JTNP Achieves International Dark Sky Status

The Morongo Basin is now home to an international Dark Sky Park. Joshua Tree National Park achieved their long-time goal of Dark Sky Park status bestowed by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).  This significant achievement is the result of several years of work by Park staff, providing data and receiving IDA representatives for review. The Los Angeles Times article announcing the Park's new status mentions Morongo Basin night sky activists Tom O'Key, Luke Sabala, and Caryn Davidson. MBCA supported Joshua Tree National Park’s IDA Dark Sky Park application - here is our June 2016 letter in support of the Park's application.    



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Desert Solar Projects and Air Quality


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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MBCA Submits Detailed RECE Comments

SB_County_RECE_cover.jpgMBCA 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.

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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!
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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MBCA Support Letter for Off Highway Vehicle Bill SB 249

In early June, MBCA sent to the state Assembly's Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife a comment letter in support of SB 249 - Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Act.  It was also signed by representatives of the Alliance for Responsible Recreation and Community Off-Highway Vehicle Watch.

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Latest Effort Against Cadiz Water Project

MBCA has signed on to a letter initiated by the National Parks Conservation Association in support of California Legislation (AB 1000 - Friedman - "Desert Groundwater Protection") 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 in the bill are expected during its consideration in order to prevent onerous state review requirements for local water district projects.  We will update you as this bill progresses. 

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Celebration of Life for MBCA Founder Susan Luckie Reilly


To mark the passing on her 101st birthday of longtime Morongo Basin resident Susan Luckie Reilly, who was also one of MBCA's key founders, a Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, July 8 at 10:00 AM at the Bell Center of Copper Mountain College. Read details in this Press Release from Joshua Tree National Park.  Look to MBCA's History page to learn more about Susan's involvement and to read her own history of MBCA.  Local news stories from KCDZ-FM and the Hi Desert Star provide more background on her impact on the Morongo Basin and Joshua Tree National Park.  There is also an editorial in the local papers and a special article about her from 2006 entitled "10 Things to Know about Susan Luckie Reilly."  We are saddened by the loss of Susan, a Morongo Basin treasure, but grateful for her years of leadership and support on behalf of the  of the Basin and the Park.

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MBCA Comments on Lucerne/Ord Mountain Solar Proposal

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, 

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Eblast June 14, 2017

  • Ord Mountain Solar Project: comment by June 30
  • MDLT campaign for 29 Palms property “Indian Trail Head”: ends June 30
  • Healthy California Act, SB 562: Indivisible public forum, June 26
  • CA. Assembly supports state’s monuments: AJR-15, Federal public lands


Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,

There are several events and campaigns MBCA Directors want you to know about. Including a huge solar project proposed for Lucerne Valley. Also, reminders of deadlines for public comment fast approaching. Thanks for your attention!


Ord Mountain Solar Project

Our conservation partners in the Lucerne Valley, Apple Valley, and Victorville areas are again sounding the alarm about another inappropriate industrial scale renewable energy project. This project consists of a 60 MW solar field and an electrical sub-station straddling Scenic Hwy 247 north of Lucerne Valley. An initial Study (IS) for this 484-acre project has been submitted to the County of San Bernardino. The owner of the project is Ord Mountain LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Inc. (Yes, the same NextEra that won approval to develop the Joshua Tree Airport solar project!) An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is to be prepared for this project under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

A well-attended scoping session was held on June 13 in Lucerne Valley where residents clearly expressed their concerns about the project and described issues that must be addressed in the preparation of the EIR. Issues including dust and air quality degradation, conflict with well-defined desert wildlife linkages, loss of habitat for endangered species, loss of uninterrupted scenic vistas, and the ill effects on the Community of rural residents were stressed.  MBCA directors Pat Flanagan and Steve Bardwell attended the session and expressed MBCA’s concerns about this inappropriately sited renewable energy project.

Much concern was raised about the timing of this project given that the Renewable Energy and Conservation Element (RECE) of the County’s General Plan is to be considered by the Board of Supervisors very soon, and this scale and type of project would be discouraged under the guidelines included within the current wording of this Element. This project has slipped between the cracks during the time that the RECE is being considered.

The EIR will include an analysis of the ‘Calcite’ Southern California Edison (SCE) sub-station that would serve to distribute power from this industrial scale solar installation to the grid for use outside of the Lucerne Valley area. This substation would also serve other industrial scale renewable energy developments that are planned on nearby state lands. During scoping session residents expressed their concern that this sub-station would open-the-door to many more industrial scale projects. You may recall the defeated Coolwater-Lugo energy project’s Jasper substation project. The ‘Calcite’ substation would be located on the same site.

Scoping comments are those comments about issues that must be considered with the preparation of the EIR. MBCA encourages its supporters to write to the County and express their concerns about this conversion of desert land into an industrial scale renewable energy project. This link connects to the County website and the initial study for this development:
Send comments before 4:30 PM, June 30th to: 
County of San Bernardino, Land Use Services Department
John Oquendo, AICP, Senior Planner
Snail mail: 15900 Smoke Tree Street, Suite 131, Hesperia, CA 92345


Healthy California Act, SB 562: Public forum
MBCA‘s mission includes supporting healthy desert communities. Indivisible Morongo Basin is hosting an event to inform Basin residents about the Healthy California Act, a single-payer health care initiative that recently made it through the California Senate. If it is successful and signed by the Governor this fall, it will be followed with a second bill to clarify the projected costs.
When: Monday, June 26, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Where: Yucca Room, Yucca Valley Community Center, 57090 29 Palms Hwy, Yucca Valley, CA.
For information and to RSVP, Indivisible MB Facebook page.


MDLT campaign: Scenery Worth Saving #Protect 62 - “Indian Trail Head” 
MDLT is working to purchase 40 acres in 29 Palms on the boundary of JTNP. A property threatened for inappropriate residential development located adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. A key resource for JTNP neighbors and the City of 29 Palms tourism efforts with incredible views, dark sky experiences, important habitat and conservation features.
There is a short time frame to secure the sale, the end of June. The purchase price is $120,000. Supporters are welcome to donate on the MDLT web site via the Hwy 62 Linkage Campaign: Scenery Worth Saving and restrict the gift to the "Indian Trail Head". Deadline to contribute: June 30, 2017


California Assembly Joint Resolution AJR-15: Federal public lands
In response to President Trump’s executive order for a review of the country’s 27 national monuments, California legislators passed the Resolution AJR-15 to express their bi-partisan support of the national monuments in the state.

The measure urges the protection of federal public lands for their economic, historical, cultural, and ecological values and to honor and protect the integrity of all national monuments as they have been designated. The resolution also states support for the use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 by the President as a critical tool for protecting the public good by authorizing the designation of national monuments.

Makes us proud to be Californians! To the federal administration: keep your hands off our monuments!


REMINDER: Express support for the Desert National Monuments
The Mojave Desert Land Trust’s Desert Defender campaign: Protect our Desert National Monuments collects names and messages at this website to send to the Department of the Interior. Public comment period ends July 9th – it’s important to demonstrate your support and easy to do!


REMINDER: Letters in support for OHVRA SB 249 needed 
MBCA encourages you to call or email State Senators to ask for their support of the Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Act / SB 249. Find all the details you need at the ORV Watch/COW website.


That’s it for now. Never a dull moment, right! With your help, we’ll keep up the good work protecting the health of Basin humans, wildlife and the desert environment! 


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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National Monument "Review" - How to Comment

 Protect our Desert National Monuments

Black_Lava_Butte_sign_rev.jpgThe US Department of the Interior issued a press release on May 5, 2017 describing its intention to "review" recently designated National Monuments including Sand to Snow and Mojave Trails. The Mojave Desert Land Trust has created a Desert Defender campaign, Protect our Desert National Monuments, to provide information and a forum for public expression. Names and messages will be collected at the Desert Defenders website during the open public comment period and sent to the Department of the Interior in demonstration of our support of these national treasures. If you haven’t already, it’s easy to do and important to register your support. 

You can also go directly to the government's comment page on this issue. Or comment by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240. Let them know that their people, their constituents, regardless of political background, believe in maintaining the beauty and connectivity of this land. 

For more background and comment ideas, read MBCA director Pat Flanagan’s May 10 Guest Commentary in the San Bernardino County Sun.

Submit your comments BEFORE MONDAY, JULY 10!

Thanks to James Sammons for submitting the Black Lava Butte photo.


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