State Agency Concerned Over Cadiz Water Project

In a letter to Cadiz CEO Scott Slater, California's Department of Fish and Wildlife expressed concerns about the possible effects of the Cadiz Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project on the ecological health of the Bonanza Springs area north of the proposed project. Concerns center on the environmental and hydrologic studies completed for the existing Environmental Impact Report. For more details read recent online articles in The Desert Sun and Mojave Watch and on local radio station KCDZ
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MBCA Asks Rep. Cook to Support the Land and Water Conservation Fund

MBCA has submitted a letter to Congressman Cook asking him to support reauthorization of the recently-expired but critical and long-standing Land and Water Conservation Fund. Support for public lands conservation and recreation across California including areas of the Mojave Desert have benefited from the fund since its inception in 1965.  
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MBCA Files Ord Mountain DEIR Comment

On November 16 MBCA filed a comment letter with San Bernardino County in response to the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Ord Mountain Solar and Energy Project near Lucerne Valley. Director Pat Flanagan once again researched and wrote a detailed analysis of the Ord Mountain DEIR, with technical input and data from a GIS analyst and others. A number of maps, charts, and aerial photos provide extensive documentation to explain the many potential negative impacts of such a project.

Co-authoring MBCA's comment letter with exceptional assistance on the development of data-rich maps was Brian Hammer, Professional Data/GIS Analyst and Adjunct Professor at Victor Valley College in the Agriculture and Natural Resource Department. 

For additional background, read MBCA's June 2017 Scoping letter on the Ord Mountain project.
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Supervisors Postpone RECE 4.10 Hearing

Early in their November 6 meeting, the four San Bernardino County Supervisors present (District 3 Supervisor Ramos was absent) voted unanimously to postpone to a future meeting the public hearing that included consideration of the "revised" Renewable Energy Conservation Element section 4.10. (Read more details in our October 29 update and November 1 EBlast.) They cited concern that Supervisor Ramos should be present because of the large degree to which his district will be affected. 
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EBlast November 1, 2018

San Bernardino County RECE Policy 4.10: Supervisors vote 11.6.18 
San Bernardino Co. Fire Protection District Service Zone FP-5 expansion
MBCA’s 50th Anniversary kick-off event: 1.26.2019

Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

At long last the San Bernardino County Supervisors will consider the adoption of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) section 4.10 at their November 6th meeting. They will choose between two disparate visions to determine the fate of our desert regions for generations. Their decision will define Renewable Energy development in rural residential (RL) communities.

On the Agenda of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Meeting will be "a public hearing to consider an amendment to the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) of the County General Plan. The proposed amendment would add the original Policy 4.10, a policy that would limit the areas where utility-oriented renewable energy projects will be permitted."

In late May, the San Bernardino County Planning Commission recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the original language of section 4.10 of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element of the County Plan be retained rather than a variation that had been proposed by Land Use Services in 2017. Read our May 25, 2018 News Update for details on that vote. The original version of RECE 4.10 that the Planning Commission recommended (after extensive discussion) gives much greater protection to desert communities against inappropriate and/or excessive renewable energy projects compared to the LUS-recommended version that favors development.

Do the Supervisors stand behind the residents or the developers of industrial RE? This is our final opportunity to speak out in defense of rural communities!

The original version of RECE 4.10 embodies the perspective and wishes of many organizations and individuals across the high desert and reduces the chance that desert communities will be disadvantaged by a proliferation of large-scale renewable energy projects. There is however no certainty that the Supervisors will follow the Planning Commission’s recommendations in their final vote on RECE Policy 4.10.

WHAT: San Bernardino County Supervisors meeting
WHEN: Tuesday, November 6th, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE:
In person:
San Bernardino County Government Center
385 N Arrowhead Avenue
San Bernardino, CA 92415

Via remote video-conference:
Bob Burke Joshua Tree Government Center
63665 Twentynine Palms Highway
Joshua Tree, CA 92252

The presence and voices of residents definitely made a difference in the decision Planning Commissioners reached in May. A strong showing for our position is once again critical to a good outcome! The developers’ interest will undoubtedly be present – community interests must be present to tip the balance. Each public speaker will have 3 minutes to present comments. Residents in the unincorporated rural communities – once again – must urge Supervisors to select the original language to protect our rural lifestyle and natural environment. This vote would, as per the rest of the RECE, still permit utility-scale projects in the rest of the unincorporated County.The alternative opens a very dangerous door to utility-scale RE development in our unincorporated communities.  

To differentiate between the Community Values option being considered for 4.10 vs. the “Developer Wants” option for 4.10 – your comments to Supervisors on Nov. 6th could focus on:

  • Small-Scale over the Large-Scale
  • Local Use over the Remote Use
  • Minimal Impact over the Maximum Impact
  • Water is Life over the Water is for Wasting
  • Clean Air over the Dust Storms
  • Scenic Vistas over the Industrialized View
  • Local Benefits over the Remote Benefits
  • Reality version over the Fantasy Community Compatibility Report version

When the Supervisors vote, this strategy for comments will leave no doubt what side each Commissioner voted for! Utility scale RE is not compatible with rural residential communities!

MBCA Director Pat Flanagan has submitted an opinion letter to the Hi Desert Star in support of the original RECE 4.10. A similar piece has been published in the Victor Valley Daily Press by Lucerne Valley resident Neil Nadler. UPDATE 11/2/18: A comment letter from LVEDA, the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association, has been sent to the Supervisors.

San Bernardino Co. Fire Protection District Service Zone FP-5

The recent vote approved the expansion of the boundaries of Service Zone FP-5 and increased assessment fees. This was proposed as the best way to generate needed revenues to maintain existing fire protection and emergency 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.

In closing

How could November 6th be a more important day for the future of both our local communities and our Country? We care, we VOTE and we will make our opinions known to our County Supervisors!

A special note: MBCA will celebrate its 50th Anniversary working to protect our rural desert communities and environment in 2019. Please mark your calendars for Saturday, January 26, 2019 for what will be a stellar program with speakers of national stature at our Annual Meeting and Program. We will reflect on MBCA’s storied past and look forward to the next 50 years!

Sincerely,
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

 

www.mbconservation.org

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

 

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MBCA Joins RECE 4.10 Coalition Comment Letter

The County Supervisors will be considering adoption of the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element section 4.10 at their November 6 meeting. MBCA has signed a comment letter with a coalition of organizations and individuals urging the Supervisors to vote for the original version of RECE 4.10 rather than the revised version presented to the Board by Land Use Services. (More details and background can be found in the coalition's May 2018 letter.) Embodying the perspective and wishes of many organizations and individuals across the hi desert, the original version of RECE 4.10 reduces the chance that desert communities will be disadvantaged by a proliferation of large scale renewable energy projects.

Excerpts from official San Bernardino County documents that show the County's past inclination to protect and support its communities have been collected in this document: SBC Documents Supporting Communities.

Learn more from an editorial statement in the Victor Valley Daily Press by Lucerne Valley resident Neal Nadler in support of the original RECE 4.10 and a comment letter from the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association.
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Ord Mountain Solar Project EIR Published

The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Ord Mountain Solar Project has been published by San Bernardino County. The 60 megawatt project is proposed next to a rural residential area north of Lucerne Valley. Negative effects on local residents and wildlife (including bighorn sheep and tortoise) are expected if the project were built. Here is a link to the online Notice of Availability, where you can read a summary and see a map.

Please review the information about the project and then comment by the deadline of November 16, 2018. We are providing you with two methods of reviewing the EIR.

1.  For those comfortable with navigating a large PDF document via their browser, here is a link to the full Ord Mountain EIR, published October 3, 2018.  You can view the Appendices individually via links to the County's website (listed below the EIR sections).

2.  If you would like to review the EIR in smaller "chunks," in viewable and/or downloadable PDF format, we have provided below an index with links to individual sections of the EIR document (thanks to Pat Flanagan). The Appendices are too large to present as PDF's on our website, so we provide links to the County's website to view those files (below the EIR sections).

Is the Ord Mountain Solar and Energy Storage Project exempt from the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE)? Consider the question with the help of this document. The answer is important for all communities facing utility-scale projects in or near their backyard where applications, but not final plans, have been filed. 

After reviewing the EIR, please comment by email or postal mail by November 16. Be sure to include your name, phone number, and address.

Email to:  
Chris.Warrick@lus.sbcounty.gov

Send letter to:
County of San Bernardino, Land Use Services
Chris Warrick, Senior Planner
385 North Arrowhead Ave., First Floor
San Bernardino, CA  92415

909.387.3223

Ord Mountain Solar Project EIR Documents
(These are PDF documents available to view or download or print, all less than 10 MB.)

CEQA final-approved-appendix-G
EIR Table of Contents and Abbreviations
Executive Summary, Environmental Impact Summary

Section 1.0 Introduction
Section 2.0 Project Description
Section 3.0 Environmental Analysis
Section 3.1 Aesthetics (1 of 2)
Section 3.1 Aesthetics (2 of 2)
Section 3.2 Air Quality
Section 3.3 Biological Resources (Legal)
Section 3.3 Biological Resources (Impact)
Section 3.4 Cultural Resources
Section 3.5 Geology and Soils
Section 3.6 Green House Gas Emissions
Section 3.7 Hazards and Hazardous Materials
Section 3.8 Hydrology and Water Quality
Section 3.9 Land Use and Planning
Section 3.10 Noise
Section 3.11 Traffic and Transportation
Section 4.0 Effects Found Not to be Significant
Section 5.0 Other CEQA Considerations
Section 6. Alternatives to the Proposed Project
Section 7.0 References and Preparers

APPENDICES (these are links to the County's website)

Air Quality Greenhouse Gas Energy
Biological Resources
Calcite Substation Project
Cultural Resources
Geological Resources
Hazardous Materials
Noise
NOP and Scoping Documents
Traffic
Visual Resources
Water Resources

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National Geographic Reports on the Decline of Joshua Trees

The plight of Joshua trees in the warming desert climate is the focus of an October report by National Geographic. The article describes recent research related to the parallel decline in the health of the trees and of the essential moth whose symbiotic relationship with the trees provides pollination for the trees and food for the moth larvae. Read the full article "Iconic Joshua trees may disappear--but scientists are fighting back." 
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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, including San Bernardino County Fire Chief’s PowerPoint presentation on FP-5, including a PDF of the protest form – 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.

Sincerely,

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

www.mbconservation.org

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

 

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Committee Stops Senate Vote on SB 120

Unfortunately, the Senate Appropriations Committee decided not to forward SB 120 for a Senate vote. Supporters believe it would have passed. Read a comprehensive news report about the SB 120 non-vote in the Desert Sun and a shorter overview about the SB 120 vote at Mojave Watch
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