Eblast: April 5, 2016 (2)

  • National Park Service completes Eagle Mountain Boundary Study
  • Altamira Gated Community Housing Project: 248 homes on 105.24 acres
  • SPARC Forum, Phase 2
  • MBCA Events Calendar
National Park Service completes Eagle Mountain Boundary Study
The National Park Service has completed the Eagle Mountain Boundary Study Including Possible Withdrawal Environmental Assessment (boundary study/EA). The document reflects the comments and concerns shared with the study team during public scoping in Summer 2015. The NPS received approximately 11,000 comments during the scoping period. Last August, many MBCA members & supporters participated in this process. We have another opportunity now!

The boundary study/EA considers the feasibility and impacts of expanding Joshua Tree National Park to include additional lands in the Eagle Mountain area. It also evaluates the potential effects of a withdrawal and transfer of jurisdiction of federal lands in the area from the BLM to the NPS to protect resources related to the purpose of Joshua Tree National Park. The NPS has requested the withdrawal of public lands within the study area (approximately 22,515 acres managed by the BLM) for 20 years from settlement, sale, location, and entry under the public land laws, including the United States mining laws, and leasing or other disposition under mineral or geothermal leasing laws. The purpose of the withdrawal is to complete an administrative transfer of the identified public lands from the BLM to the NPS in accordance with 54 U.S.C. 100506(c)(1)(B) for administration as part of Joshua Tree National Park.

The full boundary study/EA is available for review and comment through May 27, 2016. A summary newsletter and the full study report and environmental assessment are available on the study website. You may submit comment by mail, e-mail, online at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/eaglemountain(no longer available), or at one of the public meetings. Comments are due by May 27, 2016.
Limited printed copies of the report are available. To receive a printed copy, e-mail: [email protected].
The public is also invited to attend one of four public meetings listed below to be held in April and May. At these meetings, the NPS study team will explain the study findings, answer questions, and gather comments about the alternatives evaluated in the environmental assessment, including the NPS preferred alternative. This is an important opportunity for our community to show support for Joshua Tree National Park. Please consider getting involved to securing 32,000 acres of land in the Eagle Mountains and the Chuckwalla Valley in Riverside County for JTNP!
NOTE: The format is not a formal hearing. Participants are encouraged to submit  comments in writing.
Desert Center, CA - May 3, 2016, 1-3 pm
Lake Tamarisk Community Center, 26-251 Parkview Drive
Palm Desert, CA - May 3, 2016, 6-8 pm
University of California, Riverside - Palm Desert Center
Second Floor, Room B200, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive
Joshua Tree, CA - May 4, 2016, 6-8 pm
Joshua Tree Community Center, 6171 Sunburst Street
Online Meeting (via Webex) - April 29, 2016, 1-2:30 pm
Participants will be able to listen via a telephone conference line to view a presentation and submit questions through a conferencing website. Information about how to join this meeting will be posted under “meeting notices” on the study website
Contact information
Mail: Eagle Mountain Boundary Study
Joshua Tree Natl. Park, 74485 National Park Drive, 29 Palms, CA 92277-3597
Phone: David Smith, Superintendent (760) 367-5500 & Barbara Butler Baunsgard, Project Manager (415) 623-2311
Altamira Gated Community Housing Project: 248 homes on 105.24 acres
Morongo Basin residents addressed the County Planning Commission on March 24th via teleconference in the Joshua Tree Government Center. Others traveled to San Bernardino to address the Commissioners in face-to-face communication to weigh in on concerns about the proposed Altamira housing development. Once again, the Commissioners heard from Basin residents that the project applicants should be made to conduct an Environmental Impact Report. Impacts noted included traffic, flood control, wild fires, water, tortoise and other species.
On behalf of MBCA, I expressed concerns that the County Land Use Services staff report submitted to the Planning Commissioners had not included the 67 public comments received during the previous project hearing held in 2014. Commissioners were also not informed that the public’s comments were available online or that Project Specific Studies (including the Baseline Biological and Focused Desert Tortoise Study (2007) and updates, and Traffic Study (2011) were available to them on the Land Use Services Environmental website.
During the recent hearing, Commissioners questioned whether the tortoise study conducted is out-of-date according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protocol.
MBCA’s comments ended with…:
            It is the job of public agencies under CEQA to inform the government decision makers and the public about the potential environmental effects of a proposed activity. In this case it appears that the County and Land Use Services did not do their job.
            Failing to include the mentioned materials in a timely manner significantly and seriously reduced our public voice, possibly to a digital whisper. This is unacceptable.
            This community cares strongly. We make the effort to protect our interests by voicing substantive comments regarding land use issues. The County staff, when muting our voice, is at best insulting. At worse, it is a breach of our CEQA rights as citizens.
The applicants’ request for postponement of the hearing was approved to allow the two Commissioners absent to review the hearing and for their participation in deliberations regarding approval of the project’s tentative tract map. The Commission is scheduled to re-convene this Thursday, April 7th. Read the Z107.7 story for a summary of the residents' commentaries and the action of the Commission on March 24th.

For an accounting of the history of the Alta Mira housing project, see MBCA website. Stay tuned…
SPARC Forum, Phase 2
(San Bernardino County Partnership for Renewable Energy & Conservation)
Morongo Basin residents were invited to participate in the SPARC Forum, Phase 2 held in Joshua Tree, March 16th. This community outreach meeting was planned to review “preliminary social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits” to be used in creating a Renewable Energy Element for the County’s General Plan.
MBCA directors and supporters joined other community members to listen and voice perspectives on creating our energy future. We were pleased to learn that SPARC representatives heard Morongo residents during SPARC Forum, Phase 1. They understood that Basin residents favor point-of-use rooftop solar and oppose utility scale installations.
The previous evening in Lucerne, a well-prepared and articulate audience attended the SPARC Forum to speak in defense of their communities. The County’s desert residents want the County to set a nationwide example of guiding renewable energy policy. We have spoken clearly and consistently for the County to site industrial renewable energy projects appropriately and to incentivize rooftop solar installations. We are eager to see the final SPARC summary that their website reports will “be available soon.”
SPARC has announced plans for a Countywide Webinar Workshop:   April 2016:  A Countywide Webinar Workshop to further refine the “tools” to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of community-oriented renewable energy generation will be scheduled soon.

We’ll have to keep our eyes on the SPARC website to know when the webinar date is set for the coming days in April. You may also continue to contribute comments and suggestions to SPARC via the website. (website no longer exists)
In the meanwhile, MBCA remains focused on the potential of CCA (Community Choice Aggregation) to provide local control of energy sources. The CCA model provides authority to California communities to purchase their power utilizing a portfolio of greener energy options at more competitive rates. More to come!
MBCA Events Calendar
If you haven’t already found the Community Events Calendar on the MBCA web-site Home Page, I encourage you to visit it regularly. You will find a list of the events in the Basin and beyond that we think our members and supporters will want to know about. The Calendar will be MBCA’s more complete source for timely notification of MBCA’s and related organizations’ events and activities. Online links will be listed as they become available. All events are FREE unless otherwise noted. Thanks to MBCA Director Laraine Turk for the “curation” of this site. 
Thanks also for your interest in these issues, your activism and support for MBCA!

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