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 news , several 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.
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.
MBCA continues to monitor land developments that are potentially harmful to the Mojave Desert, and to make public comments during environmental review processes. MBCA's recent comments on the Daggett Solar Energy Project - once again carefully researched and documented by Board member Pat Flanagan - have been sent as part of the scoping process for the Daggett Solar Energy Project. Among the nine points of concern described concerns are air quality, scenic views, biological resources, and environmental justice.
The information and links below are intended to assist you in responding to MBCA's February 14 Eblast request to contact the County Board of Supervisors about the County's Renewable Energy and Conservation Element, and about the proposed review of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan / DRECP.
1. Here is the language in the County's Renewable Energy Element that we urge the Supervisors to retain as originally submitted.
RE Policy 4.10: Prohibit utility-oriented RE project development on sites that would create adverse impacts on the quality of life or economic development opportunities in existing unincorporated communities.
RE 4.10.1: Prohibit development of utility-oriented RE projects in the Rural Living Land use districts throughout the County.
RE 4.10.2 Prohibit development of utility- oriented RE projects within the boundaries of existing community plans, which at the time of adoption of this element are the Bloomington, Muscoy, Bear Valley, Crest Forest, Hilltop, Lake Arrowhead, Lytle Creek, Oak Glen, Homestead Valley, Joshua Tree, Lucerne Valley, Morongo Valley, Oak Hills and Phelan/Pinon Hills Community Plan.
RE 4.10.3 Establish exclusion areas in the Development Code regulations for renewable energy development, beginning with the prohibitions in Policies 4.10.1 and 4.10.2 and provide for additional exclusion areas, such as new community plan areas to be designated by amendment to the development code.
2. Here is a link to the comprehensive Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan - DRECP that was finalized in September 2016 to designate focus areas for large-scale renewable energy development across the Mojave Desert and also conservation lands that should not be available for such development.
3. Here are two version of a model/sample letter to the Supervisors, in PDF format that you may print and send with your signature, or you can download the letter as a Word document and edit it with your own personalized comments before sending.
San Bernardino County Supervisors
385 North Arrowhead Avenue
San Bernardino, CA 92415
After years of consultation and public input (including hundreds of letters and in-person comments from Morongo Basin residents), the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan carved out 388,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert for renewable-energy development and set aside 5 million acres, or 7,812 square miles, for conservation. Due to the President’s December Executive Order "Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth," the BLM has initiated a 45-day public comment period that began February 2, 2018. Here is the Federal Register document initiating the comment period and providing details on the areas of inquiry and how to comment. MBCA will be providing information and suggestions for comments in the near future. Here are several news articles on the issue; the titles provide a picture of what is at stake: “Trump administration signals move against California desert protection plan” from the San Francisco Chronicle; “Trump administration takes aim at California desert protection plan” from the Los Angeles Times; “Trump plan could undo preservation of millions of acres of California desert for renewable energy development” from the Riverside Press Enterprise.
MBCA Director Pat Flanagan has created an illustrated PowerPoint slideshow, Sand Transport Paths in the Mojave Desert, which has been presented to the Lucerne Valley and the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Councils. The slideshow demonstrates how the scraped land of existing and proposed Mojave Desert solar projects contributes harmful particulate matter to the air we breathe, because of soil types and wind patterns. Yet, as the presentation also points out, the methods, functioning, and analysis of soil types and "fugitive dust"are currently seriously inadequate for evaluation in solar project planning.
For a closer look at the problem as it pertains to Lucerne Valley, watch this YouTube video by Lucerne Valley resident Tony Malone.
(The photo illustrates a dust storm in the Cascade Solar area just west of Copper Mountain College in March 2016.)
MBCA engaged professional planner and former Advisory Board member Stephanie Weigel, AICP, to work with Directors Pat Flanagan, Meg Foley, Ruth Rieman, and Marina West, and create a comprehensive analysis of the County's final draft of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element. A theme that appears throughout this detailed comment letter is the need for “clear and unambiguous definitions” and “stronger language in policy statements” that will lead to an effective Development Code. We encourage you to read the letter before attending the August 8 Public Comment Meeting about the RECE, and to add your own comments at that meeting. The meeting will be videoconferenced at the Bob Burke Government Center in Joshua Tree, beginning at 1:00 pm.
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,