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.
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.)
MBCA 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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,Read more
- 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
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:
Healthy California Act, SB 562: Public forum
California Assembly Joint Resolution AJR-15: Federal public lands
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
REMINDER: Letters in support for OHVRA SB 249 needed
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!
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
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.
Protect our Desert National Monuments
The 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.