The latest deadline for comments on the Palen Solar Project in Riverside County is December 11. Here is the BLM webpage explaining the project alternatives. This BLM press release gives details on how to comment. We are also providing two already-submitted comment letters to inform you of important issues you should consider in your own comment. Basin and Range Watch has provided a comprehensive overview of concerns and their letter includes maps and illustrations. The second comment letter by Alfredo Acosta Figueroa and Patricia Robles is on behalf of La Cuna de Aztlán Sacred Sites Protection Circle, and includes a great deal of information about why this land is sacred to tribal members. The attachments to the letter by La Cuna de Azlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle provide an extensive exploration and explanation of tribal sacred sites in desert areas that would be affected by the proposed Palen solar plant: Sacred Sites Attachments Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.
Dear MBCA Members and Supporters,
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for in the Morongo Basin.
The Basin is experiencing growth and more is certain. Along the way, we’ve learned much about working with the County to communicate the concerns of our communities about development that threatens to spoil the characteristics we value. We have the opportunity now to establish more effective measures to serve our communities and protect the natural resources in the Morongo Basin with the San Bernardino County 2018 Countywide Plan.
This MBCA Eblast is devoted to explaining the meaning and status of the Community Plans and why it is so important for you to express concern by submitting a comment by the deadline.
Deadline to submit Comments on Community Plans: Dec 15, 2017
Given that the Policy Plan component of the 2018 Countywide Plan is not yet available, we are only being asked to comment on the draft Community Plans. The difficulty of this is that we do not have knowledge of the policy and development codes that will enforce the goals, vision, and characteristics defined in the Community Plans.
The frustrating and ill-conceived process for revising the 2007 General Plan and Community Plans must be acknowledged! Many Morongo Basin and Lucerne Valley residents have voiced concerns that the policies in the existing Community Plans are being completely eliminated or replaced by what the County admits are really only “Suggested Action Plans.”
It is important that County Planning staff hear our concerns that they are eliminating policy from our Community Plans. Suggested Action Plans are not Community Plans. Real Community Plans must be adopted into the Countywide Plan.
Actions identified in plans have suggested Community advocates lead the various Actions. Many of these suggestions are simply off-base. Hypothetical organizations are imagined to form to meet anticipated needs and in other cases, existing organizations are nominated inappropriately. Other organizations with long-standing roles in serving the community have been overlooked.
For example, in the case of Joshua Tree, the Chamber of Commerce is named in numerous Actions – however, the Chamber was never contacted to explore the feasibility of their championing these responsibilities. With a paid staff of one at the JT Chamber, the County should have known that was a “pie in the sky” solution. The Joshua Tree National Park Association was a second organization mentioned – however, taking on community service of this nature is not within their mission. In the Pioneertown Plan a couple of the organizations are listed that haven’t functioned for years. The County cannot assume the community will - or even can - undertake the Actions in the Plans. It is beyond unreasonable. These communities are “severely economically distressed” and lack the infrastructure and resources to assume responsibility for the Actions listed.
The County cannot shirk the need to provide the leadership and governance – planning and implementation - required. We understand that community residents have vital roles in the fabric of their neighborhoods and community organizations. The rural desert communities are vibrant and resilient. But, they cannot be expected to take on the roles outlined in these Plans as presented. LVEDA’s comments document Action by Action how the community has worked in substantive ways to address egregious developments with County staff – particularly renewable energy in rural residential areas –and efforts have not been successful. What guarantee is there that these Action Plans will provide them with the protections they have clearly proactively called for over recent years?
Residents in Joshua Tree have also protested the Action Plan approach.
The Community Plans are intended “to guide local expectations for County services and set a clear direction for the future of each unincorporated community.” They are to “provide planning and implementation guidance for communities as they pursue their own unique lifestyle choices and goals.” The Suggested Action Plans fall short of these stated goals and threaten to leave desert communities without adequate tools for support and enforcement from the County.
MBCA holds that every community must have the protections of a Detailed Plan, regardless of the services, extent of the built environment, and organizations present. Don’t sell Pioneertown and Homestead Valley Communities, the Morongo Valley, and Wonder Valley short!
We suggest that your comments address environmental and economic concerns affecting your community specifically, as well as the wider Basin.
- climate change
- ecological concerns – wildlife corridors, species protections
- renewable energy
- natural resources – water, soils, air, open space & scenic qualities
- population growth
- growth of tourism
- dark skies
- traffic and transportation
- county services – health and welfare
Read and Comment on your Community Plan by clicking links below:
Joshua Tree – Draft Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan) and the 2007 Joshua Tree Community Plan
Pioneertown Communities (Gamma Gulch, Pioneertown, Pipes Canyon, Rimrock) – Foundation Plan.
Homestead Valley Communities (Flamingo Heights, Johnson Valley, Landers, Yucca Mesa) - Framework Plan.
Morongo Valley - Framework Plan.
Wonder Valley – “The County is preparing your webpage.”
Lucerne Valley - summary of key elements in Lucerne Valley’s 2007 Community Plan and the current Draft Detailed Community Plan (aka Suggested Action Plan).
Also, here are two support documents created by MBCA Director Pat Flanagan:
A sample result from utilizing keyword searches of County documents to find references to your specific issues and concerns (for example “scenic”).
Where to send Comments:
- online: through the link associated with your draft Community Plan (link above) or;
- e-mail or snail mail to:
(include your signature, printed, name, street address)
Two more issues briefly….
EXTENDED Comment period: fee increase to JTNP
Also call our elected official in D.C., Representative Paul Cook
Palen PV Solar Project Comment period
Read MBCA’s response to Palen Supplemental DEIS, Sept. 13, 2016 that addresses air quality impacts from location sited on Sand Transport Corridor and lack of AQMD regional monitoring for fugitive dust / PM10-2.5:
Your 2017 MBCA Board
Will Vicent presented an explanation of the state
energy system and the development of ZNE.
You can view this in the PDF slide show
Ron Kliewer's presentation (second half
of the PDF slide show, available below) described
and illustrated many energy-saving
home retrofit projects.
Table displays and representatives from Edison and several organizations that
provide energy retrofit assistance were present, as well as several local
You can view this PDF version of their slide show to see ZNE data and view many photos and illustrations. The first half outlines the history and political development of ZNE - California's Title 24 Residential Energy Code - and the latter half emphasizes retrofitting for energy savings.
Here is a clickable list of the additional resources that are listed on the last page of the Slide Show, with a few additional notes:
DSIRE is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Zero Net Energy Case Study Buildings
Power of Zero, Brad Liljequist. This site provides a description of this book on the publisher's site, where it can be purchased. It is also available through other online sources. It does not appear to be currently available in the San Bernardino County Library system.
Net Zero Energy Design, Tom Footman This is the Amazon listing of this book.
Zero Net Energy, New Buildings Institute This site has very comprehensive and current information on ZNE.
Your 2017 MBCA Board
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
- 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.