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Johnson Valley News 7/27/2017

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LOTS OF CLUCK FOR YOUR BUCK
• How about a delicious Fried Chicken Dinner, complete with sides and dessert, on Saturday, August 5, in the cool comfort of the Johnson Valley Community Center?

Bring your family and your friends – doors open at 4:30 p.m. The feast begins at 5:00, Donation 7.00 per person, kids 12 and younger, 4.00. Don’t miss it!

Stay for a while afterward for the monthly JVIA meeting; you do not have to be a member to hear what’s happening in and around our desert community. The meeting will begin when everyone’s full and sleepy from eating too much, but that’s the way it goes, somewhere around 5:45 to 6:00.

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BLOWN AWAY (continued)
• More on the happenings at the July 20th meeting of the Lucerne Valley-Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council (MAC).

To review a little: NextEra’s Ord Mountain Solar project and the Edison’s Calico Substation triggered the meeting’s agenda, as most of us live downwind of the 483 acres of desert they plan to cover with solar panels.

The question of air quality if this happens can be answered in one word, unprintable.

The meeting began with a presentation by Tony Malone (who formerly served in the Air Quality Management District, and is a solar expert besides).

Thanks to Bill Lembright we find that Tony’s short but jam-packed video is posted on youtube.com. Search: Lucerne Valley PM10 Problem.

Tony teaches; he got a lot of information into very little time. The best part about the YouTube video is, you can pause it to look at the photos and graphics at your leisure, and replay any part you want.

We hope to get an online link for Pat Flanagan’s Sand Transport powerpoint presentation. Back by research on desert soils and wind corridors, it gives a powerful warning what to expect if Ord Mountain Solar and the many other projects go through.

After these presentations, the concerned citizens listened intently to the speakers the MAC had invited.

Spokesmen for the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District came to clarify the actions that this agency might be able to take to help prevent the installation of huge industrial-scale projects in our neighborhoods.

Brad Poirez, Executive Director of the MDAQMD, and Bret Banks, his Deputy Director in charge of operations and compliance, spoke and answered questions.

Poirez came here from the South Coast Air Quality Management District a relatively short time ago, but stated he has experience with the problems of “dust and solar.”

He said, “We have to rely on what we can do jurisdictionally, but we also have to rely on the other agencies to do what they can for the restrictions they can place on these types of developments. A lot of these are Land Use issues.

“We are a responsible agency at the Air District. We do comment on CEQA documentation that gets to our office. Rules and regulations are in place.” He was referring to the California Environmental Quality Act studies the solar developers must make.

We heard each region has different levels of nonattainment, with different types of control measures. Here in the Mojave Desert, we have a “moderate” designation, meaning “reasonable available control measures” should be used.
Whereas, the South Coast Air Basin level of nonattainment is considered “serious” and is required to use “best available control measures,” more stringent than in the high desert.

–Does nonattainment mean non-accomplishment, non-success, failure?  Maybe so, up against wind and dust, “timeless forces, pure and untameable.”

Q. How do we know what level of non-attainment we are in?

A. By the monitoring network instituted all over California.
Which is not enough, though we have three times the monitoring stations required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
They are very expensive to purchase and locate. New equipment available is portable and could be used to monitor upwind-downwind of the solar sites.
Many requirements by the State Air Resources Board oversight agency and the Federal EPA must be met. Not that we can’t, but we need more money, resources and personnel. Suggestions made in Tony’s and Pat’s presentations we will take back for consideration.

We need to work with different county agencies to gather more information, and find out what other mechanisms can be addressed by other agencies. We are still in a fact-gathering stage.

Brett Banks discussed stabilizing the ground, and NOT getting rid of the vegetation. “Unfortunately, this whole thing results from a State requirement to get to more solar power and wind power. Like the gold rush, people rushing in without a lot of regulation and we are playing catch-up.

To make better comment on Conditional Use Permit conditions, the District is learning as they go forward. They agree developers cannot come in and strip the ground as in residential construction.

Q. How can we be sure of retaining the vegetation, most successful in Holland where the ground is wet.

A. Vegetation stabilization works best in the solar fields where the ground is wet. Also, wood chips diverted from landfills have been used to cover the ground even before construction begins, and they hold soil and support seed germination.

Roger Peterson pointed out that wood chips fly when our dust devil mini-tornados come through. Pat Flanagan pointed out that running over plants during maintenance kills them, and panels shade them.

When told even dead root systems hold soil, Roger maintained they are not permanent, that we have to look at the long term, not just short-term mitigations.

Brad Poirez said, in their comments, even though they have no land use authority, when reviewing a dust control plan submitted by a developer or their consultants, the Air Districts are adding not just a construction timeframe, they are looking at the operational timeframe, too.
They had developers in Imperial County commit to a longer-term strategy for best available dust control measures, which could mean a chemical stabilization of the ground or pea gravel, not natural vegetation. This does not appeal to the area residents, however, who prefer the natural desert.
Poirez added, parameters may have to change. Every mitigation control adds costs to balance with benefits. Vocal groups like this meeting can steer companies in the right directions. Many soil studies are available, but they must be specific to the project being reviewed.

Q. Roger brought up an Eight-Minute Energy proposal for a solar project on Lucerne Dry Lake, which will compound the dust problems in that area and no vegetation will grow there. He would like the AQMD to say there is nothing to mitigate the dust on that project, therefore we recommend it be disapproved. That is what we really need.
He pointed out the failures of commitment after completion of Agincourt-Marathon Solar, now Lone Valley Solar on Camp Rock Rd. Tracking motors do not work, the dirt blows, it caught fire. The original developer’s plans were approved, then the project sold to another company who did whatever they wanted.

A. That’s a Land Use issue, too. Too bad our colleagues in Land Use can’t be here to discuss this. The Air District can only recommend measures to control dust in that situation. If that Conditional Use Permit gets approved, we must make sure that condition has been met.

The meeting continued to issues of compliance, and how could we help the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District. More details later.

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SPEAK UP
County planners have published the draft of the Renewable Energy and Conservation (REC) Element for the County Plan, We hope it can be finalized quickly, with strong clear language keeping industrial solar where it can do less damage – without Ord Mtn Solar being grandfathered because they got their application in months ago. Wherever they may go, these projects damage the desert, for little benefit to its citizens or the County as the power gets transmitted to the megalopolis.

To view the plan and for more information, visit  http://cms.sbcounty.gov/lus/Planning/RenewableEnergy.aspx

The Board of Supervisors Public Hearing on the REC Element is on
Tuesday, August 8th
Attend in person in County of San Bernardino Government Center, Covington Chambers, 1st Floor, 385 North Arrowhead Avenue, San Bernardino.

Or, at one of the video conference centers up here:
The Bob Burke Joshua Tree County Government Center at 63665 Twentynine Palms Highway, or
The Jerry Lewis High Desert Government Center, 15900 Smoke Tree St. in Hesperia.
Remember: be there by 1:00 p.m.

You can make a comment at any of these locations, or submit written comments to the Clerk of the Board.

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BACK TO SCHOOL DAY
• If you have kids or grandkids headed for school soon, see the flyer attached for the Community Back to School Day, August 4th, in Joshua Tree.

San Bernardino County schools sponsor this; several agencies and services will be on hand to give you helpful information and do things like dental screenings.

AND each student present gets a free backpack.

BACK TO SCHOOL BARGAINS 
• Also, remember the Landers Thrift Shoppe is preparing a special Back to School section. If you can donate school supplies or suitable clothing for all ages, please bring them to Belfield Hall between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. any Saturday, 58380 Reche Rd. just past the Landers Post Office.


Betty Munson



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