EBlast August 9, 2018

Cadiz / Assembly Bill 1000

Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project

San Bernardino County RECE 4.10

Altamira Gated Community Project

Joshua Tree Solar Project

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

The previous e-Blasts in May and June encouraged you to submit comments to BLM for WEMO (West Mojave route network), along with a call to turn out for the County Planning Commission hearing on RECE (Renewable Energy Conservation Element) section 4.10 - since then we’ve had a welcomed hiatus from deadlines!

I hope you’ve been able to catch your breath this summer, relax and attend to your personal lives. The need to respond in defense of the desert environment often competes for our attention and precious time! Along with the other MBCA directors, know that we appreciate the time you give - your attention, support and activism to the MBCA mission.

So with optimism that you are recharged, there is something to put on your “to do” list, plus updates to long-standing issues.

Cadiz / Assembly Bill 1000 – the “to do”

The California Assembly has one more opportunity to curtail the Cadiz corporation plan to pump 16 billion gallons of ground water each year for 50 years from springs within Mojave Trails National Monument to sell to a water company in coastal Orange County. AB 1000 was introduced to the California Assembly last year and is now held by the State Appropriations committee. This bill is intended to reverse the Trump administration action that eliminated Federal requirements for the project. AB 1000 would require additional scrutiny before allowing plans to commence the export of desert groundwater for profit.

If Cadiz begins pumping, the consequences will be dire to natural springs and the plants and animals that depend on them. It would do irreparable damage to Mojave Trails National Monument. Let’s do what we can do curtail this!

Contact the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, State Senator Anthony Portantino, with this simple message:

  • protect the Mojave desert’s natural springs and ground water;
  • as a leader you expect him to release & help pass AB1000. 

Phone calls to Mr. Portantino’s district office are best:

(818) 409-0400(ask for Vickere Murphy or the environmental staff member)

- or send an e-mail.

Also make calls to your state legislators. Morongo Basin residents can open MBCA's Decision-Maker Contact Information page to find clickable links to email State Assemblyman Chad Mayes and State Senator Jean Fuller.

For more background read the Mojave Desert Blog’s overview, “Should Orange County Get Mojave Desert Groundwater?”

Eagle Crest Energy Company Pumped Storage Project

As reported in MBCA News recently, BLM approved the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project. The most recent News Update highlighted that the Company missed the mid-June construction deadline at the former Eagle Mountain Mine site near Desert Center. Intending to breathe new life into the project, Congressman Paul Cook sponsored Congressional bill H.R. 5817 to authorize an extension of Eagle Crest's commencement of construction. It was introduced into the House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.  The next action for the bill will be Mark Up where it can be amended and then Ordered to be Reported for a floor vote in the House.

Eagle Crest Energy Company has yet to find a buyer for the power generated in the proposed hydro-pumping plant, it is also likely they would have to go through the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process again, and there’s new science about aquifer recharge rates that could jeopardize the project.

Environmental activist Donna Charpied devoted her life to fighting assaults on Eagle Mountain, including the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage project and other schemes that preceeded it. The organization she founded, The Desert Protection Society (DPS) continues the fight. It is expected DPS will appeal the BLM right-of-way approval. While purported to be a renewable energy project, damage to Joshua Tree National Park’s ecological balance seems certain.

MBCA signed a letter along with conservation partners including the National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds, Basin and Ranch Watch, opposing the bill or any other legislative extension of the Eagle Crest construction permit.

San Bernardino County General Plan RECE 4.10

We’re still waiting to hear when the Board of Supervisors will hear and decide on Renewable Energy Conservation Element (RECE), section 4.10. You may recall in May the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the original version endorsed by MBCA and residents throughout the rural desert to prohibit industrial scale RE development in Community Plan areas. The Commission wisely rejected an Alternative 4.10 version that favored developers. When RECE comes back before the Supervisors it will be another call-to-action for us to emphatically demand defense of the rural residential quality of life in the desert areas. It is assured that the solar industry representatives are lobbying Land Use Services and the Supervisors on behalf of development. We must be present when the Supervisors decide the future renewable energy in RL (Rural Living) zoned areas - to tell our story and defend our communities from RE industrialization. When MBCA hears news about 4.10 appearing on the Supervisors’ Agenda, we will let you know to “save the date”!

Altamira Gated Community Project

MBCA Director David Fick working with other Joshua Tree residents reports another ‘settlement meeting’ was held in July 2018 with the Altamira project developers. The project remains in a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) court-monitored “stay” which halts the legal process in a trial or other legal proceeding. It is unclear how much longer or even if the “stay” would be extended or how the issues with the developers will be resolved. The opposition remains vigilant in monitoring and negotiating a settlement that favors concerns about the harmful environmental and social impacts to the Joshua Tree community.

We wanted you to know that MBCA has not forgotten about Altamira. When there is news to report, MBCA will relay it to you.

Joshua Tree Airport Solar Project

Joshua Tree residents opposing the solar project also sued the developers of JT Solar in CEQA court. This project is also in a court monitored “stay.” The developer, NextEra, has completely fenced 110 acres of one million dollar land, but can proceed no further during the “stay.”

Again, we have not lost sight of the project. This is another case of opponents slowing down a controversial project from moving forward. You will be notified when there is news about JT Solar.

Calendar of Community Events

The MBCA website’s Calendar of Community Events is a terrific way to keep tabs on events in the Basin of interest to the environmental, historical and community minded. You’ll find the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory meetings, Morongo Basin Historical Society lectures, MBCA Board meetings, Hi Desert Nature Museum Brown Bag Lunch lectures, Old Schoolhouse Lectures by the Twentynine Palms Historical Society and The Desert Institute of JT National Park Association, and more. Check it out!

In closing

The MBCA directors will meet for our annual board retreat later in August. This is our opportunity to have a full day to take in the big picture, assess the past year and look ahead to what’s ahead. 2018 will mark MBCA’s 50thanniversary in service to the Morongo Basin. As the Basin’s oldest organization with a focus on the natural environment and our communities’ quality of life, we take our role seriously as challenges mount with increased pressures from growth and the effects of climate change. Directors will work to be prepared to anticipate and equipped to respond. We welcome your input – if you have ideas, critiques, or suggestions, please let us know: http://www.mbconservation.org/contact_us. We look to you to join us in the work, as well as in the 50thcelebrations ahead!

Sincerely,

Sarah Kennington, President

Morongo Basin Conservation Association

 

Your 2018 MBCA Board

David Fick, Vice President                         Steve Bardwell, Treasurer

Marina West, Recording Secretary             Pat Flanagan, Director      

Meg Foley, Director                                   Mike Lipsitz, Director

Ruth Rieman, Director                              Claudia Sall, Director

Seth Shteir, Director                                 Laraine Turk, Director

 

www.mbconservation.org

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment

that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth

and economic well-being.

 

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BLM Approves Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project

On August 1, BLM issued a press release indicating its approval of the Eagle Crest Energy Company's plan for a "pumped storage" project at the former Eagle Mountain Mine near Desert Center. MBCA and many environmental groups and Joshua Tree National Park supporters have opposed the project. Even though it is described as a project that supports renewable energy, damage to the Park's ecological balance seems certain. MBCA's most recent News Update about this issue highlighted the Company's missed construction start deadline.  In his August 1 story on the Eagle Crest project, Sammy Roth of the Desert Sun has included a history of the issues and status of the project and perspectives from both sides.

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Nestle Water Extraction Permit Renewed

Nestle Corporation has been given a 3-year permit to extract water for their "Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water," with new monitoring requirements. This US Forest Service decision came after news stories and lawsuits that began in 2015 brought attention to Nestle's long-expired permit and reports of damage to fragile habitats due to the water extraction. The new monitoring requirements are perceived as inadequate by activists who brought lawsuits against Nestle.  Learn more in Ian James' Desert Sun article "Nestle granted new three-year water permit to keep piping water out of California national forest." 
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Deadline Missed on Eagle Crest Pumping Project Near JTNP

The Desert Sun has reported that construction on the Eagle Crest hydropower plant on the southeastern edge of Joshua Tree National Park did not begin on June 19, a deadline approved as part of its license by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  While the consequences of this missed deadline are not known immediately, National Park Conservation Association representative Chris Clarke expresses the hope that it will result eventually in the area being returned to the National Park. Read his statement and more about the issue in Sammy Roth's June 21 story. (Article link updated 6/22/18 with more information about Congressional action possibilities.)
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MBCA's WEMO Routes Comments to BLM

Thanks once again to Board member Pat Flanagan, MBCA has submitted a researched, detailed, and illustrated comment letter in response to the BLM's request for comments on the Draft West Mojave Route Network Project Land Use Plan Amendment for the California Desert Conservation Area Plan and Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, aka "WEMO."

The areas of most interest to MBCA regarding controlling OHV activity in the Morongo Basin and the Lucerne Valley areas are found within Travel Management Area 3. TMA 3 stretches east and west from south of Apple Valley to Wonder Valley.  The subregions of BLM land are found in Juniper Flats, Rattlesnake Canyon, Sand to Snow National Monument, Joshua Tree, and Wonder Valley.

Specifically, MBCA asks BLM to implement the provisions of Alternative 2 because they "emphasize protection of physical, biological, and heritage resources, while providing for the smallest transportation and travel network focused on through access, and the most limited acreage and forage allocation dedicated to livestock grazing, comparatively." The BLM's preferred Alternative 4 would yield negative consequences to all those important attributes.

You can find maps and information specific to the Morongo Basin's OHV regulations on pages 2&3 of the MBCA comment letter.
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Eblast June 11, 2018

WEMO comments DEADLINE this Thursday, 6/14/18

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

Time to get your BLM West Mojave Route system (WEMO) response comments composed and sent by the deadline this Thursday!

There is some good news in Alternative # 2 – many dirt roads in Wonder Valley and other areas have been designated “Street Legal Vehicles Only.” Let the BLM know you support SLO in rural neighborhoods with checker boarded with BLM and private property!

For a full update, go to MBCA's previous news update on this topic, which has links to the COW website for insights and recommendations for making substantive comments.

The Wilderness Society has also posted a website with a form letter that you can use and a link to the BLM for sending comments directly.

This is our chance to assist the BLM in getting it right – to send a very strong message from Basin residents to make our dirt roads STREET LEGAL ONLY for Motorized vehicle use. This will reduce conflicts with OVH’s that we know only too well

If you do not have the time to compose individualized comments, use the COW or Wilderness Society templates. Thanks for your attention to this issue that is core to our quality of life in the Mojave desert.

Sincerely,

Sarah Kennington, President

Morongo Basin Conservation Association

 

Your 2018 MBCA Board

   David Fick, Vice President                        Steve Bardwell, Treasure
Marina West, Recording Secretary           Pat Flanagan, Director
Meg Foley, Director                                   Mike Lipsitz, Director
Ruth Rieman, Director                              Claudia Sall, Director
Seth Shteir, Director                                  Laraine Turk, Director

www.mbconservation.org

MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment that nurtures the region’s rural character,
cultural wealth and economic well-being.

 

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Essay Contest Winners 2018

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Eleven Landscape Tour participants submitted essays to our Contest this year - 4 more than the previous high of 7 essays! The voting was very close. All the judges were impressed with the quality of all the essays and the clear message of combining conservation with desert beauty. We thank the eleven writers for the time they spent portraying their Tour experience and the value of water-wise landscaping.

See a variety of photos from this year's Tour on our Landscape Tour Review page. (And for information on where to purchase native plants for your own landscape, see MBCA's Native Plant Nurseries page!)

Here are the three prize-winning Landscape Tour Essay Contest winners.  Click their name to read their essay.

1st place - Cynthia Heaton - $200 Unique Garden Center gift certificate
2nd place - Lisa Lafferty - $150 Cactus Mart gift certificate
3rd place - Cynthia Von Halle - $100 Cactus Mart gift certificate

Below are links to the other eight creative and thoughtful essays, in alphabetical order. 

Daniel Brenner
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Denison Scholarship Awarded


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Yucca Valley High School senior Morgan Novak was awarded the Ruth Denison Conservation and Environmental Scholarship to apply to her studies beginning in fall 2018 in the Environmental Studies program at Eastern New Mexico State University. In addition to achieving an excellent academic record, Morgan participated in intercollegiate athletics and the Environmental Science Club.  She also volunteered for the Mojave Desert Land Trust, Joshua Tree National Park, and the Pioneertown Mountains Preserve. Congratulations and Good Luck from MBCA, Morgan!

Learn more about Ruth Denison's legacy and the Scholarship on our Denison Scholarship webpage.

Morgan is quoted extensively in this June 2, 2018 article in the Hi Desert Star about the field ecology class at Yucca Valley High School which bolstered her interest in an environmental career. 
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Planning Commission Vote Supports Desert Communities

At their May 24 meeting, in a 4-0 vote, the San Bernardino County Planning Commission supported the original version of Policy 4.10 of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element of the County General Plan. In August 2017 the County Supervisors had asked for a review of 4.10. After nine months, Land Use Services provided the Commission with a revised version of 4.10 that clearly benefitted developers over desert communities.

Passionate public comments from dozens of desert residents present at the County Government Center, and also at the Joshua Tree and Hesperia videoconferencing sites, lasted about 5 1/2 hours. Another hour-plus of questions to the LUS staff and intense discussion among the Commissioners ended when Commissioner Paul Smith of 29 Palms moved to approve the original version of Policy 4.10 as part of a three-item motion that additionally approved some minor revisions to other parts of the Policy. All four Commissioners present voted in favor.

Update:  Here is the story on KCDZ 107.7 radio newsseveral stories on the Mojave Watch website, and coverage in the Victor Valley Daily Press.

The recommendation from the Commission will be sent forward for consideration by the Board of Supervisors.

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MBCA Urges Freedom from Large Solar in Rural Communities

Will the County of San Bernardino truly stand behind their claims of support for residents of rural communities who have been confronted in recent years with one after another ill-suited development projects?  The answer will become evident at this Thursday’s 9AM Planning Commission Meeting in San Bernardino. The single agenda item is the Renewable Energy Conservation Element (RECE) section 4.10. Read the original version and the staff-recommended revision and see how unprotected the revision leaves us. The original version prohibits large scale renewable energy development in rural desert communities; the revised version simply benefits energy developers.

In MBCA’s May 21, 2018 official comment letter to the Planning Commission, we strongly defend the original version of RECE 4.10. Our rationale is supported by extensive citations from County documents that show how the revised language is in contrast to earlier County stances on development in rural areas.

Show your support with your presence at the Planning Commission Hearing, either in San Bernardino or at one of the two remote videoconferencing sites. 

Other links and details on the videoconferencing sites in Joshua Tree and Hesperia can be found in our May 18 Eblast.

Again, we urge desert residents to attend the meeting in San Bernardino or at the remote videoconference sites in San Bernardino or Hesperia for a show of solidarity against the RECE 4.10 revision by Land Use Services staff.

 

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