- 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
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:
Healthy California Act, SB 562: Public forum
California Assembly Joint Resolution AJR-15: Federal public lands
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
REMINDER: Letters in support for OHVRA SB 249 needed
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!
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
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.
Protect our Desert National Monuments
The 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.
- 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,
The Altamira Gated Community Housing Project
For background on the history of Altamira Housing Project, click here.
Joshua Tree Airport Solar Project
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
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
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
To read MBCA director Pat Flanagan’s op-ed in the San Bernardino County Sun, Efforts to shrink, eliminate national parks will hurt economy, click 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
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
On our News Updates page you will find links to Peter Brooks’ Los Angeles
Your 2017 MBCA Board
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.
MBCA 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.
We 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.
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.
The 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.
A 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.
MBCA 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).
A grant is now in place with the County to begin planning bicycle trails across the Morongo Basin. MBCA Board of Advisors member Greg Gilbert has worked toward this goal for a number of years. As reported on KCDZ radio, "The bike trails project would stretch approximately 100 miles altogether, uniting the Morongo Basin communities." Here is the full story.