Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a journalist and photographer based in Port Jervis, NY and Alexandria, Va.

Heavy equipment to breach the wilds of Arches National Park

Back in the 1950s, a natural gas pipeline was built across about 2.5 miles of what was then Arches National Monument. In the intervening years, Arches was designated a national park and its boundaries were expanded. Today, nearly eight miles of the pipeline bisects Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, and the pipeline scar serves as the little-traveled trail to Lost Spring Canyon, which was added to the park in 1998.

That matters for two reasons: Williams Co. has to maintain the pipeline with heavy equipment when necessary, and doing so requires entering very wild areas of the park with trackhoes, bulldozers and other machinery. And that's the plan right now. The National Park Service has an environmental assessment (EA), the Williams Pipeline EA, open for public comment about a plan for Williams to come in and work on the pipeline.

The impact to the park, according to the EA, will not be insignificant.

Indeed, one of my favorite places at Arches is right along that pipeline. Clover Canyon, pictured below, features an expanse of cryptobiotic soil-encrusted quartz on its rim as if the area has never been touched by humans. Though the landscape isn't is as dramatic as other parts of the park, it's a stark and beautiful place. The pipeline runs just above the canyon rim by maybe 200 feet or so. Williams found an "anomaly" here in 2008, and brought in a trackhoe and other equipment to fix it.

Should Congress ever designate Arches as a wilderness area, the pipeline would be included in the wilderness, and heavy pipeline maintenance would continue.

Public comment is open through May 17 here.