EBlast October 8, 2018

  • MBCA Candidates Virtual Forum
  • San Bernardino Countywide Plan draft
  • San Bernardino County Fire District Service Zone FP-5: parcel fee
  • Cadiz Inc. groundwater harvesting project: AB 1000 update

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

After a bit of a summer hiatus, fall is here and things seem to be “heating up” again for the conservation community. Here’s what MBCA is tracking for you:

MBCA Candidates Virtual Forum

To provide additional perspective on local election contests for conservation minded voters of the Morongo Basin, MBCA contacted 21 candidates for town/city council and water district board positions (contested positions).

Candidates were offered the opportunity to reply to a single question that was both relevant to the office they seek and that touched on our interest in Morongo Basin’s rural character, economic well-being, and available resources.

For the candidates who responded to our questions, you can click on their name to read their response. We thank them for sharing their views on the issues that are important to Morongo Basin’s conservation-minded voters.

Click here to access the Candidate Virtual Forum page.

NOTE: The Voter Registration deadline is October 22 to vote in the November 6 General Election. For information, including links to online registration and the California General election, click here.

San Bernardino Countywide Plan & Community Plans (aka Action Plans) A full house of residents attended the County Land Use Service (LUS) regional meeting on September 10th at the Joshua Tree Community Center. LUS staff and a consultant working with the County presented up-dated information on the revised draft Countywide Plan and Community specific plans (now known as Action Plans.) After the LUS staff presentation, the audience was invited to ask questions and provide “feedback.”

Residents in the Morongo Basin expressed great concern in the first round of Open Houses that Community Plans were not to be included within the revised Countywide Plan. The concern is that eliminating Community Plans from the Countywide Plan denies the Community Plans the legal strength of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.) In response to a question asked about this, Colin Drucker, the consultant for the County, presented a table showing a “Policy Matrix” listing each goal and policy from the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan and where it will be found or addressed in the future County Policy Plan. A “Policy Matrix” was created for each of the existing Community Plan. Click here for the Joshua Tree Community Policy Matrix.

LUS staff spoke to a primary goal and accomplishment of the draft Countywide Plan as to simplify, eliminate duplication, and make the plan accessible to the LUS staff, as well as the public. This will also be an “interactive” Plan– all pertinent policy, zoning and maps will be accessible and searchable online.

The County staff accepted every question presented by the audience and responded to each. While concerns and skepticism remain with several local groups in Joshua Tree, Homestead Valley and Lucerne Valley about the Community “Action Plans,” it was my impression that the response overall was that the audience convened in Joshua Tree felt the County made a good effort. Their response to questions was respectful, informed, and clear.

Per the County’s announcement of the meeting, it was stated that earlier public input lead directly to substantial changes to the Draft Countywide Plan documents and maps. For example, areas of Joshua Tree have been downzoned for lower-density. Also, the commercial district around Turtle Island is to be rezoned as “franchise free” in response to residents’ suggestions.

The current Countywide Plan is incorporating two laws passed since the last general plan update: SB 379 and SB 1000. SB 379 requires that a general plan include a safety element for the protection of the community from unreasonable risks associated with the effects of various geologic hazards, flooding, and wildland and urban fires. SB 1000 further requires that the safety element plan address climate adaptation and resilience. The Countywide Plan will encourage growth within areas that have existing infrastructure. This encouragement is reflected within the very low growth rate anticipated for the desert areas.

We’re still waiting to know when section 4.10 of the RECE (the County Renewable Conservation Element), long delayed in implementation, is expected to be on the Supervisors’ agenda in October. Section 4.10 concerns utility scale development in existing Community Plan boundaries and in RL zoned land. We will want to be present in the Supervisors’ chambers to continue our pressure for implementation of the original language vs. the developer friendly version. If you’ve been following this saga, you know that after a vigilant community effort the Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the original language be implemented – residents must continue to weigh in as the Supervisors decide the future renewable energy in RL (Rural Living) zoned areas. Read about the Planning Commission action in MBCA’s May 25 News Update.

San Bernardino Co. Fire Protection District Service Zone FP-5 A special meeting on August 27th at the Joshua Tree Community Center and other locations was sponsored by County Fire to provide information about the expansion of the boundaries Service Zone FP-5 boundaries and increased assessment fees.

The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District Board of Directors, as well as the County Fire Protection Districts Fire Chief, announced plans to expand Service Zone FP-5 as the best way to generate needed revenues to maintain existing fire protection and emergency services. They also stated that current property tax revenues are insufficient to cover the costs of providing fire and emergency medical services. Each legal parcel within Service Zone FP-5 is assessed an annual parcel fee. The current assessment is set at $157.26/year, and can increase up to 3% each year. Public Notices have been mailed to all parcel owners.

For detailed information – click here.

Opposition has been expressed by organizations that include the Homestead Valley Communities (HVCC) and LVEDA (Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association.)  Here’s the link to the Fire Tax Q&A posed by Chuck Bell, President of LVEDA to Supervisor Ramos. For an edited list of Molly Wilshire’s, Supervisor Ramos chief of staff, responses to some questions posed by LVEDA, see below:

  ‘All FP-5 proceeds must be spent in the service zone in which they were generated.

Any contiguous parcels, improved or unimproved may be combined through the Assessor’s Office process, for a one-time fee of $108.00.  This is for the purpose of the assessment only.  There is a link on our website that will take you to the Assessor’s Office form and procedure(s). (Here is the link for the County's contiguous parcels combination and recession form AOS-047 which also contains directions for this process.)

The assessment will provide parity across the district for all parcel owners to pay the same amount for fire, rescue and EMS services.  Whether developed or undeveloped, the need for service on vacant or improved land cannot be anticipated whether the need for service be due to man-made or natural disaster. 

The protest forms can be obtained by those not having computer access by calling the fire district to request a form to be mailed to any address provided.  The absence of the protest form in the mailer was not contrived, but was simply following the accepted protest process procedures.’

  • October 15, 2018: Last day to receive mail in protest letters. Must be received by close of business.
  • October 16, 2018: Last day to receive walk in protest letters. Must be received by the closing of the public hearing.
  • October 16, 2018: Public Hearing 10am, San Bernardino County Government Center, 1st Floor Covington Chamber.

Desert Groundwater Protection – State Assembly bill AB 1000

As you probably know by now, after strong public lobbying to state legislators in support of AB 1000 – “Desert Groundwater Protection” - that sought to increase California’s involvement in the Cadiz project by requiring “a state review process for potential groundwater extraction projects in the California desert,” the bill died after being shelved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in the final day of the legislative session. This outcome struck a huge blow to all advocates of California desert conservation.

The bill would have required a new state environmental review before the company could move forward with its plan to pump groundwater out of the Mojave Desert to sell for their profit to Southern California cities.

As reported in the Desert Sun: “It is a failure of the legislative leadership to follow through on its stated commitment to preserve California from the onslaughts of the Trump administration” said Chris Clarke, California desert program manager for the NPCA. “We had the votes in the Senate. The legislature as a whole was ready to act on this. They were prevented by leadership”.

A major hurdle to be cleared before up to 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater per year is pumped from land surrounded by the Mojave Trails National Monument is the conveyance of the water from the desert via the Colorado aqueduct.  As of today the Metropolitan Water District has not granted permission to utilize the aqueduct, citing potential concerns of mixing chromium 6 tainted water with Colorado River water.

MBCA will continue to track this threat to desert springs and wildlife. We will join conservation partners in lobbying that the project must undergo a state environmental review. Here’s a link to our August 30 News Update about Cadiz.

MBCA’s Community Calendar

Don’t forget to check the Calendar for the MBCA curated community events that we think are of interest to Members and Supporters! Several events have been added since our previous E-Blast, including several on desert-wise plants and landscaping, both locally and in the Coachella Valley.

Permaculture lecture and 2-day course at the Harrison House (October 12-14)

Climate Change Assessment Symposium at UCR. (October 12)

Giant Rock Round Table (October 18)

Desert Garden Community Day at UCR (October 27)

Bats of the Coachella Valley Lecture and Film Premiere (October 30)

Healing, Helpful, and Edible Native Plants workshop (November 3)

Thanks again for your attention and support in these challenging times. We need to be vigilant and keep informed! MBCA remains strong in commitment to our mission to protect our rural lifestyle. We so appreciate everything our community does to protect the healthy desert environment that sustains our well-being.


Sarah Kennington, President
Morongo Basin Conservation Association

Your 2018 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


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


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