Eblast May 31, 2017

  • Altamira Gate Community Housing Project
  • Joshua Tree Airport solar project
  • Eagle Crest Gen-Tie Project
  • Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Act: Senate Bill 249
  • Protecting Integrity of National Monuments

 

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
We can now provide you with updates on several projects and issues MBCA tracks. Let’s start with MBCA director David Fick’s news on three long-standing thorns in our sides: Altamira Gated Housing, JT Airport Solar and Eagle Crest.

The Altamira Gated Community Housing Project
Resident activist Janet Johnston and others tenaciously researched California law regarding the standing of Community Plans. Their organization, JT105, LLP Alliance appealed the Planning Commission decision and CEQA litigated after the San Bernardino Supervisors decision to allow the project to go forward. Their efforts proved to be a strong offense in the success of their lawsuit. Altamira is in a "legal stay" for six months as requested by the proponent YV105, LLP.
 
The project is now for sale through a San Diego area real estate broker for $3 million dollars. The proponent has stated that they've invested $4.5 million dollars on the proposed project.

For background on the history of Altamira Housing Project, click here.

Joshua Tree Airport Solar Project 
NextEra /JT Solar project is also officially in a "legal stay" for six months as requested by NextEra. The Southern California Edison’s RAM Power Purchase Agreement for the project has expired and NextEra has stated no work on the project has gone forward. The group Joshua Tree Community for Responsible Solar took the lead in opposing the project and initiated legal action.

The JT Airport Solar page on our website contains a chronological history of MBCA’s reports on the JT Airport Solar Project via our E-blasts.

Eagle Crest Gen-Tie Project
The Desert Protection Society (DPS), Donna Charpied and Larry Charpied, have formally submitted comments appealing the BLM approval of the California Desert Conservation (CDCA) Land Use Plan Amendment (LUPA) Finding of No
Significant Impact and Final Environmental Assessment (EA) for Crest Energy Gen-Tie Project. They contend that the LUPA and EA are based on deficient environmental review that violate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and FLPMA (Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976).

BLM proposes to grant to the Eagle Crest Energy Company (Eagle Crest) a right of-way (ROW) to construct, operate, and decommission a 5000-kV gen-tie line and water pipeline to transmit electricity generated by Eagle Crest’s proposed pumped storage facility. This facility would be placed within a private inholding carved out of and surrounded on three sides by JTNP, and would have permanent and severe adverse impacts on Joshua Tree National Park.

DPS’s comments note that the area’s natural, ecological, scenic, wildlife and wilderness values should be preserved rather than sacrificed for unneeded industrial-scale energy development that uses more energy than it would generate, and exacerbates the ongoing overdraft of the Chuckwalla Basin aquifer. Further, they hold that an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared as NEPA requires – to take a “hard look” at the Project’s cumulative impacts in compliance with NEPA.

MBCA joined conservation partners in an Environmental Assessment Comment letter to BLM state Director Jerome Perez. For MBCA’s background on opposition to Eagle Crest with a link to the comment letter detailing all the stages of insufficient analysis, click here.

Thanks, David for tracking these developments that threaten Joshua Tree and JTNP. Next, MBCA director Pat Flanagan reports on an OHV issue with important consequences for the Basin.

OHMVR, Senate Bill 249
MBCA initiated a letter also signed by representatives of Community ORV Watch
(COW) and the Alliance for Responsible Recreation, asking the California
Appropriations Committee to take action on Senate Bill 249, the Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Act (OHMVR). Here is a reader-friendly summary of key points in the bill, introduced by Senator Ben Allen.  This bill would reauthorize the State Parks Off Highway Vehicle Recreation division that provides increased safeguards for landscape resources.

If the California Senate does not proceed to reauthorize the OHMVR, the program will end on December 31, 2017. This needed legislation will provide for both reasonable off-highway recreation and also for resource protection and appropriate law enforcement. Morongo Basin is among the many rural communities that have miles of trails incorrectly viewed as suitable for open riding. MBCA's letter states "Our concern is not with the legal but the illegal riders." While the bill is not everything the conservation community would like to see, it is a step forward in protecting California’s precious and fragile landscapes from rampant ORV damage.

Your letters in support of SB 249 are needed right now – this week is best!
 You can find all the details you need at the ORV Watch/COW website.  In particular, most readers of MBCA’s E-blasts are likely to be constituents of 16th District’s State Senator Jean Fuller.  She is not on the Appropriations Committee, but you should call her (1-916-651-4016) and email her a message that you want her to support SB 249 when it comes to a vote.  Readers outside of the Morongo Basin should check this list provided by ORV Watch to see if your State Senator is a critical voter – if so, please email them as a constituent.

Although emails from non-constituents are not accepted, you can make a phone call or send a faxed letter to any senator to urge their support of SB 249; again, a list of numbers and a sample script are available at the COW website.

Protect our National Monuments
I suspect you are already well aware of the threat the President is directing to the integrity of national monuments. The Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Desert Defender campaign: Protect our Desert National Monuments provides a forum for public expression in support of Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow National Monuments. Names and messages will be collected at this website during the open public comment period and sent to the Department of the Interior in demonstration of our support of these national treasures. If you haven’t already, it’s easy to do and important to register your support here – even if you’ve commented elsewhere.

To read MBCA director Pat Flanagan’s op-ed in the San Bernardino County Sun, Efforts to shrink, eliminate national parks will hurt economyclick here.

Thanks to David, Pat and all the stellar MBCA directors. It truly takes all of us on the Board of Directors in our attempt to track these issues, create informed opinions and generate a course of action in a timely way to educate our members and supporters. It is critical that MBCA as an organization and you as individuals submit comments to decision makers. Thanks also for your attention – we know we make a difference.

Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship Award
MBCA presented the first annual Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation
Scholarship award of $500.00 to Nicole Serrano on May 17th at the Yucca Valley
High School’s Senior Awards and Scholarships Program. Nicole also received The Wildlands Conservancy’s Environmental Education Scholarship presented by Cindy Zacks, and was honored as the Valedictorian of her 2017 graduating class. She will attend UC, Davis with majors in animal and environmental science. All our best, Nicole – you are an inspiration. We wish you every success in your studies!

This first award represents a fulfillment of a longstanding goal to increase MBCA’s support of environmental education of local students who plan to attend a university or college and prepare for employment in careers related to environmental or conservation work. You can learn more about the bequest from Ruth Denison that made this scholarship possible at MBCA website’s Denison Scholarship page. 

MBCA Desert Wise Landscape Tour’s Essay Contest Winners
We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour.  Congratulations to the winners Rosalie Mendoza, Ken Brock, and Susan Jordan, and to the 2017 Desert-Wise Landscape Committee. Job well done!  The May 30 News Update about the Contest includes links to their essays. They do a great job of capturing the joy of the day for the many visitors. These are gratifying to the Landscape Tour Committee – they strongly reflect that the goal of educating and inspiring water-wise gardens is being accomplished.

On our News Updates page you will find links to Peter Brooks’ Los Angeles
Times op-ed on Cadiz: The ludicrous plan to pump Mojave Water to L.A.; Director Ruth Rieman’s presentation from the Black Rock lecture series on grassroots activism; a link to the story reported by KCDZ on the progress for the Morongo Basin bike trails; and much more! Thanks to Laraine Turk and the dedicated committee of Cathy Zarakov, Nora Lousignant, and Steve Bardwell in developing and maintaining MBCA’s digital communications. This dedicated committee works to keep you informed of conservation & quality of life issues in a timely fashion so that you are able to respond in defense of the Basin environment.

Sincerely,
Sarah Kennington, MBCA President

Your 2017 MBCA Board
David Fick, Vice President                      Laraine Turk, Director
Steve Bardwell, Treasurer                      Meg Foley, Director
Marina West, Recording Secretary         Claudia Sall, Events
Pat Flanagan, Director                                     
Ruth Rieman, Director        
 
MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment 
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth 
and economic well-being.

 


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