Another Setback for the Cadiz Water Project

A judge's decision on June 21 has reversed the BLM's 2017 ruling (which was itself a reversal of their prior decision) regarding the need for federal environmental review for the railroad right-of-way that relates to the Cadiz pipeline project. The next action is back in BLM's court. More details can be found in this Desert Sun article and with greater emphasis on the legal issues in this Courthouse News Service article. Prior news updates from MBCA on this and other water conservation-related news can be found on our "Water Issues" page.
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Countywide Plan Comments and Draft EIR

The latest version of the Draft Countywide Plan was published this spring, and on June 17, the County published the Draft Environmental Impact Report for it, with a comment deadline of Thursday, August 15, 2019.

In response to the latest draft of the Countywide Plan, MBCA as an organization and several Board members as individuals signed onto a May 10 Coalition letter specifying three major concerns. 1) The Plan is not in line with the recently-adopted RECE 4.10 Policy relating to renewable energy developments in rural living areas; 2) most of the land in the proposed new "Resource/Land Management" zone is also incompatible with RECE 4.10; and 3) Community Action Guides should not replace the current community plans in unincorporated desert communities.

Here are the sections of the latest draft of the San Bernardino Countywide Plan:

Draft Policy Plan
Draft Land Use Plan
Plan Goals and Policy Matrix (for unincorporated communities, you can click on your community from this page to see the “Community Action Guides”)

The Draft EIR can be accessed online, and we have also provided the main sections here on our website.

DRAFT EIR for the San Bernardino Countywide Plan, June 2019:

Notice of Preparation, Scoping meeting sign-ins and comments
Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Data
Community and Municipal Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Draft EIR Title Page
Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Introduction (includes scoping comments by site)
Project Description (lots of maps)
Environmental Setting
Environmental Analysis, Aesthetics
Environmental Analysis, Air Quality
Environmental Analysis, Biological Resources
Environmental Analysis, Cultural Resources
Environmental Analysis, Geology and Soils
Environmental Analysis, Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Environmental Analysis, Hazards and Hazardous Materials
Environmental Analysis, Hydrology and Water Quality
Environmental Analysis, Land Use and Planning
Environmental Analysis, Mineral Resources
Environmental Analysis, Noise
Environmental Analysis, Population and Housing
Environmental Analysis, Public Services
Responses from Native American Tribal Representatives

These additional sections are available on the County website:

Chapter 6) Significant Unavoidable Adverse Impacts

Chapter 7) Alternatives to the Proposed Project

Chapter 8) Impacts Found Not to Be Significant

Chapter 9) Other CEQA Considerations

Chapter 10) Organizations and Persons Consulted

Chapter 11) Qualifications of Persons Preparing EIR

Chapter 12) Bibliography


A) Notice of Preparation (NOP), NOP Comments, and Scoping Meeting Attendance Sheets

B) Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Data

C) Community and Municipal Greenhouse Gas Inventory

D1) Biological Resources Existing Conditions (Report)
D2) Biological Resources Existing Conditions (Appendices)

E) Cultural Resources Technical Report

F) Paleontological Resources Technical Report

G1) Safety Background (Report)
G2) Safety Background (Figures)

H) Water, Wastewater, and Hydrology Existing Conditions

I) Land Use Background Report

J) Noise Data

K) Responses Received from Service Providers

L1) Transportation Impact Analysis (Report)
L2) Transportation Impact Analysis (Appendices- Part 1)
L3) Transportation Impact Analysis (Appendices- Part 2)
L4) Transportation Impact Analysis (Appendices- Part 3)
L5) Transportation Impact Analysis (Appendices- Part 4)

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Here Are the Winning Landscape Tour Essays

The 9th Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour provided a chance for several hundred people from the Morongo Basin and beyond to explore 21 landscapes from Flamingo Heights to Twentynine Palms during the last weekend in April. Viewing different sized properties and a multitude of creative ideas and consideration for water conservation, visitors were both delighted and educated.

The three winning essays available through the links below creatively express the enjoyment and inspiration gained on the Tour as well as practical insights gained from the experience. Congratulations to the writers!

1st place - Claudia Bucher won a $200 gift certificate to Unique Nursery in Yucca Valley.
2nd place - Jeff Jens won a $150 gift certificate to Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley.
3rd place - Cindy Von Halle won a $100 gift certificate to Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley.


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Pro-Eagle Mountain Project Fails in State Senate

California Senate Bill 772, which would have provided a supportive policy for hydroelectric energy storage projects like the Eagle Mountain project, failed to pass a full Senate vote. The bill could be reintroduced next year. Read details in this Desert Sun article and in the pre-vote Los Angeles Times opinion piece against the bill.
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EBlast May 29, 2019

  • Stop Eagle Crest Energy: NO on SB-772
  • Paradise Valley Development Threatens Joshua Tree National Park
  • Stop Cadiz! Support SB-307
  • Desert-Wise Living Essay Contest Winners

Stop Eagle Crest Energy: NO on SB 772
Surrounded by Joshua Tree National Park, the existing pits of the now abandoned Eagle Mountain Mine are proposed to be re-purposed into a pumped-hydro long-term bulk energy storage facility. With precious water pumped from the underlying aquifer, the Eagle Crest Energy project would be paid for by us: the ratepayers. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) found that long-term bulk energy storage, as defined by SB-772, would increase costs for ratepayers “in the hundreds of millions, if not, billions of dollars”!

This week we have an opportunity to stop SB-772, which would force ratepayers to bail out Eagle Crest Energy’s ill-conceived, expensive, environmentally damaging pumped storage project. Bill proponents have until this Friday to pass the legislation from the State Senate. We urge local desert residents to call Senator Shannon Grove's office in Sacramento -- (916) 651-4016 -- and leave a message urging her to vote NO on Senate Bill 772. While the environmental damage from this project would be great, we urge callers to emphasize the hundreds of millions of dollars that ratepayers will be forced to pay to bail-out a failed project.

Paradise Valley Development Threatens Joshua Tree National Park
On May 15, the Riverside County Planning Commission voted to continue consideration of this grossly inappropriate development to June 5 at which time a date will be set for what is believed will be the final hearing by the Commission. A strong showing by the southern California environmental community presented many strong comments in opposition. Many demanded that a Joint Project Review, as required under the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP) be required as a condition of any approval to proceed. Our voices may have contributed to this Editorial in The Desert Sun.

Stop Cadiz: Support SB-307
Good news! The State Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to send this legislation to the entire Senate where it will be voted on later in this legislative session. Should the bill pass the Senate, it will then go to the Assembly for a vote and if passed, will go to the Governor for signing. SB-307 (Roth) would prohibit the use of a water conveyance facility to transfer water from a groundwater basin underlying desert lands unless the State Lands Commission, in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Water Resources finds that the transfer will not adversely affect the natural or cultural resources of the land. This bill would subject the controversial Cadiz water project to the desperately needed environmental review it has so far evaded.

Desert-Wise Living Essay Contest
Winners of our Essay contest are: Claudia Bucher first place, Jeff Jens, second place, and Cindy Von Halle third place. Thanks to all who submitted for sharing your experiences with the tour. We will have the winning essays on our website shortly. Many thanks to all of the sponsors, hosts and volunteers who made the ninth Desert Wise Landscape tour a success especially to Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, and Unique Nursery in Yucca Valley for the generous gift certificates.

Our voices do matter! Thanks to all of you who speak and act in defense of our beautiful desert!


Steve Bardwell President
Morongo Basin Conservation Association

Your 2019 MBCA Board 

Steve Bardwell, President                          Pat Flanagan, Director       
David Fick, Vice President                         Meg Foley, Director
Laraine Turk, Recording Secretary            Mike Lipsitz, Director
Marina West, Treasurer                             Ruth Rieman, Director
Sarah Kennington, Past President            Seth Shteir, Director


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Essay Contest Winners Announced

MBCA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Desert-Wise Landscape Tour Essay Contest. Six thoughtful and enthusiastic essays were submitted. The essays were ranked by a panel of 3 judges based on the instruction “Describe your experience and/or comment on how you will apply what you learned on the 2019 Desert-Wise Landscape Tour.”

1st place - Claudia Bucher, a $200 gift certificate to Unique Nursery [Yucca Valley, CA].

2nd place - Jeff Jens, a $150 gift certificate to Cactus Mart [Morongo Valley, CA].

3rd place - Cindy Von Halle, a $100 gift certificate to Cactus Mart (Morongo Valley, CA).

Their essays and those of the other three participants will be published soon on MBCA's website, and a link will be provided in our next Eblast.

Congratulations Claudia, Jeff and Cindy!

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California Senate Bill Would Support Eagle Mountain Water Storage Project

While not directly supporting the Eagle Mountain hydropower and storage project, the passage of SB 772 would require California to support projects that would store energy as part of the state's plan to increase renewable energy production. The increasing amount of solar and wind energy is more than can be used as it is produced, so storage becomes more important to continue reducing non-renewable energy consumption. This in-depth article in the Los Angeles Times provides perspective from both industry and environmental perspectives.
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Cadiz-related Bill Moves Forward in California Legislature

Senate Bill 307 passed through the California Senate and will next need approval in the Assembly to provide additional environmental review for groundwater transfers like the proposed Cadiz project. Read details about SB 307 from the Desert Sun.
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MBCA Comment Letter on Daggett Solar Power Facility

The Daggett Solar project northeast of the Morongo Basin near Daggett and Newberry Springs proposes a five-and-a-half square mile array that would bring more damage than benefit to the area's residents and to the Mojave Desert. In MBCA's April 29, 2019 comment letter, Pat Flanagan outlines the issues and illustrates through photos and maps how the project is flawed despite proposed mitigations. Also noted as likely outcomes are a reduction in human quality of life, for reasons of fugitive dust with health consequences and reduced viewsheds affecting tourism. Potential damage to wildlife and birds, increased temperatures from heat island effects, and reduced panel effectiveness due to dust accumulation are other situations explored in the richly illustrated letter.  
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BLM WEMO Land Use Plan Published

MBCA has offered information and advice to Morongo Basin residents for several years concerning WEMO, the West Mojave BLM Land Use Management plan related to off-highway vehicle use. A lot of focused effort and detailed research was conducted a year ago by MBCA Board members Pat Flanagan, Sarah Kennington, and Steve Bardwell, along with many other Basin residents, to advise the BLM in the prior comment period of dozens of OHV "routes" that were untenable. In the recently-released West Mojave Route Network Project Land Use Plan Amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area Plan and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS), the hard work seems to have paid off and many of the targeted routes no longer exist in the Plan. An assessment and links for this final review can be accessed at the Community ORV Watch website.

For a visual representation and explanation of the Plan, see this one-page WEMO flier prepared for the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council by Pat Flanagan.
Additional explanation can be found in MBCA's May 13 EBlast:
The West Mojave Route Network Project Land Use Plan Amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area Plan and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) is now available for download. The deadline for protests is May 28, 2019. Our conservation partner, Community ORV Watch, has prepared a preliminary analysis of the recently released documents. The current mapping system uses an entirely web-based interface as opposed to the PDF maps that were utilized in the past. Our previous comments and efforts appear to have made a difference and many are reflected in Alternative 5, the BLM’s Proposed Action Alternative. Many of the short, discontinuous route segments within the checkerboarded communities in County Service Areas (CSAs) have now been designated as Street Legal Only. This is a good step towards controlling unwelcome and disruptive OHV use within CSAs communities although there continue to be routes in communities that are identified ‘Motorized, No Subdesignation’. This designation permits the use of any motorized vehicle (OHV, ATV, electric) within neighborhood communities that are accessible by traveling on County roads. OHVs driving on such routes are subject to the County’s OHV ordinance that the Sheriff's department and Code Enforcement will enforce.

We encourage you to study and digest the MANY documents and extremely detailed maps that have been posted on the BLM website.


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