News Updates

  • EBlast May 29, 2019

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    • 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!

    Sincerely,

    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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  • Eblast May 13, 2019

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    • Paradise Valley Development Threatens Joshua Tree National Park
    • Stop Cadiz! Support SB-307
    • West Mojave Route Network Project (WEMO) Land Use Plan Amendment published
    • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) workshop: Yucca Valley, May 18, 2019:  RSVP seth.shteir@gmail.com
    • Submit your Desert-Wise Living Essay!

    Paradise Valley Development Threatens Joshua Tree National Park

    The Riverside County Planning Commission will meet this Wednesday in Palm Desert to consider this grossly inappropriate development that would place a new town of 20,000 to 25,000 residents with 1,380,000 square feet of commercial development, directly on the southern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. The agenda for the meeting indicates that staff is recommending that this item be continued to a future date; however under the provisions of the Brown Act, public comments must be accepted at the time of the hearing. Indications are that turnout for the hearing will be good. I plan to attend and can offer a ride for up to three additional people.

    WHEN:  WEDNESDAY MAY 15, 2019 9:30AM

    WHERE:  RIVERSIDE COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION STEVE ROBBINS ADMINISTRATION BUILDING, Coachella Valley Water District - Administration Board Room, 75515 Hovley Lane East, Palm Desert, CA 92211

    Stop Cadiz! Support SB-307

    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 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.

    California Senator Dianne Feinstein has indicated
    her support for this bill. The State Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to forward this bill to the full Senate. Contact Senator Anthony Portantino, (916) 651-4025, chair of the Appropriations Committee and primary co-author of the legislation, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (916-651-4039) to urge them to approve and send SB-307 to the floor for a vote. It is scheduled for an Appropriations Committee hearing on May 16. Should the Senate approve the bill, it will then go to the State Assembly where a similar bill won by a 2/3 majority in 2018. Stay tuned as we track the progress of this vitally important legislation.

    West Mojave Route Network Project (WEMO) Land Use Plan Amendment published

    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 .

    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) workshop: Saturday, May 18, 2019

    A free workshop designed to teach participants how to craft meaningful, substantive comments in opposition to inappropriate developments on public land. The workshop is being offered at this time because more desert advocates are needed to defend the desert we love. Organized by the California Desert Coalition (https://www.cadesertcoalition.org), the lawyers from Advocates of the West, (https://advocateswest.org/) will lead the day’s activities. MBCA and the Conservation Lands Foundation are also providing support for this event. For more information check MBCA’s Calendar page. Please RSVP to seth.shteir@gmail.com.

    Submit your Desert-Wise Living Essay!

    Again, many thanks to all of the sponsors, hosts and volunteers who made the ninth Desert Wise Landscape tour a success! I encourage everyone, hosts, docents and visitors to write a short essay describing your experience with the tour to be eligible for the generous gift certificates offered by Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley, and Unique Nursery in Yucca Valley. Please see the Landscape Tour Essay Contest page on our website for information on how to enter.

    With the defeat of the Alta Mira development and the inclusion of many of our thoughts and recommendations into this latest WEMO, it is clear that our voices do make a difference! Onward!

    Sincerely,

    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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  • The End of the Altamira Project

    "THANK YOU - IT IS DONE AND WE HAVE WON!" 

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    Janet Johnston gives a donation check of $193 to MBCA President Steve Bardwell and Immediate Past President Sarah Kennington on behalf of the JT105 Alliance. It represents the final remainder of community donations toward litigation on the Altamira housing project. MBCA provided updates on the project to our thousand-plus subscribers beginning in early 2015. The fight against the Altamira housing project and the final result are described in this communication from Janet, community activist and MBCA member.

    After 10 years of fighting, the community of Joshua Tree has prevailed against the threat of the Altamira Gated Community. The Board of Supervisors voted on April 16, 2019, to rescind all approvals for the project. The developers, YV105 LLC, still own the property. If they decide to pursue another development, they would have to start the design, environmental studies, and approval process from scratch, likewise for anyone who might purchase the property.
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  • Feinstein Support for CA Senate Bill 307

    In a Press Release delivered on Friday, May 10, Senator Dianne Feinstein urged the California Senate Appropriations Committee to approve SB 307 for further Senate consideration. The bill is key to protecting the California Desert from severe aquifer reduction should the Cadiz Water Project be approved. She states, “Enhanced state review is already in place for other treasured places in California, such as Lake Tahoe, San Francisco Bay and the California coastline. I strongly believe that California’s iconic desert merits the similar enhanced state review that SB 307 would provide.” Also, "I believe SB 307 is key to ensuring desert groundwater basins are not harmfully exploited by creating a commonsense state review process that safeguards California’s fragile desert lands and groundwater basins." The bill is scheduled for a hearing on May 16. Additional information can be found on Mojave Watch.org and the LA Times wrote an editorial against the project on May 15. 
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  • Eblast April 24, 2019

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    • Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour: April 27 & 28, 2019
    • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) workshop: Yucca Valley, May 18, 2019 -- RSVP seth.shteir@gmail.com
    • West Mojave Route Network  Project (WEMO) Land Use Amendment to be published
    • Paradise Valley Development Threatens Joshua Tree National Park


    This weekend!  9th Annual DWL Landscape Tour: April 27 & 28
    The Super Bloom is peaking just as our Landscape Tour is happening! Register now for the Desert-Wise Living Landscape Tour featuring Morongo Basin properties showcasing drought-tolerant landscapes.  Saturday, April 27 will feature 11 south-east-end sites and Sunday, April 28 will feature 10 north-west-end sites. This is informative and fun event showcases imaginative and creative landscapes throughout the Morongo Basin.

    For information and to register for the event, go to the registration page at MBCA’s web site.

    National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) workshop: Saturday, May 18, 2019
    A free workshop designed to teach participants how to craft meaningful, substantive comments in opposition to inappropriate developments on public land. The workshop is being offered at this time because more desert advocates are needed to defend the desert we love.  We are faced with increasingly complex public policy issues, such as the reopening of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) that will affect every aspect of the quality of life in the desert, and the soon-to-be-published WEMO LUPA (Land Use Plan Amendment) and SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statemement) (see below).

    This workshop is being organized by expert and experienced environmental lawyers from Advocates of the West (https://advocateswest.org/) and the California Desert Coalition (https://www.cadesertcoalition.org). MBCA and the Conservation Lands Foundation are also providing support for this event. For more information see the mbconservation.org web page. Please RSVP to seth.shteir@gmail.com by May 12, 2019.

    West Mojave Route Network Project (WEMO)  Land Use Plan Amendment to be published
    The West Mojave Route Network Project Land Use Plan Amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area Plan and Final SEIS is now available for download. The anticipated date of the publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register is April 26, 2019. The publication will open a 30-day protest period.

    MBCA has been tracking the WEMO process and has provided comments to the BLM regarding this lengthy and complicated document. Our comments have emphasized the importance of making ‘street legal only vehicle’ designations for many of the fractured discontinuous routes that have encouraged off-highway vehicle (OHV) use within our existing rural communities. MBCA will keep you informed of the status of this latest report by BLM as we study and digest the MANY documents that have been posted on the BLM website.

    Paradise Valley Development Threatens Joshua Tree National Park
    A 1,848-acre community within a 5,000-acre specific plan boundary is proposed in Riverside County on the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park. This development with 8,490 new dwelling units and up to 1,380,000 square feet of non-residential development would have a tremendous affect on the Park.

    Chris Clarke, of the National Park Conservation Association has stated: This new city would place 20-25,000 new human residents directly along the southern border of the park, furthering the urban walling-off of the park, with serious consequences for the ecological integrity of the park.

    MBCA will continue to track this project to provide information for substantive comments in opposition and any updates on scheduled hearings.

    We encourage you to learn about this ill-conceived development by reviewing the information from the Riverside County planning department (click here) and to write, email or call the Project Planner: Russell Brady (rbrady@arivco.org) at Riverside County Planning Department PO Box 1409 Riverside, CA 92502-1409. (951) 955-3025.

    As of this writing, the Riverside County Planning Commission is scheduled to consider this development on May 15, 2019 at 4080 Lemon St., 1st floor, Riverside CA.


    Thanks again to all the members and supporters of MBCA for your continued interest and activism that is demanded by the many threats that face us here in the desert.

    Here comes the Landscape Tour! I have to get back out now and address the proliferation of unwanted plants that have come along with Super Bloom! I hope to see many of you on the Tour this weekend!

    Sincerely,

    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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