Water Well Journal

February 2015

Water Well Journal

Issue link: https://read.dmtmag.com/i/451364

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Page 28 of 75

A number of Native American legends revolve around the role of the tortoise, including the belief among some Southwestern tribes the desert tortoise represents life-giving water. Drillers with AZCA Drilling & Pump Inc. found themselves last year working alongside the vulnerable reptile while completing a water well project in southeastern California for a solar energy provider. Drilling in a threatened species habi- tat in a California Desert Conservation Area administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management meant heavy restrictions on AZCA's site access and drilling techniques. AZCA's customer needed two 12- inch water production bores and three 4-inch monitoring wells for a ground- mounted solar panel photovoltaic electricity farm. Power produced by this farm will help California reach the 2016 targets of its Renewable Energy Program initiative. AZCA Drilling & Pump provides water well drilling, pump repair, and testing services for domestic, agricul- tural, forestry, and government cus- tomers. Job locations range throughout Arizona and the southeastern part of California (hence AZCA), which it serves from two offices in Ehrenberg and Marana, Arizona. Limited Access A tortoise can normally live off its internal water supply for a year or more without a source of water. Under dis- tress, a tortoise will void some of this water as a defense mechanism, deplet- ing itself of critical moisture, risking death if it cannot replenish it. Therefore, any type of construction work permitted near tortoise habitat requires monitoring of the tortoises for signs of distress. Prior to initial development at this particular site, a third-party environ- mental consulting company surveyed the land—identifying tortoises, their burrows, and activities. All access points were plotted out and monitored throughout the project. After the Bureau of Land Manage- ment reviewed impact studies, it permit- ted right of way in one of the least tortoise-populated areas. Pathways for vehicle access were lined by a net-like tortoise exclusion fence. Biologists known as environmen- tal compliance monitors patrolled the fences, looking for signs of tortoise dis- tress and logging their observations of tortoise activity. Although the drilling site itself was only about two miles from the main road, it could take the crew up to 40 minutes to make their way to it. Compli- ance monitors accompanied each piece of equipment as it entered or departed the drill site. Speed was kept under 10 miles per hour. Gates in the fences had to be manu- ally moved and replaced at intervals along the fence-lined route. Once a gate had been slid back into place, the drilling crew and accompanying moni- tors piled soil and rock against its bot- tom to seal off gaps that might permit a tortoise to crawl under it. The drilling crew also assisted in relocating any tortoises that happened to enter the tortoise-free areas. Upgrade to Tier 4 Rig Protecting the threatened tortoises was just one complication of working Contractor uses environmentally responsible drilling practices in California threatened species habitat area. By Tom Moffitt TORTOISE continues on page 28 Twitter @WaterWellJournl WWJ February 2015 27 Larry Siddall of AZCA Drilling & Pump talks to two biologists tasked with patrolling the tortoise exclusion fences. The third-party contractors monitor tortoise activity, looking for signs of distress that could jeopardize the tortoise's chances of surviving in the Mojave Desert.

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