Letstruck" Sirius satellite radio show. Even with multiple careers to manage and many trade shows to attend, Kevin and Leesa enjoy a full-time RV lifestyle.
Kevin Rutherford at home in his Freightliner Coronado Voltage Fifth-Wheel RV - Click for larger image ( 
Soon, Carrie and I were taking the grand tour, starting with the Freightliner high style sleeper cab and finishing in the palatial Voltage toy hauler. With the floor set low in the coach, the ceilings appeared to be ten feet high. There was no claustrophobia there or forward in the master suite, with its two separate entrances. In the salon, there were generous living, dining and galley spaces.
In the stern, the spacious toy-hauler garage also served as Kevin’s broadcast studio. After stopping for the night, Kevin rolls the Smart Car down a full body-width ramp. Then he closes the garage and uses an innovative, piling-rig-sequence to lower his radio studio into position. At show time, Leesa sits amidships, screening the calls, while Kevin chats live with truckers from all over the country.
18-Wheeler RV - Kevin Rutherford's Freightliner Coronado tractor pulls a Voltage RV toy hauler, Paso Robles, California - Click for larger image ( 
Focusing as he does on “trucking as a business”, Kevin Rutherford is a contributing author on, where he has published eighty-three articles to date. On his own http:// website, Kevin features forums where members share operating efficiency and mileage tips. That information can make the difference between profit and loss on the road. He also offers a free mileage-minder program, called My Gauges. Freightliner owner or not, members logging in can input their fuel purchases and calculate their mileage statistics. This leads to friendly competition for top positions in the website’s unofficial mileage championship. Although it is nowhere as large as Facebook, Kevin's 31,000-member social media website helps owner-operators create efficiency and profitability.
Although a casual observer might think that Kevin Rutherford’s rig represents the ultimate RV power trip, it does more than look good on the road. Known for “walking the walk”, Kevin’s personal rig averages close to ten miles per gallon. Few, if any Class A diesel motor coaches attain that level of fuel efficiency.
Spokesmodel Carrie McCoy steps from inside the new custom rig Kevin Rutherford Signature Freightliner Coronado cab - Click for larger image ( 
At a "truck of the future" factory in Tennessee, Kevin Rutherford builds innovation into every Freightliner custom Signature Series Truck. Using Freightliner Coronado tractors, he builds the big rig of the future for on-highway use today. Before customer delivery, they install custom tractor sleeper cabs, plus gauges and level-monitoring for fuel and exhaust system modifications, even chrome steps, if you choose. Many of their custom rigs include advanced oil filtering systems and super-single tires. Utilizing those and other modifications, Kevin’s trucks achieve both high mileage and low maintenance costs. Even in today’s economy, demand for fuel-efficient, low maintenance trucks is high. At the time of our meeting, Kevin was working through a backlog of seventy new Freightliners. Currently, his factory delivers two finished units per workday, each for sale at over $100,000.
Although it is both a showstopper and fun to drive, Kevin’s personal rig is also a test bed for innovations of all kinds. One example is its Bose Ride vibration-cancelling truck seats, manufactured by the Bose Corporation. Using a technology similar to their noise-cancelling headphones, the seats offer a precise counter-force to road bumps, both large and small. To demonstrate the vibration damping effect, technicians drop a basketball on the seat platform. No matter how hard they throw it down, the basketball sticks without a bounce. Once installed in the cab of a Kevin Rutherford tractor, the Bose ride and perceived noise level are far superior to conventional air-ride seats.
Kevin Rutherford & Leesa Campbell's Freightliner Coronado RV Smart Car - Click for larger image ( 
After our tour, it was almost time for Leesa and Kevin’s three-hour Saturday afternoon broadcast. After thanking Kevin and Leesa for their hospitality, we departed for San Francisco. Looking back, I laughed at my initial assumptions about Kevin's big rig. Rather than an eccentric, resource-wasting RV nut, our neighbor turned out to be a trucking industry legend and visionary entrepreneur. Can you imagine what might happen if in 2012 Kevin put his talents toward creating the ultimate Freightliner off-road RV?
When towing, our pickup truck and travel trailer rig averages about eight miles per gallon. Kevin Rutherford and his Freightliner/Voltage fifth wheel rig consistently average better than that. In both trucking and the RV world, appearances can be deceiving.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moab UMTRA Removal and Remediation Job May Be Larger Than Previously Thought

In May 2014, The Moab Pile is reportedly 41% smaller than when remediation began in 2009 - Click for larger image (

Moab UMTRA Removal and Remediation Job May Be Larger Than Previously Thought

Since May 2009, I have published eight articles regarding the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project (UMTRA). In 2005, radioactive and chemical laden soil from the former Atlas Minerals Corp. uranium mill towered ninety-feet high along the Colorado River at Moab. At that time, DOE announced that 11.9 million tons of radioactive tailings would move thirty miles to a secure burial site near Crescent Junction, Utah.

See Progress Removing Nuclear & Chemical Waste at the Moab Pile

In February 2014, DOE announced that contractors had removed and transported 6.5 million tons, or forty-one percent of the total tailings pile. If the 6.5 million tons removed equals forty-one percent of the tailings, then somehow the Moab Pile had expanded from 11.9 million to 16.2 million tons. With no new material added, and 6.5 million tons removed, the original size of the Moab Pile had somehow expanded by thirty-six percent.

U.S. Highway 191 and the Moab Tailings Pile as seen in October 2006 from the Arches National Park Entrance Road - Click for larger image ( is a magical place, but since no one is creating new dirt, the growth of 4.3 million tons at the tailings pile is a Moab mystery. With such vagaries appearing in official DOE documents, there should be a better accounting of how much material there is yet to remove. At current rates of transport, the DOE expects a complete the removal of contaminated material by about 2025. If we take projected annual shutdowns of the federal government into account, the project timeline stretches out to Friday April 13, 2029.

Prior to the completion of its charter, Moab UMTRA expects to excavate and remove all contaminated material from the site. The problem with that scenario is that no one knows how deep or wide the plume of contaminated water and saturated soil actually is. If the weight of contaminated tailings grew by 4.3 million tons in the first nine years of the project, what is to keep it from growing an equal amount in the next nine years?

By 2008, DOE engineers were constructing the tailings transfer facility at the Moab Pile - Click for larger image ( we look at the underlying hydrology, there are two major influences on water flow and ground saturation at the UMTRA site. First is the once-mighty Colorado River. As the river swings through an arc at Moab Canyon, the tailings pile lies on the outside of that bend. During flood years, such as 2011 and to a lesser degree 2014, hydrological pressure pushes Colorado River water into the lower reaches of the Moab Pile. At the same time, the Moab Wash brings both surface flow and underground percolation downstream from the sand-filled canyon near the main entrance at Arches National Park.

In an ideal world, the hydrological pressure from the Colorado River would cancel out the subterranean flow from the Moab Wash watershed. In the real world, a well field located between the tailing pile and the river attempts to extract and purify groundwater before it enters the Colorado River. As of By September 2009, containers of nuclear and hazardous waste were moving from the Moab Pile to Crescent Junction, thirty miles away by rail - Click for larger image ( 2014, the wells have extracted four hundred tons of ammonia and almost two tons of radioactive uranium. During low water periods, technicians inject fresh water into the wells in an attempt to maintain stasis between the two competing flows.

If the contaminated water and soil at the Moab Pile run deeper than current optimistic estimates, adding an additional 4.3 million tons to the excavation project is possible. If that turns out to be true, then the project is currently only one third complete, not the forty-one percent touted in recent DOE announcements. If scouring the Moab Wash watershed requires digging a huge hole where the waste tailings now stand, the entire character of the project might change.

By October 2010, DOE contractors were making progress in removing some of the sixteen million tons of hazardous and nuclear contaminated tailings from the Moab Pile - Click for larger image ( on the optimistic DOE projections, Moab and Grand County have created what they call a Community Vision Plan for the site. The Community Vision Plan, as currently formulated, includes a railroad station, transit center, bicycle and walking trails, a community park, federal offices, an ice rink, an event center and undetermined commercial uses.

Although the UMTRA site comprises 474 acres, 171 of those acres are in the floodplain. The contaminated tailings currently take up 104 acres. Highway and other easements remove 102 acres from potential development, as do twenty-nine additional acres of steep slopes. If the 104 acre Moab Pile becomes the new Moab Pit, that would leave 65 acres of developable land.

In May 2011, flooding along the Colorado River at Moab breached a low-lying section of nuclear and hazardous waste at the Moab Pile -  Click for larger image ( local government resolutions to the contrary, the DOE is not obligated to cede even one acre of the UMTRA site to Grand County. With the uncertainties over long-term federal funding, the amount of remediation required and the tendency for such programs to balloon in both size and cost, alternatives to the “Community Myopia Plan” seem prudent.

As of 2014, we have at least eleven or more years until site remediation is completed. Even at that, there may be a 104-acre pit where the Moab Pile now stands. Assuming that 4.3 million tons of clean fill-dirt does not become available at the site, planners for the DOE, Moab and Grand County should include the potential for a new Moab Pit in their visionary plans.

In May 2011, the Colorado River is shown near the top of its banks at the Moab Pile. Within days, much of the flat area in this picture was inundated by floodwater - Click for larger image ( the beginning of the UMTRA project, it was my contention that flood protection at the site should take precedence over removal of contaminated material. Ignoring my pleas and the paleoflood studies that substantiated them, DOE continued full speed ahead with their waste removal project. In the spring of 2011, DOE suffered public embarrassment when Colorado River floodwater penetrated part of the Moab Pile. After the 2011 flood, DOE took measures to lessen the potential for flooding at the site. Today, it still relies on simple pumping of groundwater through easily flooded wells to keep ammonia and uranium laden waste out of the Colorado River.

Upon final removal of the waste tailings, DOE has no announced plans for protecting the UMTRA site. Protection for the new Moab Pit and the proposed public amenities are absent from the clouded Visionary Plan, as well. Rather than rushing headlong to completion of waste removal, the DOE should shift In May 2013, a trip from Arches National Park to Moab allowed motorists to see part of the town over the diminishing Moab Pile - Click for larger image ( focus to the long-term protection and potential uses of this unique recreational resource.

If left to the devices of nature, the new Moab Pit might fill itself with a mixture of contaminated groundwater and floodwater from the river. In order to prevent such an ecological disaster, DOE should create a cofferdam along the Colorado River. If properly constructed, the new cofferdam could hold back the river and allow complete removal of contaminated materials from behind the dam.

If architects of the cofferdam think ahead, they could design a floodgate into the structure. In 2029 or beyond, DOE could then transfer the UMTRA site to Grand County. Although I will be over eighty years old at the time, when the Moab Pit becomes the new 104-acre Grand County Marina, I hope to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Previous Moab Pile articles, in chronological order:

2009 - A Happy Ending for the Moab Pile?

2009 - Moab, Utah - The Potash Road

2011 - Moab Pile - Here Comes the Flood

2011 - Moab Pile - The Mill Tailings Train

2011 - Moab Pile - Countdown to Disaster

2011 - Nuclear Dust Storm Hits Moab, UT

2011 - Toxic Purple Dust Covers Moab, UT

2013 - The True Cost of Mineral Extraction