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#18357 - 09/14/11 07:18 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Fishmonger Offline


Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1025
Loc: Madison, WI

Here's a somewhat realted question: will there be wag bags available in the large rubbermaid bin at Crabtree Meadows in mid October when I am coming in from Yosemite? If not, do I break the law by not using one, or do I have to pack one for 200 miles to make sure I comply?
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#18379 - 09/15/11 05:33 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Fishmonger]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 200
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: Fishmonger

Here's a somewhat realted question: will there be wag bags available in the large rubbermaid bin at Crabtree Meadows in mid October when I am coming in from Yosemite?...


You bring up an interesting time of year. By mid-October solar toilets would be cleaned out and closed for the winter, so everyone in the Whitney Zone would be using wag bags until the next June or July when the weather gets warm enough for the winter's spindrift to be removed from the toilets and for evaporation to keep up with usage.

Dale B. Dalrymple

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#18385 - 09/15/11 09:47 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: dbd]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
If new solar toilets were installed, the availability would probably be just like it was for the 30 some yrs that the old ones were in operation. A modern design can easily hold the small use that occurs in the early and late season. Actual composting and evaporation would then catch up in the warm months exactly when the use also picks up. For the few hearty climbers in the winter, this would be like any other place in the Sierras, you have to pack it out, the toilets might be buried in snow. No different than anywhere else.

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#18440 - 09/16/11 08:30 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 200
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
If new solar toilets were installed, the availability would probably be just like it was for the 30 some yrs that the old ones were in operation.

These are the toilets you told us were defective and didn't work. Were you mistaken then or now?
Quote:
A modern design can easily hold the small use that occurs in the early and late season.

Is there new design you have not yet revealed? You have presented a design you claim works at a similar location. Let's look at what you have given us as the facts. The design used on Long's Peak must be closed to prevent mechanical damage in the winter and can't be successfully sealed against snow. It needs maintenance to remove the snow block before use begins in the summer.
Quote:
Actual composting and evaporation would then catch up in the warm months exactly when the use also picks up.

The Longs Peak ranger reports that false expectations like this have lead to vandalism problems when the design limitations have forced winter closure.
Quote:
For the few hearty climbers in the winter, this would be like any other place in the Sierras, you have to pack it out, the toilets might be buried in snow. No different than anywhere else.

"any other place in the Sierra" without Whitney's concentration of use doesn't require you to pack it out.

Dale B. Dalrymple

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#18444 - 09/16/11 12:16 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: dbd]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
I'm referring to AVAILABILITY of the toilets, not FUNCTIONALITY. Even a defective toilet is "available" as a simple holding tank even in cold weather. The composting and evaporation may not function effectively in late fall or early spring, but there should be no technical reason to close toilets except if snow is blocking the door. Once that happens, or if the Rangers decide to close them for the season, then the area is just like any other winter place in the Sierra without toilets. All they have to do is let people know the toilets are closed so they don't count on them. They could also leave a box of wag bags near the toilets for emergency use or for people that prefer them over a toilet. Keep everybody happy.

I never promised to provide a new toilet design for Mt Whitney. The Long's Peak report linked to above has engineered plans and actual costs for you. Hopefully that will convince you there is at least one such design that actually does work. Phoenix toilets has other designs that are all over the national park system. The main adjustment for high elevation is building a well-insulated holding tank compartment and using the best materials. This is not rocket science.

You can point out the challenges they have overcome at Long's Peak mentioned in the assessment report, but the fact of the matter is the system is a success, the Park Engineer is happy, the hikers are happy, and the Rangers do not have to do the maintenance work so they are assumed to be happy as well.

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#18638 - 09/22/11 03:46 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Here's a link to the Environmental Assessment Report described above in the opening post of this thread. This excellent 50-page report is a great read on the history of the waste management issue back in 2004 when they intended to replace the toilets. This report was on the Inyo website, but it's no longer available anywhere else on the internet that I can find. It's a public document that should be publicly available since this issue is technically still open because they haven't completed the NEPA process yet with a Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSI) coupled with a NEPA Decision Document. Or they could finish it with an Environmental Impact Statement (a very expensive and time consuming option).

Environmental Assessment - Mt Whitney Waste Management

Here's a link to the memo that implemented the wag bag policy, which is basically Alternative 5 in the EA Report above.

Memo Implementing Wag Bags

The 2006 memo has some of the elements of a decision document, but it falls short of the legal requirements, described nicely in

Citizen's Guide to NEPA

Most notably, there is no reference to a FONSI, and there is no explanation of how public comments were considered. The memo mentions a 2005 survey taken by a Michigan college student when the wag bags were tried on a volunteer basis. Anyone seen that student study? Perhaps that's their attempt at public input?

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#18660 - 09/23/11 01:14 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Denver, CO
Sierra,

I think it's a noble cause to look out for the best interest(s) of the environment and hikers in the Whitney area. That said, I think by now you should have realized this is not the correct venue to cause change. This forum has many passionate Whitney enthusiasts and hikers, but clearly no one with administrative power is here to listen to your complaints. I would suggest pursuing the proper channels to try and effect change.

While this is a most valid topic of discussion (I was shocked at my trip in mid-July to see so many WAG bags along the trail), posting opinion on a message board will not bring about change.

If you harbor concerns regarding the Federal process, I would highly suggest taking those to the appropriate officials, not a message board.

Additionally, if you truly stand behind every word you've stated, you would give much more credibility to your cause and voice by being honest with your identity, not hiding behind a screen name.

Though I post infrequently, I have been an avid lurker on these boards for some time, and your appearance and discussion of WAG bags has become more bothersome than informative or thought-provoking.

-Chris

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#18662 - 09/23/11 01:42 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Chris B]
Tomcat_rc Offline


Registered: 11/05/09
Posts: 49
Loc: Ridgecrest
Originally Posted By: Chris B
Sierra,

Though I post infrequently, I have been an avid lurker on these boards for some time, and your appearance and discussion of WAG bags has become more bothersome than informative or thought-provoking.

-Chris


Interesting opinion. I thought he did a respectable job of trying to get the information out despite continued personeal attacks. I for one am glad that someone is willing to discuss what to me is an obvious flawed sollution.

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#18664 - 09/23/11 02:01 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Tomcat_rc]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1239
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Chris,

Do not discount the administrative factor. Folks from the Inyo lurk here just like you.

Many here wrote the Inyo during the comment period to state our concerns about a WAG bag program in this corridor. It really did not make much of difference because the forest manager was hellbent on taking out the two solar latrines.



Edited by wbtravis (09/23/11 02:01 PM)

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#18666 - 09/23/11 02:11 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Chris B]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Chris B
this is not the correct venue to cause change.
Agree, the purpose of this thread is stated right up front, post #1, "This thread will give some background info, share some info, and open up discussion on a sensitive subject."

Originally Posted By: Chris B
I would suggest pursuing the proper channels to try and effect change.
I have been discussing this through the proper channels at Inyo NF. They are still figuring out what happened and looking for documents.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
I was shocked at my trip in mid-July to see so many WAG bags along the trail
Seems to be a common impact, which might explain the interest in this otherwise mundane topic.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
Additionally, if you truly stand behind every word you've stated, you would give much more credibility to your cause and voice by being honest with your identity, not hiding behind a screen name.
Don't shoot the messenger. Like most everybody, yourself included, I choose to exercise my right to privacy here.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
Though I post infrequently, I have been an avid lurker on these boards for some time, and your appearance and discussion of WAG bags has become more bothersome than informative or thought-provoking.
Thanks for making the transition and posting your opinion, whatever it is. Maybe we can get public opinion back into the decision making process on this controversial issue?

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#18667 - 09/23/11 02:20 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
+ @ti2d Offline


Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 805
Loc: Oh Cursed, USA
Sierra Nevada...

During my military career, I have worked with the folks in the Environmental Security and have read Environmental Assessments and Environmental Impact Reports. A lot of work went into producing these documents.

My hat is off to you bringing this to the attention of the public.
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#18669 - 09/23/11 02:33 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
Chris B Offline


Registered: 07/18/11
Posts: 68
Loc: Denver, CO
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
Originally Posted By: Chris B
this is not the correct venue to cause change.
Agree, the purpose of this thread is stated right up front, post #1, "This thread will give some background info, share some info, and open up discussion on a sensitive subject."

Originally Posted By: Chris B
I would suggest pursuing the proper channels to try and effect change.
I have been discussing this through the proper channels at Inyo NF. They are still figuring out what happened and looking for documents.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
I was shocked at my trip in mid-July to see so many WAG bags along the trail
Seems to be a common impact, which might explain the interest in this otherwise mundane topic.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
Additionally, if you truly stand behind every word you've stated, you would give much more credibility to your cause and voice by being honest with your identity, not hiding behind a screen name.
Don't shoot the messenger. Like most everybody, yourself included, I choose to exercise my right to privacy here.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
Though I post infrequently, I have been an avid lurker on these boards for some time, and your appearance and discussion of WAG bags has become more bothersome than informative or thought-provoking.
Thanks for making the transition and posting your opinion, whatever it is. Maybe we can get public opinion back into the decision making process on this controversial issue?


I guess it's somewhat hot-button for me to see people complain on public forums. As someone still in my 20s, I've grown with the digital age and I see far too many people using the internet to complain, and not taking proper courses of action. Forums are especially common for this type of behavior, due to anonymity and ease of access. Spreading awareness is one thing. Arguing the point to those that question facts and can't do anything to change the sitation seems pointless in light of your audience.

If Inyo personnel lurk, that's great and I'm sure very insightful to the experiences of Whitney hikers. However, they possess the same anonymity, and are no more likely to attempt change than if they never saw the thread. That's why more direct accountability needs to be established.

I would gladly support an alternative to the WAG problem, if it was truly beneficial, meaning no additional strain on staff or finances. My opinion is the WAG issue is a problem, but not necessarily one with a clear-cut and easy response. At the end of the day, though, regardless of whether they go with toilets or bags, people will continue to be irresponsible with the gifts we've been given.

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#18697 - 09/24/11 06:01 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Chris B]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
The interesting thing about social media (including message boards) is that you never know who's going to read something, and whether that person might know someone who knows someone who, in turn, knows someone else, who then may very well may the person who is able to make a difference in whatever is the problem/issue that is being discussed, in this case waste disposal solutions in the Whitney Zone. I would not be so quick to discount message boards.

CaT
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#18698 - 09/24/11 06:16 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Chris B]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
the purpose of this thread is stated right up front, post #1, "This thread will give some background info, share some info, and open up discussion on a sensitive subject."


I believe that the purpose has been met.

Originally Posted By: Chris B
I would suggest pursuing the proper channels to try and effect change.


I could not agree more: We hear you, we hear you -- here, there, and everywhere. We agree! The current situation is not working, so where do we go from here? I believe that the complaints have registered, so now what is the best course of action to effect change?


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The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#18701 - 09/24/11 08:43 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Bee]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7235
Loc: Fresno, CA
People, please be patient. Pursuing matters through the proper channels takes some time. I am sure SierraNevada will post more info as it becomes available.

In the meantime, posting opinions that have been repeated before serves no purpose but to grind this topic into the dirt.

New information is always welcome.

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#18702 - 09/24/11 08:50 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: Steve C]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Steve C

In the meantime, posting opinions that have been repeated before serves no purpose but to grind this topic into the dirt.

New information is always welcome.


Enough opinions -- agreed. Moving the topic past "discussing the need for action"(complaining) to "action" -- even more agreement.
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The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#18743 - 09/26/11 08:25 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
An excellent report from Rocky but I have to say I'm not convinced the same system will work on the Whitney corridor. The key to the Rocky report seems to be weekly (!) maintenance and hauling out the solids. The USFS has a very poor record of being able to maintain anything in a remote wilderness setting. Not their fault, mostly. A combination of budget constraints and commitment.

The original Whitney toilets seems to have failed because of poor design and infrequent maintenance. The two that were built could, literally, be smelled 1/4 mile away on a bad day. I believe construction and maintenance exceeded $50,000 at least. That kind of money just doesn't exist for federal agencies anymore. Poor maintenance required that 50 gal. drums of human waste were stored nearby until they could be hauled out.

This isn't to say that, under ideal conditions (careful engineering and a guaranteed budget for, say 10 years) a system similar to Rocky couldn't be built... . I just doubt it could be maintained. As tight as budgets are for NPS, they're far worse for USFS (Inyo/Whitney corridor). To me, it's not worth taking the risk of another expensive failure.

How much of that money could otherwise be used to hire a ranger and llama, say, to pick up the abandoned wag bags?? Much more efficient use of the money and likely cheaper.

George
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#18762 - 09/27/11 01:18 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: George]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 200
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: George
An excellent report from Rocky but I have to say I'm not convinced the same system will work on the Whitney corridor. The key to the Rocky report seems to be weekly (!) maintenance and hauling out the solids. The USFS has a very poor record of being able to maintain anything in a remote wilderness setting. Not their fault, mostly. A combination of budget constraints and commitment.
...
George


Rocky Mountain NP has a different knowledge and experience base than the Inyo NF. RMNP supports 73 backcountry campsites with privies. (Two of the four solar seats support Boulderfield camp site, the other two are along trails.) They also have 200 permanent and 272 seasonal employees and 1699 volunteers (102,240 hours). That's a different base of support. That doesn't make solar toilets impossible for Inyo, but it means that it will take a lot of careful creative thought to deal with the hurdles of definition, authorization, funding, acquisition, staffing, construction and operation. The process of dealing concretely with these hurdles seems negative compared to wishful thinking, but it is necessary to deal with them all to accomplish something. The process would also make it easier to identify and evaluate useful alternatives.

Dale B. Dalrymple

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#18765 - 09/27/11 02:55 PM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: George]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1100
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: George
The key to the Rocky report seems to be weekly (!) maintenance and hauling out the solids.

Yes, and that's why the NPS contracts out their backcountry toilet maintenance. I think this is a key success factor for them. I think everyone would agree we need Rangers doing more important stuff, and by the way - thanks for your service, George! It's not necessary to haul out wastes that frequently, just that the contractor chooses to do it that way. Could be twice per year instead. But weekly attention to the toilet system by a trained individual is a key to success.

Originally Posted By: George
I believe construction and maintenance exceeded $50,000 at least.

Reservation fees are netting at least $250,000 per year with 17,000 actual hikers x $15/hiker (plus no shows). The regs authorizing such fees are intended to put money back into the "facility" with limits on overhead costs. Wag bags cost money too, and it costs again to get rid of tons of full ones, and don't forget about all the plastic and chemicals involved.

Originally Posted By: George
This isn't to say that, under ideal conditions (careful engineering and a guaranteed budget for, say 10 years) a system similar to Rocky couldn't be built... . I just doubt it could be maintained.
George

If a contract employee is doing the maintenance, and the design is good to begin with, I think its a workable solution.

Nothing to report yet from discussions with Inyo, but it has been elevated to management and they seem to have an open mind. I have not sensed the zealousness that has been reported about the former District Ranger Oye. Time will tell. Please be patient, they are very busy and understaffed, as George described.

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#19140 - 10/12/11 08:47 AM Re: Solar Toilets vs Carrying Wag Bags [Re: SierraNevada]
AsABat Offline


Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 7
Loc: SoCal
$50,000 shouldn't be a problem. Whitney is popular. Raise the fee $10, if 17,000 hikers is correct that's more than enough money to construct two crappers and have plenty of money for contracting the haul out.

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