Round one for Cadiz…

An Orange County Superior judge ruled recently against environmentalists who challenged Cadiz Inc.’s plans to pump groundwater from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to a southern California water agency. The Center for Biological Diversity and the National Parks Conservation Association, among others, charged in their lawsuits that Cadiz’s environmental review was inadequate; that it was a conflict of interest for the water company that plans to buy the water—Santa Margarita Water District—to conduct the environmental review; and that San Bernardino County should have been the lead agency for the project, and not Rancho Santa Margarita, which is 200 miles away. Cadiz plans to siphon and sell enough groundwater from below the Mojave Desert to supply 100,000 homes in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Water sales could bring Cadiz $1 billion to $2 billion in revenue over 50 years. The Center for Biological Diversity says that the pumping would, over the long term, lower the groundwater table and deplete the aquifer under Cadiz’s property as well as surrounding public lands. Cadiz experts have dismissed concerns about the operation, saying it will have minimal environmental effects. Judge Gail Adler said in her May 1 decision that while having the Santa Margarita Water District serve as the lead agency was disconcerting, it is not enough in and of itself to decertify the project approval. Opponents have vowed to appeal the ruling.


The meeting of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Committee on Monday night was chock-full of community information. Reporter Dan Stork broke his report into two parts. Today: a report on fire staffing levels…
Dave Benfield, the San Bernardino County Fire Division Chief for Zone 5, which includes the Morongo Basin, told the audience at the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council the four county fire stations fields about 7,000 calls for service per year. The great bulk of these are for medical help. He said that the staffing model for the area will change in September, so that each of stations in Yucca Valley, Yucca Mesa-Aberdeen, and Joshua Tree will have one paramedic engine with three personnel and one paramedic ambulance with two personnel, and Wonder Valley will have one paramedic brush patrol with two personnel. The total of 17 personnel on duty at all times represents a gain of two over current staffing. Benfield said that the Morongo Basin, with its huge size, is resource-thin compared to many urban areas, leading to complications in dispatching paramedics and firefighters. Benfield’s presentation was broken up by lively Q&A from the interested audience, touching upon the cost and funding of fire protection, use of volunteers, helicopters, tall buildings, and more. See this story at for some of the information imparted.
· There is at least one paramedic on every fire engine.
· The rule that two firefighters must be available outside a structure fire in order for two others to go inside is waived when there are rescues to be made.
· It costs about $1.5 million per year to support a fire station with full-time coverage with a 3-person paramedic engine crew and a 2-person ambulance crew.
· Volunteer firefighter organizations are relatively rare in the western United States; they are largely an eastern phenomenon.
· Funding of fire services lags behind the economic cycle, because it depends largely on property tax collections rather than, say, sales taxes.
· County fire shares one helicopter with the Sheriff’s Department, which is largely devoted to wildland fire service, and is unlikely to be used in residential areas.
· A new ladder truck will come into service locally, in time for protection of the 3-story public housing project in Yucca Valley.
· In the recent fire on I-15, inadequate fire safety procedures were in place.
· Any structure fire that would draw 10-15 firefighting personnel would strain the ability of emergency services in the Morongo Basin to respond to concurrent incidents.


Copper Mountain College President Dr. Roger Wagner is one of the final candidates being considered for president of Victor Valley Community College. Victor Valley College officials say they have screened resumes of candidates for the school’s president/ superintendent opening and are preparing interviews. Wagner, who just got a three-year contract extension from Copper Mountain College, is one of five or six finalists that will be presented to the Victor Valley College Board. Trustee Lori Denson said the new president should take the helm by July 1 if all goes according to schedule. In May 2013, former president/superintendent Christopher O’Hearn stepped down a month before his contract expired, citing personal and medical reasons. The college has employed 10 presidents over the past 12 years. In an interview with Z107.7 News, Wagner said he applied for the Victorville College position because, “It is a bigger college with more opportunities.” Wagner added, “My wife and I like the desert area and Victorville is the only place I have applied.”


The Yucca Valley Planning Commission will focus on home occupations permits tonight. Managing Editor Tami Roleff checks the agenda…
At tonight’s meeting of the Yucca Valley Planning Commission, the commissioners will hold a public hearing to discuss regulations for home occupations or home-based businesses. The Planning Commission will discuss a number of policy issues related to home based businesses including exemptions from obtaining a permit, hours of operation, prohibited businesses, outdoor storage, approval authority, conducting business activities in the primary structure, accessory structures and in screened outdoor locations, in addition to other standards. The Planning Commission will also hold a public hearing on a request for a variance from set-back requirements for a property at on the north side of Montecello Lane, west of Montecello Road, and is identified as Assessor Parcel Number 596-361-03. In addition, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Article 3, General Development Standards, as well as a public hearing on Article 2, Zoning Districts and Development Standards. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the Yucca Room of the Community Center.


April had three scheduled litter clean-ups for the Joshua Tree Clean Team. There were an average of fifteen members for each of the trash cleaning days. Spokesperson Michelle Given said a hearty thank you goes out to Cythnia Heaton, Den Winberry, Steve McCourt, Bob and Mary Stechmann, Frieda Burdette, Ken Schaefer, Clarissa Mitchell, Sylvia White, John Stang, Loretta Simonet, Renee Riley, Bruce Mauhar, Ellen Holden, Gary & Michele Given, Mark Barnes, Adam Gilman, Al Murdy, Cheryl Wolfe, Priscilla McCourt, Glenn Suekiel, Howard Snowden, Ravi Bagga, Brian Scott, Sylvia White and first timer Becky Ronish. Starting in May and continuing in the hot months, the team will be gathering to pick up trash at the new time, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Tomorrow, the workers will start at Hwy. 62 and the Farmers Market grounds. There will be trash bags, grabber sticks and gloves for all participants. For more information call 760-366-8415.


The Hi-Desert Medical Center Board will meet tonight. Reporter Mike Lipsitz says more progress towards affiliation—bringing in an outside hospital company to run the local hospital—is on the agenda…
The Hi-Desert Memorial Healthcare District Board of Directors meets in regular session at 6:00 tonight in the Helen Gray Education Center. There is a single item on tonight’s action agenda: It is a request that the board approve a plan to hire a consulting firm to assist in affiliation with a large healthcare network. Affiliation is the district’s most attractive option in the search for ways to provide cost-effective healthcare for our rural communities in the face of today’s highly regulated and competitive environment. The challenge is not confined to Hi-Desert Medical Center, but one that rural hospitals nationwide must grapple with.


After remaining inactive for almost four years, the Twentynine Palms Junior High School Drama Club will present the one-act comedy, Bad Auditions by Bad Actors, by Ian McWethy. Club Advisor and Director Cindy Ross said, “There are only two nights to catch this side-splitting show, this Thursday and Friday, May 15 and 16. Performances will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the Twentynine Palms Junior High School multi-purpose room; doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students K-12, and free for children under 5. The play will be followed by a brief improvisation demonstration to allow the students to showcase skills they have been working on throughout the school year. For additional information, please contact Ross at 760-367-9507 or e-mail


This Thursday, May 15, is the deadline to turn in artist applications for the Highway 62 Open Studio Art Tours, sponsored by the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council. Studios on the east end of the Morongo Basin —Twentynine Palms to Joshua Tree—will be open October 25-26. West-end studios—Morongo Valley to Joshua Tree—will be open November 1 and 2. Applications to be a part of the open studio art tours are available online at, or at the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council office. For more information, call 760-366-2226.


The major items of discussion at the Twentynine Palms City Council meeting will be development code revision, land acquisition for Project Phoenix, and next year’s budget. Reporter Dan Stork has details on those topics and others…
At the start of the May 13 Twentynine Palms City Council meeting, the City Attorney will deliver an update on the Supreme Court ruling related to invocations at public meetings. The consent agenda includes engaging two real estate services firms for on-call and project-specific services, and adoption of an ordinance relating to residency restrictions for registered sex offenders. After that, Council will hear and discuss policy questions raised by the Planning Commission on the City Development Code revision process. Then a closed session on the acquisition of three parcels on Smoke Tree Avenue connected to the Project Phoenix redevelopment effort, will be followed by a public discussion of whether to authorize the city manager to try to buy those parcels. Next, the Council will review the draft budget for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. The meeting takes place in City Hall on Adobe Road at 6 p.m.


The Morongo Basin Chapter of the Compassionate Friends, a support group for parents who have experienced the death of a child, will hold their monthly meeting Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., at the Helen Gray Education Center located on the campus of Hi-Desert Medical Center. The Compassionate Friends is a national support organization reaching out to parents grieving the death of a child. The group is facilitated by Kristin Martin, for more information, please contact Martin at 760-250-7295 or visit the Hi Desert Medical website at


A special driving class for seniors is being offered by the CHP in 29 Palms. Reporter Taylor Thacker tells you how to sign up…
Morongo Basin Area drivers age 65 and older are invited to attend one of the upcoming Age Well, Drive Smart classes offered by the California Highway Patrol. The goal of the program is to help seniors maintain their driving independence for as long as they can safely drive. The course aims to help participants improve their driving skills and refresh their knowledge of the rules of the road, as well as how to adjust to normal age-related physical and mental changes. This event takes place on the Wednesday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to noon and will be held in the Twentynine Palms City Hall in the Council Chambers. An additional class will be offered at the Town of Yucca Valley Senior Center on Thursday, May 15, from 10 a.m. to noon. No registration is necessary for these classes. For more information call 760-366-2707.


Twentynine Palms Parks and Recreation is now accepting team registrations for its upcoming adult softball leagues slated to start June 16. Team fees are $400, with $150 due upon registration to guarantee a spot. Men’s league will run on Monday nights, women’s league on Wednesday nights, co-ed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and new this year, is a wood-bat league, scheduled for Friday nights. The deadline to register is Friday, June 6. Spots are limited. For more information, stop by the recreation office located at Luckie Park or call 760-367-7562.

The City of Twentynine Palms is accepting applications for contract umpires for their upcoming 2014 Adult Slow Pitch Softball Leagues. Applicants must be age 18 and over and have the ability to work evenings on an “as scheduled” basis beginning June 16. Thorough knowledge of the rules and regulations of the game of slow-pitch softball is required; knowledge of ASA regulations is highly desirable. Applications are available at the Twentynine Palms Recreation Office from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. For more information contact the Twentynine Palms Recreation Department at 760-367-7562.