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Feinstein's staff, Councilmembers meet on desert protection bill

BARSTOW • Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff have recently met with Barstow city councilmembers, informing them about the proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010 and, according to some councilmembers, requesting their support.

Councilmembers Tim Saenz and Timothy Silva, and Mayor Pro Tem Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre sat down with Feinstein’s staff Feb. 12 to talk about the bill. According to Silva and McIntyre, Feinstein’s staff met with them to get their support. Saenz said, however, the meeting was just an informational meeting. Feinstein’s representatives answered his questions and told him they would send him a copy of the bill. All three officials said they needed to do more research before deciding to support the bill.

“It’s a huge bill,” Hackbarth-McIntyre said. “There’s a lot of land that the federal government wants to put into protection, and I understand both sides of that coin, but wow.”

The proposed California Desert Protection Act would create two national monuments, additional wilderness areas, expand the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley National Park, and set aside land for off highway vehicle use.

It could also negatively impact several solar projects planned for public land within the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument along Route 66. In September, one company, BrightSource Energy, canceled a project proposed near Ludlow because of the senator’s bill. Feinstein introduced the bill Dec. 21.

Hackbarth-McIntyre said the senator’s staff explained the bill and what agencies are involved in it. She said she thinks the senator’s office was looking for support, but it was a mostly informational meeting. The senator’s representatives also gave a presentation, Friday, at the San Bernardino Associated Governments meeting.
Silva said the senator’s staff talked about protecting Route 66 and land used by off-highway vehicle riders. Silva said he would talk to people to get an idea of what the bill’s advantages and disadvantages are, before deciding to support the bill.

“It’s my understanding they’re going to all cities and county representatives in the area looking for support,” he said. “And I believe they might be bringing it to (the City Council) also to support as a group.”

Saenz questioned the senator’s representatives about what would happen if the California Department of Transportation needed to widen Interstate 40, which borders one of the proposed monuments, he said. He also asked questions about the bill’s effects to proposed renewable energy projects.

“I don’t want to see our desert blanketed either with all of these (projects),” he said. “But I think it needs to be well planned out for alternative energy.”

Councilmember Willie Hailey Sr. said he didn’t meet with the senator’s staff, yet, but attended a presentation on the proposed bill at a California League of Cities Conference last fall.

As of Friday, 20 cities and elected officials have officially endorsed the California Desert Protection Act, including Barstow Mayor Joe Gomez, according to the senator’s office. Gomez was unavailable for comment Friday.

Contact the writer:

(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com


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