The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized the Riverside County Transportation & Land Management Agency to proceed with hiring a contractor to construct a fence for the protection of desert tortoises who might otherwise wander into a gravel pit used by the county north of Blythe.
In a 5-0 vote without comment, the board signed off on the TLMA’s request to solicit bids on the $117,500 project. The Clerk of the Board is slated to handle all submissions, keeping the bidding open until Nov. 23.
The county agency intends to install 8,000 feet of fence around portions of the Midland Gravel Pit, where the county has a free-use permit, under an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, to extract rocks and sand needed for road maintenance and construction.
The pit is roughly three miles north of Interstate 10, just beyond the Blythe city limits, off of Midland Road.
“The Midland Gravel Pit is within the boundaries of the critical habitat area for the desert tortoise,” according to a TLMA statement posted to the board’s agenda. “The existence of the desert tortoise is mitigated by primarily not mining in the wash areas, where the tortoises are prone to exist, and secondarily by employing conservation measures.”
The perimeter fence would “exclude tortoises from areas where they might be struck by vehicles,” according to the agency.
The federal and state governments have designated the desert tortoise a “threatened species,” a classification just below endangered.
“An authorized biologist will survey for desert tortoise prior to permanent desert tortoise fencing being installed around the expansion area,” the TLMA stated. “A biologist will also monitor all fence construction activities. Once fence construction is complete, an authorized biologist will perform clearance surveys for desert tortoise within the fenced areas.”
Gas tax revenue will cover the cost of the project, which is tentatively slated to get underway this winter.