Air Quality

Air Quality in San Bernardino County

AirNow provides real-time air quality measurements across San Bernardino County.

Air Quality in Joshua Tree National Park
We in the Morongo Basin are so closely connected with Joshua Tree National Park that its air quality issues are ours.  Most of us have seen the smog around San Gorgonio Pass where the I-10 and Highway 62 intersect.  Read more about air quality in the Park on the JTNP Air Quality page.

 

  • Eblast March 11, 2018

    Morongo Basin Residents Defend the DRECP

    Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

    It was a windy and chilly winter weeknight on March 1st… yet there was a fantastic turn out for the BLM-hosted DRECP (Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan) Scoping meeting and the subsequent conservation program in Joshua Tree. Every seat was occupied and a standing-room-only crowd filled the JT Community Center to capacity with as many as 200 attending. It was the strong response needed to demonstrate the Morongo Basin public’s support of conservation protections in the DRECP!

    Thanks to all who were there. For those of you who were unable to attend, MBCA sponsored video documentation of the conservation program. Click here:  “Morongo Basin Residents / Defend DRECP Desert Plan”

    The conservation panel was moderated by Chris Clarke, National Park Conservation Association. Panelists April Sall, California Desert Coalition, Kate Hoit, Vet Voice Foundation, & Frazier Haney, Mojave Desert Land Trust reviewed Department of Interior’s proposed amendment to the DRECP, and answered questions for making substantive comments. David Lamfrom, National Park Conservation Association, made eloquent closing remarks. Following the panel, a court recorder was provided for audience members’ oral responses to be submitted as comments to the DRECP Scoping.

    The Basin community wants more, not less, public land protected from development. How do we communicate this with substantive comments to the Federal Administration?

    There is a consensus that we don’t want to jeopardize the conservation lands achieved in the long 8-year DRECP process. Some voices at the meeting last week expressed the thought that accepting any changes to the Plan could unravel the whole bundle of agreements reached – like pulling at a thread in a knitted sweater. That was the just say “no” or “no change” position. Speakers noted that the process the DRECP established appears to be working. In the two years since the Record of Decision put the Plan into effect, there have been no lawsuits. Give it a chance to truly see how effective it is. This isn’t to say the DRECP is perfect, but let’s work within it before it’s scrapped for who knows what. It is not the conservation community advising the Department of Interior to reopen the DRECP, it is solar and wind energy developers and mining interests.

    Another perspective contends that it’s not a question of whether the Administration will open up the DRECP, but when. This represents the position: if we don’t take a seat at the table, we won’t get dinner. The conservation community should weigh in with specifics on issues we’ve discovered since the implementation of the DRECP to identify where the Plan needs improvement and why. For example, issues around the location of Development Focus Areas (DFAs), especially with the increased knowledge of what can go wrong, including ineffective mitigations.

    MBCA has been taking the lead, under the leadership of MBCA Director Pat Flanagan, at raising awareness of the unfortunate & irreversible impacts to our rural desert communities of inappropriately sited industrial scale Renewable Energy (RE). In particular, Pat has researched and shared when and where we can identify the effects of wind-borne dust after the delicate desert crust is damaged and native plants removed. Better soil analysis and knowledge to correlate the effects of siting RE along the Mojave Desert’s Sand Transport Paths (STPs) is needed.

    Death by Dust!

    Is this a social justice issue? Is this the Administration taking revenge on California? Is this a gross disregard for desert ecology and the welfare of desert citizens? I have to say, YES it is!

    Here are considerations as you prepare to Comment on the DRECP:

    If you are concerned about air quality - Say that!

    If you are concerned about effects on wildlife – the desert tortoise, and other species - Say that!

    If you are concerned about industrial scale RE overburdening our desert aquifers - Say that!

    If you believe that California is on track to meet the 2030 goal established for 50% RE and that sufficient land was set aside for RE development in the DRECP (as does the California Energy Commission) - Say that!

    If you have experienced the ill effects of a solar or wind “farm”  (Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have learned the hard way that their quality of life, and their property values are being destroyed from solar development sited next door to their homes) - Say that!

    If you believe that point of use solar – rooftops & shade structures – is the way to go, not scraping intact pristine desert - Say that!

    If you are benefiting from the Basin’s tourist economy and see the value of preserving the scenic values of our desert landscapes -

    Say that!

    If you believe it is critical to respond to climate change by keeping the natural desert landscape intact - Say that!

    Say what you feel, you know, you care about! Be “substantive” – tie your concern back to a specific understanding about the DRECP and desert conservation.

    If you haven’t already, make your voice heard in two critical ways


    1.
    BLM: Submit comments against the Administration’s plan to reduce conservation protections achieved in the DRECP by the March 22, 2018 deadline by writing to:

    BLM-California State Director
    electronically: BLM_CA_DRECP@blm.gov
    mail: 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-1623, Sacramento, CA 95825

    Include with comments:
    Your Name; Affiliation (if applicable); Phone: E-mail; Mailing Address

    2. San Bernardino County’s desert Supervisors:

    The County will be submitting Scoping comments to BLM. Your voice matters in their decision-making. Call or write to urge them:

    • To demand that there should be no additional land allocation for RE development on public lands in the DRECP.
    • To direct County Land Use Services (LUS) to immediately send RECE polices 4.10, 4.10.1 and 4.10.3 to the Planning Commission and adopt these measures as they stand to protect desert communities against impacts from RE projects.

    THIS TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 join MBCA Directors at the Joshua Tree Burke Government videoconference center to make your comments at the Supervisors meting. The open comment period begins at approximately 10:00AM – 11:00AM.

    At that time MBCA Directors will present a petition with more than 200 signatures.

    To call or write Supervisors:

    * James Ramos, Third District Supervisor
    (909) 387.4855 / E-mail: dyoung@cob.sbcounty.gov

    * Robert A. Lovingood, Chairman & First District Supervisor
    (909) 387.4830 / E-mail: melissa.mcclain@box.sbcounty.gov

    In closing:

    The Basin communities, perhaps more than any others, have spoken to defend the desert. We’ve stood up for it during the long 8-year deliberations to craft a DRECP with conservation protections & recreational opportunities, balanced with the demand for energy production, mining, and OHV use. It is unclear exactly how this new battle will play out. But it ain’t over till it’s over!

     

    Sincerely,
    Sarah Kennington, President
    Morongo Basin Conservation Association

     

    Your 2017 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

    p.s. MBCA’s Desert Wise Living spring Landscape Tour, showcasing the desert lifestyle we are striving to protect through our comments on the DRECP, is in need of volunteer docents to assist during the tour on April 28 and 29. Please contact Cathy Zarakov, our volunteer coordinator at czarakov@gmail.com if you are interested in spending a half-day outdoors with our generous garden hosts and always enthusiastic visitors. In return for your time you will receive a complementary pass to attend the tour.

    p.p.s. Our thanks to Bob Stephenson / ProVideo for his professional support in making the March 1st video documentation possible.

     

    www.mbconservation.org

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

     

    For more information, news, and links on the proposed amendment to DRECP:

    MBCA’s News Update Review of DRECP Comments Needed – Feb 4, 2018 (with pertinent links to BLM, Federal Register, news articles)

    Mojave Desert Blog Trump planning to Hand Over Desert Wildlands to Industry – February 1, 2018

    Desert Sun In stunning reversal, Trump could open California desert to more solar and wind farms, by Sammy Roth – March 2, 1018

    (https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2018/02/01/trump-could-open-california-desert-more-solar-and-wind-farms-mining-off-roading/1087021001/)

    Desert Sun Joshua Tree cries foul as Trump targets California desert for energy projects, by Sammy Roth – March 5, 2018

    (https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/environment/2018/02/01/trump-could-open-california-desert-more-solar-and-wind-farms-mining-off-roading/1087021001/

     

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  • Spreading the word about fugitive dust

    MBCA Director Pat Flanagan has become recognized as an authority on the issues of dust pollution and sand transport paths in the Morongo Basin and others areas of the Mojave Desert.  In a followup to her recent presentation to the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council, she was the key presenter at the February meeting of the Lucerne Valley/Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council about the issue, as reported in this article in the Victor Valley Daily Press. Pat's PowerPoint presentation on Sand Transport Paths contains a detailed explanation of the issue and its ramifications related to renewable energy development. Additionally, there is a segment at the end of the presentation explaining why MBCA and others are requesting that the County reinstate language in the Renewable Energy Conservation Element of the General Plan regarding renewable energy developments in rural communities.

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  • Desert Solar Projects and Air Quality


    dust_storm_near_Cascade_Solar.jpg

    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.)

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  • Eblast July 14 2017

    • Ord Mountain Solar Project
    • Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) of the General plan
    • Air quality monitoring
    • Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Act (OHVRA) - SB 249
    • Desert Water – Cadiz project & AB 1000
    • Desert National Monuments – MDLT Desert Defenders
    • NPCA Desert Manager – good-bye Seth Shteir & welcome Chris Clarke
     
    Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
    Hope you’re staying in the shade and otherwise cool during the record-breaking heat this summer! Summer hasn’t brought any breaks for MBCA directors working to monitor several proposed projects and initiatives. But, we will take a bit of a break in August for the annual MBCA board retreat where we review the year and look ahead to what’s coming our way – time to reflect and gear-up!
     
    Ord Mountain Solar Project – scoping comments
    This 484-acre, 60 MW industrial scale solar project that includes a Southern California Edison sub-station is proposed to be constructed north of Lucerne Valley straddling Highway 247. The County has mandated that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be prepared for this project with the first step being to obtain scoping comments describing the issues to be included within this EIR. MBCA has submitted a letter emphasizing the deficiencies inherent in this project, and has joined our high desert conservation partners in the Lucerne Valley by signing onto a comprehensive letter of scoping comments – for this ill-conceived project. During the very well attended scoping meeting held in Lucerne Valley, many residents articulately expressed their concern about the County accepting an application for this project while the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) of the General Plan is being considered. We will continue to follow this project as the preparation of the EIR proceeds.
     
    Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE)
    This Element is critical to establishing the goals and principals that will guide the County in planning for the future of renewables in our desert areas. The RECE is on the agenda to be considered by the Board of Supervisors at their August 8 meeting. This meeting will be broadcast at the Bob Burke conference room at the Joshua Tree government center. Plan to attend and let the County hear again our local concerns.
     
    Neil Nadler of The Alliance for Desert Preservation reports that 1,500 Lucerne Valley residents have signed a petition that asks the County to include within the RECE, a restriction on the approval of any industrial scale renewable energy project, after appropriate review, to five specific areas that that are away from local communities and close to existing transmission lines where the land has already been severely degraded: Kramer Junction, El Mirage, Hinckley, Trona, and Amboy. MBCA will have a table with maps in front of JT Health Food this Saturday, July 15th to collect signatures from the Morongo Basin. Please stop by, sign and say hello!
     
    Air Quality Monitoring
    The unsolved problem: No economical or truly effective way of taming dust raised during construction or blown from pathways between hundreds of solar panels.
    What: Lucerne Valley-Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council (MAC)
    Where: Lucerne Valley Community Center on Hwy 247 next to Pioneer Park
    When: Thursday, July 20, 5:00 p.m.
     
    The Lucerne Valley-Johnson Valley MAC will consider endorsing a letter to County planners recommending installation before construction, at the developer's cost, of instruments to measure the dust particles in the air, to be monitored by the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District (MDAQMD). Representatives of the AQMD will speak at the meeting and residents will have the opportunity to comment.
     
    The scraping of the crust of desert soils multiplies the air pollution with the desert’s high winds and traveling sands. Lucerne residents have expressed great concern about the health effects of breathing dust generated by industrial scale renewable energy projects, as well as impacts on residential property values. Proposed pollution monitoring and controls by the MDAQMD will be valuable to prove the harm industrial scale solar projects have on the region’s air quality.
     
    The Morongo Basin also experiences negative cumulative impacts of industrial scale solar development. MBCA strongly supports our neighbors to the north in Lucerne Valley calling for regulations for monitoring equipment to document harmful air quality impacts of developments scraping the desert.  
     
    Support for Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Act - SB 249
    MBCA has written a letter in support of this important piece of legislation that would continue to fund OHV enforcement. Here in the Morongo Basin many properties are afflicted by illegal OHV trespass exacerbated by the patchwork of BLM and County roads. Remember to call or email State Senators to ask for their support of the OHVRA/ SB 249 (for details see: ORV Watch/COW website.)
     
    Desert Water  
    MBCA signed on to a letter initiated by the National Parks Conservation Association  to Senator Hertzberg, Chair, California Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. The letter stated a coalition of conservation partners’ opposition to federal administration actions to waive the federal review of the Cadiz project and roll back of environmental protections.
     
    MBCA is in support of California legislation AB 1000 that seeks to increase California's involvement in the Cadiz project by requiring "a state review process for potential groundwater extraction projects in the California desert." Some alterations to the bill are expected to prevent onerous state review requirements of district water agencies. We will update you as this legislation progresses.
     
    MBCA member & Basin resident Peter Brooks made a presentation to the Senate Committee Natural Resources and Water Committee on July 11th. Brooks highlighted serious flaws in the Cadiz project from the industry perspective in an effort to protect the desert and its residents.
     
    Peter Brook’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times about the Cadiz water project, “The ludicrous plan to pump Mojave Water to L.A.” provides overview and update about why MBCA and many conservation groups and desert residents oppose the Cadiz project. You may recall that Peter was a featured speaker at two of MBCA's Desert-Wise Lectures. We are privileged to have Peter’s expertise working with us in defense of desert!
     
    Support for the Desert National Monuments – MDLT Desert Defenders
    The Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Desert Defender campaignProtect our Desert National Monuments collected names and messages to demonstrate public support for our National Monuments.
     
    As the comment period closed, MDLT submitted 1,259 public comments to the Department of the Interior! Thanks to all of you who participated as Desert Defenders!
     
    Good-by Seth Shteir & Welcome Chris Clarke
    Many of you knew Seth Shteir as California Desert Program Manager for the Joshua Tree National Park Conservation Association from August 2015 through March 2017. Seth led many initiatives in the Basin in protection of the JTNP. He also served as a Director on the Board of the MBCA where he provided invaluable perspective on national and regional conservation issues. While we’re sad to lose Seth – a good friend and powerful desert advocate - we wish him all the best in his new position as Conservation Manager for Seattle Audubon.
     
    I’m pleased to announce that Chris Clarke has accepted the California Desert Program Manager’s position at NPCA. After starting the job on July 10th, Chris immediately flew to Sacramento to begin work on the campaign to oppose the Cadiz water project where NPCA staff met with the State Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in support of AB 1000. Chris is a seasoned conservation professional and journalist – a founder of Solar Done Right, and until joining NPCA was KCET Link Environment Editor where he contributed powerful and insightful articles in defense of the Mojave desert. MBCA Directors look forward to working closely with Chris in the opposition to Cadiz project and the protection of the desert in and around the national parks and preserves.
     
    MBCA’s conservation partnerships, including MDLT, NPCA and Alliance for Desert Preservation work to create a coordinated force to be reckoned with. Thanks to you for your individual support and keeping us strong!
     
    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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