TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (June 11, 2013) — A wrap up on the five-year debate about how to expand the U.S. Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms finally may be near.
Legislation concerning the base has been included in HR 1960 — the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — greatly increases the likelihood of approval, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), which has been a proponent of finding a solution to land use by recreational vehicle owners.
The provision, authored by Rep. Paul Cook, R-Calif., allows the Marines to have access to the adjoining Johnson Valley OHV (off-highway vehicle) Recreation Area for up to 60 days a year for training exercises but the OHV area would be otherwise preserved for recreational use. No longer a standalone bill, Rep. Cook's provision will become law when the NDAA is approved by both the House and Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, SEMA said.
The provision protects OHV activities, according to SEMA, by establishing the "Johnson Valley National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area" under continued management by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It provides for public participation in determining the dates for military activities that will be the least disruptive for OHV activities. The land is used year-round by OHV enthusiasts and is home to numerous motorized events that the trade association said draw thousands of competitors and spectators to the area every year, including the famous King of the Hammers off-road race.
The association said its SEMA Action Network (SAN) "will continue to urge lawmakers to act quickly to approve the NDAA, which authorizes military funding and includes the Johnson Valley provision." HR 1960 will soon be considered by the full House of Representatives. A similar bill will be debated and adopted by the Senate later this summer. A conference committee will develop a final compromise bill later this year, SEMA said, though final passage of the NDAA is not expected until year-end.