MBCA Comments on Lucerne/Ord Mountain Solar Proposal

In another extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive document, MBCA Director Pat Flanagan on June 30 sent MBCA's official comment letter on the proposed Ord Mountain Solar and Energy Storage Project in Lucerne Valley to San Bernardino County Land Use Services.  In addition, 

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Eblast June 14, 2017

  • Ord Mountain Solar Project: comment by June 30
  • MDLT campaign for 29 Palms property “Indian Trail Head”: ends June 30
  • Healthy California Act, SB 562: Indivisible public forum, June 26
  • CA. Assembly supports state’s monuments: AJR-15, Federal public lands

 

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

There are several events and campaigns MBCA Directors want you to know about. Including a huge solar project proposed for Lucerne Valley. Also, reminders of deadlines for public comment fast approaching. Thanks for your attention!

 


Ord Mountain Solar Project

Our conservation partners in the Lucerne Valley, Apple Valley, and Victorville areas are again sounding the alarm about another inappropriate industrial scale renewable energy project. This project consists of a 60 MW solar field and an electrical sub-station straddling Scenic Hwy 247 north of Lucerne Valley. An initial Study (IS) for this 484-acre project has been submitted to the County of San Bernardino. The owner of the project is Ord Mountain LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. (Yes, the same NextEra that won approval to develop the Joshua Tree Airport solar project!) An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is to be prepared for this project under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).


A well-attended scoping session was held on June 13 in Lucerne Valley where residents clearly expressed their concerns about the project and described issues that must be addressed in the preparation of the EIR. Issues including dust and air quality degradation, conflict with well-defined desert wildlife linkages, loss of habitat for endangered species, loss of uninterrupted scenic vistas, and the ill effects on the Community of rural residents were stressed.  MBCA directors Pat Flanagan and Steve Bardwell attended the session and expressed MBCA’s concerns about this inappropriately sited renewable energy project.

Much concern was raised about the timing of this project given that the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) of the County’s General Plan is to be considered by the Board of Supervisors very soon, and this scale and type of project would be discouraged under the guidelines included within the current wording of this Element. This project has slipped between the cracks during the time that the RECE is being considered.

The EIR will include an analysis of the ‘Calcite’ Southern California Edison (SCE) sub-station that would serve to distribute power from this industrial scale solar installation to the grid for use outside of the Lucerne Valley area. This substation would also serve other industrial scale renewable energy developments that are planned on nearby state lands. During scoping session residents expressed their concern that this sub-station would open-the-door to many more industrial scale projects. You may recall the defeated Coolwater-Lugo energy project’s Jasper substation project. The ‘Calcite’ substation would be located on the same site.

Scoping comments are those comments about issues that must be considered with the preparation of the EIR. MBCA encourages its supporters to write to the County and express their concerns about this conversion of desert land into an industrial scale renewable energy project. This link connects to the County website and the initial study for this development:
Send comments before 4:30 PM, June 30th to: 
County of San Bernardino, Land Use Services Department
John Oquendo, AICP, Senior Planner
Email: John.Oquendo@lus.sbcounty.gov
Snail mail: 15900 Smoke Tree Street, Suite 131, Hesperia, CA 92345

 


Healthy California Act, SB 562: Public forum
MBCA‘s mission includes supporting healthy desert communities. Indivisible Morongo Basin is hosting an event to inform Basin residents about the Healthy California Act, a single-payer health care initiative that recently made it through the California Senate. If it is successful and signed by the Governor this fall, it will be followed with a second bill to clarify the projected costs.
 
When: Monday, June 26, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Where: Yucca Room, Yucca Valley Community Center, 57090 29 Palms Hwy, Yucca Valley, CA.
For information and to RSVP, Indivisible MB Facebook page.

 

MDLT campaign: Scenery Worth Saving #Protect 62 - “Indian Trail Head” 
MDLT is working to purchase 40 acres in 29 Palms on the boundary of JTNP. A property threatened for inappropriate residential development located adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. A key resource for JTNP neighbors and the City of 29 Palms tourism efforts with incredible views, dark sky experiences, important habitat and conservation features.
There is a short time frame to secure the sale, the end of June. The purchase price is $120,000. Supporters are welcome to donate on the MDLT web site via the Hwy 62 Linkage Campaign: Scenery Worth Saving and restrict the gift to the "Indian Trail Head". Deadline to contribute: June 30, 2017

 


California Assembly Joint Resolution AJR-15: Federal public lands
 
In response to President Trump’s executive order for a review of the country’s 27 national monuments, California legislators passed the Resolution AJR-15 to express their bi-partisan support of the national monuments in the state.

The measure urges the protection of federal public lands for their economic, historical, cultural, and ecological values and to honor and protect the integrity of all national monuments as they have been designated. The resolution also states support for the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 by the President as a critical tool for protecting the public good by authorizing the designation of national monuments.

Makes us proud to be Californians! To the federal administration: keep your hands off our monuments!

 


REMINDER: Express support for the Desert National Monuments
The Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Desert Defender campaign: Protect our Desert National Monuments collects names and messages at this website to send to the Department of the Interior. Public comment period ends July 9th – it’s important to demonstrate your support and easy to do!

 


REMINDER: Letters in support for OHVRA SB 249 needed 
MBCA encourages you to call or email State Senators to ask for their support of the Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Act / SB 249. Find all the details you need at the ORV Watch/COW website.

 


That’s it for now. Never a dull moment, right! With your help, we’ll keep up the good work protecting the health of Basin humans, wildlife and the desert environment! 

 


Sincerely,
Sarah Kennington, MBCA President
Your 2017 MBCA Board 

David Fick, Vice President                          Steve Bardwell, Treasurer

Marina West, Recording Secretary             Pat Flanagan, Director

Meg Foley, Director                                    Ruth Rieman, Director 

Claudia Sall, Director for Events                 Laraine Turk, 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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National Monument "Review" - How to Comment

 Protect our Desert National Monuments

Black_Lava_Butte_sign_rev.jpgThe US Department of the Interior issued a press release on May 5, 2017 describing its intention to "review" recently designated National Monuments including Sand to Snow and Mojave Trails. The Mojave Desert Land Trust has created a Desert Defender campaign, Protect our Desert National Monuments, to provide information and a forum for public expression. Names and messages will be collected at the Desert Defenders 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. 

You can also go directly to the government's comment page on this issue. Or comment by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. Let them know that their people, their constituents, regardless of political background, believe in maintaining the beauty and connectivity of this land. 

For more background and comment ideas, read MBCA director Pat Flanagan’s May 10 Guest Commentary in the San Bernardino County Sun.

Submit your comments BEFORE MONDAY, JULY 10!

Thanks to James Sammons for submitting the Black Lava Butte photo.

 

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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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Landscape Tour Essay Contest Winners

Fredenburg_cactus_and_tree.jpgMBCA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Desert-Wise Landscape Tour Essay Contest.  The winners were selected in a very close vote.  All of the submissions caught both the detail and the spirit of the "Desert-Wise" focus of the Tour.  We thank the writers for submitting their thoughts and hope you will enjoy their creative essays.  We also thank Unique Nursery and Cactus Mart for their support of the Landscape Tour by sponsoring the Essay Contest Prizes. 

The First Place essay is by Rosalie Mendoza, who will receive a $200 Gift Certificate to Unique Nursery.

The Second Place winner is Ken Brock, who wins a $150 Gift Certificate to Cactus Mart.

And Susan Jordan is the Third Place winner.  She will receive a $100 Gift Certificate to Cactus Mart.

 

 

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LA Times Op-Ed on Cadiz by MBCA Speaker

Peter_Brooks.jpgWe encourage you to read today's Los Angeles Times op-ed about the Cadiz water project, "The ludicrous plan to pump Mojave Water to L.A.". The author, Peter Brooks, has been a featured speaker at two of MBCA's Desert-Wise Lectures. His focus in September 2015 was "The Future of Water:  Understanding the Worlds's Most Precious Resource," and in September 2016 he presented "The future of energy and the grid for Morongo Basin" for MBCA.  His LA Times opinion piece will give you an overview and update about why MBCA and many conservation groups and desert residents oppose the Cadiz project. 

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Denison Scholarship Winner Announced

Nicole___Sarah__Denison_winner.jpg

Nicole Serrano, graduating senior and valedictorian at Yucca Valley High School, has been awarded the first Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship by MBCA.  Nicole has been admitted to the University of California, Davis, to study animal science and environmental science.  She is pictured here with Sarah Kennington, President of MBCA.  Read more about Ruth Denison's inspirational life on our website's scholarship page.

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Concern about Tortoises in Joshua Tree National Park

tortoise.jpgThe Los Angeles Times published a comprehensive article on the status of tortoises in Joshua Tree National Park. The reduction in numbers over past decades, and especially the deaths of a number of female tortoises in the southern area of the Park in recent years is of concern. The scientists interviewed share data and hypotheses about the current and future status of the Park icon. 

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National Monuments Guest Commentary

pat_photo.jpgA guest commentary by MBCA Director Pat Flanagan on the importance of National Monuments to the County of San Bernardino and its desert communities was published on Wednesday, May 10, 2017.  We have made available a printable version of Pat's commentary or you can view the story on the Sun's website.  

 

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Rieman Presentation - Grass Roots Activism

ruth_photo.jpgMBCA Director (and prior President and Treasurer) Ruth Rieman served as a panel member at the April 21, 2017 Black Rock Symposium (a series sponsored by the Joshua Tree National Park Association through its Desert Institute), on the topic "Grassroots Activism in the Morongo Basin." Ruth's presentation explored the stories of several historic women desert activists who inspired her and also provided an overview of the organizations and causes she has been involved with for decades here in the Morongo Basin, especially with MBCA and the California Desert Coalition.  Take a look at her PowerPoint Presentation titled "Grassroots" to understand more about the heart and soul of a true desert activist.  

You can also view a YouTube video of the entire hour and a half Symposium (that also includes fellow Board Member Laraine Turk's presentation on the Morongo Basin Dark Skies Alliance).

 

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