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.
Cadiz / Assembly Bill 1000
Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project
San Bernardino County RECE 4.10
Altamira Gated Community Project
Joshua Tree Solar Project
Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
The previous e-Blasts in May and June encouraged you to submit comments to BLM for WEMO (West Mojave route network), along with a call to turn out for the County Planning Commission hearing on RECE (Renewable Energy Conservation Element) section 4.10 - since then we’ve had a welcomed hiatus from deadlines!
I hope you’ve been able to catch your breath this summer, relax and attend to your personal lives. The need to respond in defense of the desert environment often competes for our attention and precious time! Along with the other MBCA directors, know that we appreciate the time you give - your attention, support and activism to the MBCA mission.
So with optimism that you are recharged, there is something to put on your “to do” list, plus updates to long-standing issues.
Cadiz / Assembly Bill 1000 – the “to do”
The California Assembly has one more opportunity to curtail the Cadiz corporation plan to pump 16 billion gallons of ground water each year for 50 years from springs within Mojave Trails National Monument to sell to a water company in coastal Orange County. AB 1000 was introduced to the California Assembly last year and is now held by the State Appropriations committee. This bill is intended to reverse the Trump administration action that eliminated Federal requirements for the project. AB 1000 would require additional scrutiny before allowing plans to commence the export of desert groundwater for profit.
If Cadiz begins pumping, the consequences will be dire to natural springs and the plants and animals that depend on them. It would do irreparable damage to Mojave Trails National Monument. Let’s do what we can do curtail this!
Contact the Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, State Senator Anthony Portantino, with this simple message:
- protect the Mojave desert’s natural springs and ground water;
- as a leader you expect him to release & help pass AB1000.
Phone calls to Mr. Portantino’s district office are best:
(818) 409-0400(ask for Vickere Murphy or the environmental staff member)
- or send an e-mail.
Also make calls to your state legislators. Morongo Basin residents can open MBCA's Decision-Maker Contact Information page to find clickable links to email State Assemblyman Chad Mayes and State Senator Jean Fuller.
For more background read the Mojave Desert Blog’s overview, “Should Orange County Get Mojave Desert Groundwater?”
Eagle Crest Energy Company Pumped Storage Project
As reported in MBCA News recently, BLM approved the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage Project. The most recent News Update highlighted that the Company missed the mid-June construction deadline at the former Eagle Mountain Mine site near Desert Center. Intending to breathe new life into the project, Congressman Paul Cook sponsored Congressional bill H.R. 5817 to authorize an extension of Eagle Crest's commencement of construction. It was introduced into the House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The next action for the bill will be Mark Up where it can be amended and then Ordered to be Reported for a floor vote in the House.
Eagle Crest Energy Company has yet to find a buyer for the power generated in the proposed hydro-pumping plant, it is also likely they would have to go through the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process again, and there’s new science about aquifer recharge rates that could jeopardize the project.
Environmental activist Donna Charpied devoted her life to fighting assaults on Eagle Mountain, including the Eagle Crest Pumped Storage project and other schemes that preceeded it. The organization she founded, The Desert Protection Society (DPS) continues the fight. It is expected DPS will appeal the BLM right-of-way approval. While purported to be a renewable energy project, damage to Joshua Tree National Park’s ecological balance seems certain.
MBCA signed a letter along with conservation partners including the National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds, Basin and Ranch Watch, opposing the bill or any other legislative extension of the Eagle Crest construction permit.
San Bernardino County General Plan RECE 4.10
We’re still waiting to hear when the Board of Supervisors will hear and decide on Renewable Energy Conservation Element (RECE), section 4.10. You may recall in May the Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the original version endorsed by MBCA and residents throughout the rural desert to prohibit industrial scale RE development in Community Plan areas. The Commission wisely rejected an Alternative 4.10 version that favored developers. When RECE comes back before the Supervisors it will be another call-to-action for us to emphatically demand defense of the rural residential quality of life in the desert areas. It is assured that the solar industry representatives are lobbying Land Use Services and the Supervisors on behalf of development. We must be present when the Supervisors decide the future renewable energy in RL (Rural Living) zoned areas - to tell our story and defend our communities from RE industrialization. When MBCA hears news about 4.10 appearing on the Supervisors’ Agenda, we will let you know to “save the date”!
Altamira Gated Community Project
MBCA Director David Fick working with other Joshua Tree residents reports another ‘settlement meeting’ was held in July 2018 with the Altamira project developers. The project remains in a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) court-monitored “stay” which halts the legal process in a trial or other legal proceeding. It is unclear how much longer or even if the “stay” would be extended or how the issues with the developers will be resolved. The opposition remains vigilant in monitoring and negotiating a settlement that favors concerns about the harmful environmental and social impacts to the Joshua Tree community.
We wanted you to know that MBCA has not forgotten about Altamira. When there is news to report, MBCA will relay it to you.
Joshua Tree Airport Solar Project
Joshua Tree residents opposing the solar project also sued the developers of JT Solar in CEQA court. This project is also in a court monitored “stay.” The developer, NextEra, has completely fenced 110 acres of one million dollar land, but can proceed no further during the “stay.”
Again, we have not lost sight of the project. This is another case of opponents slowing down a controversial project from moving forward. You will be notified when there is news about JT Solar.
Calendar of Community Events
The MBCA website’s Calendar of Community Events is a terrific way to keep tabs on events in the Basin of interest to the environmental, historical and community minded. You’ll find the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory meetings, Morongo Basin Historical Society lectures, MBCA Board meetings, Hi Desert Nature Museum Brown Bag Lunch lectures, Old Schoolhouse Lectures by the Twentynine Palms Historical Society and The Desert Institute of JT National Park Association, and more. Check it out!
The MBCA directors will meet for our annual board retreat later in August. This is our opportunity to have a full day to take in the big picture, assess the past year and look ahead to what’s ahead. 2018 will mark MBCA’s 50thanniversary in service to the Morongo Basin. As the Basin’s oldest organization with a focus on the natural environment and our communities’ quality of life, we take our role seriously as challenges mount with increased pressures from growth and the effects of climate change. Directors will work to be prepared to anticipate and equipped to respond. We welcome your input – if you have ideas, critiques, or suggestions, please let us know: http://www.mbconservation.org/contact_us. We look to you to join us in the work, as well as in the 50thcelebrations ahead!
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
MBCA advocates for a healthy desert environment
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.
- Altamira Gate Community Housing Project
- Joshua Tree Airport solar project
- Eagle Crest Gen-Tie Project
- Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Act: Senate Bill 249
- Protecting Integrity of National Monuments
Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
The Altamira Gated Community Housing Project
For background on the history of Altamira Housing Project, click here.
Joshua Tree Airport Solar Project
The JT Airport Solar page on our website contains a chronological history of MBCA’s reports on the JT Airport Solar Project via our E-blasts.
Eagle Crest Gen-Tie Project
BLM proposes to grant to the Eagle Crest Energy Company (Eagle Crest) a right of-way (ROW) to construct, operate, and decommission a 5000-kV gen-tie line and water pipeline to transmit electricity generated by Eagle Crest’s proposed pumped storage facility. This facility would be placed within a private inholding carved out of and surrounded on three sides by JTNP, and would have permanent and severe adverse impacts on Joshua Tree National Park.
DPS’s comments note that the area’s natural, ecological, scenic, wildlife and wilderness values should be preserved rather than sacrificed for unneeded industrial-scale energy development that uses more energy than it would generate, and exacerbates the ongoing overdraft of the Chuckwalla Basin aquifer. Further, they hold that an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared as NEPA requires – to take a “hard look” at the Project’s cumulative impacts in compliance with NEPA.
MBCA joined conservation partners in an Environmental Assessment Comment letter to BLM state Director Jerome Perez. For MBCA’s background on opposition to Eagle Crest with a link to the comment letter detailing all the stages of insufficient analysis, click here.
Thanks, David for tracking these developments that threaten Joshua Tree and JTNP. Next, MBCA director Pat Flanagan reports on an OHV issue with important consequences for the Basin.
OHMVR, Senate Bill 249
If the California Senate does not proceed to reauthorize the OHMVR, the program will end on December 31, 2017. This needed legislation will provide for both reasonable off-highway recreation and also for resource protection and appropriate law enforcement. Morongo Basin is among the many rural communities that have miles of trails incorrectly viewed as suitable for open riding. MBCA's letter states "Our concern is not with the legal but the illegal riders." While the bill is not everything the conservation community would like to see, it is a step forward in protecting California’s precious and fragile landscapes from rampant ORV damage.
Your letters in support of SB 249 are needed right now – this week is best! You can find all the details you need at the ORV Watch/COW website. In particular, most readers of MBCA’s E-blasts are likely to be constituents of 16th District’s State Senator Jean Fuller. She is not on the Appropriations Committee, but you should call her (1-916-651-4016) and email her a message that you want her to support SB 249 when it comes to a vote. Readers outside of the Morongo Basin should check this list provided by ORV Watch to see if your State Senator is a critical voter – if so, please email them as a constituent.
Although emails from non-constituents are not accepted, you can make a phone call or send a faxed letter to any senator to urge their support of SB 249; again, a list of numbers and a sample script are available at the COW website.
Protect our National Monuments
To read MBCA director Pat Flanagan’s op-ed in the San Bernardino County Sun, Efforts to shrink, eliminate national parks will hurt economy, click here.
Thanks to David, Pat and all the stellar MBCA directors. It truly takes all of us on the Board of Directors in our attempt to track these issues, create informed opinions and generate a course of action in a timely way to educate our members and supporters. It is critical that MBCA as an organization and you as individuals submit comments to decision makers. Thanks also for your attention – we know we make a difference.
Ruth Denison Environmental Conservation Scholarship Award
This first award represents a fulfillment of a longstanding goal to increase MBCA’s support of environmental education of local students who plan to attend a university or college and prepare for employment in careers related to environmental or conservation work. You can learn more about the bequest from Ruth Denison that made this scholarship possible at MBCA website’s Denison Scholarship page.
MBCA Desert Wise Landscape Tour’s Essay Contest Winners
On our News Updates page you will find links to Peter Brooks’ Los Angeles
Your 2017 MBCA Board
that nurtures the region’s rural character, cultural wealth
and economic well-being.
While we cannot say that there has been an end to plans for the Alta Mira housing project in the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree, the JT 105 Alliance citizens' group has informed MBCA that the developers have recently offered the project land for sale. Below is an update from the Alliance and also links to some of the documents involved in the ongoing legal efforts to stop or change the plan for the Alta Mira Housing Development in the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree.
1) A summary of the current situation is presented in this Press Release from the JT105 Alliance.
2) The Alliance provided a copy of the October 28, 2016 CEQA petition they filed that outlined all the points of concern about the development.
3) In January 2017, the Alliance proposed to the developers a settlement offer that included two very specific alternative revisions to their existing development plan that would be much more acceptable to the alliance and many Joshua Tree residents who have been concerned about the very “urban” plan proposed by the developers. As the Alliance wrote, “We are not anti-development; we respect smart and ecologically-sensitive development.”
Here's an explanatory paragraph about the stay from the Alliance update:
"A six-month stay was agreed upon, on March 17, so that the developers could explore these options, during which they are not to pursue any permits for construction. Shortly after the agreement, a community member notified the Alliance that the developers had listed the project for sale, with the tract map approval as a key marketing point. If they were to sell the land, the lawsuit, and the wrath of hundreds, would be inherited by the new owner."
Read MBCA's editorial published in the Hi Desert Star on October 29, 2016. It describes the problems with the County Supervisors' decision about the Altamira Housing Development and the lawsuit that has been filed by Joshua Tree residents.
Tuesday, September 27 - San Bernardino County Supervisors voted 3-2 to deny the appeal, thereby approving the Altamira Housing project to go forward.
The 2 votes for the appeal, therefore against the project, were District 3 Supervisor James Ramos and District 1 Supervisor Robert Lovingood.
Read MBCA's September 12, 2016 submission to the Hi Desert Star "Guest Soapbox"about the Altamira appeal.
REPORT ON THE SUPERVISORS' HEARING ON YV105 LLP, AKA THE ALTAMIRA HOUSING PROJECT
Supervisors Meeting September 13, 1016
Action Recorded on the Altamira Issue
This is a summary of what happened during the Altamira Housing Project agenda Item at the San Bernardino County Supervisors Meeting of September 13, 2016. Agenda item #102 included a public hearing to consider the appeal by JT105 Alliance, and the staff had recommended that the Supervisors deny the appeal and go forward with the project.
Acting as representative for the JT105 Alliance appeal, Pat Flanagan made a very detailed, specific, and comprehensive statement of all the myriad problems with the project.
Here are the PowerPoint slides Pat presented. Here are the notes that she presented with each slide.
Then the Project Applicant YV105, LLP made their case. Public Comment was then opened, where about 30 people (most at the videoconference room at the Burke Government Center in Joshua Tree and several in San Bernardino) made eloquent, impassioned, and well-researched statements opposing the project.
Among the topics addressed were traffic safety, fire safety, native plant removal and other environmental issues, the presence of tortoises, water issues, historical (and questionable) up-zoning of the project property, and the incongruence of such a high density project in Joshua Tree. Repeated many times was the concern that the project plan never even mentioned the Joshua Tree Community Plan, and that state law requires that it be considered for such a project. In fact, according to both state and county law the Community Plan became part of the General Plan when adopted in 2007. At that time, according to the General Plan, the zoning should have been returned to its original density and it was not.
Both the project applicant and JT 105 Alliance’s representative were given one more 5-minute comment opportunity.
Supervisor Ramos made a motion to accept the appeal and deny the project, and Supervisor Lovingood seconded the motion. But then, the County’s attorney indicated there would be legal difficulties if the vote on this motion were 2-2. It was a complicated matter related to the County’s need to have “findings” supporting the denial. The Supervisors present also appeared to prefer the full attendance of all 5 Supervisors to conduct this vote. So Supervisor Rutherford, although stating that she was “for” the project, moved to Continue the decision to the next meeting. The other 3 Supervisors present agreed. We are uncertain under what protocol Supervisor Ramos’s motion to accept the appeal and deny the project was “dropped.”
So the issue will be taken up again at the next Supervisors’ meeting on September 27.
- Altamira Gated Housing Appeal hearing - Sept. 13
DRECP Record of Decision (ROD) Event – Sept. 14
We are all welcome to attend an event this Wednesday to mark the Record of Decision (ROD) that initiates the long anticipated DRECP (Desert Renewable Conservation Plan). Apologies for the late notice – MBCA just learned of it. Find the Department of Interior’s invitation below with details.Read more