TWENTYNINE PALMS — A decision expected this month on plans to expand the Twentynine Palms Marine base into the Johnson Valley off-roading area has been pushed back to November or December because the Marine Corps is still reviewing comments.
About 1,000 comments from individuals and groups about the proposed expansion of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center poured in by the Aug. 27 deadline, according to the corps.
A Navy environmental impact report found the expansion could whittle down the off-roading area by more than half and cut off access to some of its most popular areas for two months a year.
An earlier draft of the report drew more than 22,000 letters and comments, most of them negative, prompting the Marines to work toward a compromise with Johnson Valley residents and the off-roading community.
An expanded Twentynine Palms is one of the few places the Marines will be able to conduct complex training for Marine Expeditionary Brigades — forces of up to 20,000 troops — with three tank battalions starting from different points advancing to a set meeting place.
But the 189,700 acres of federal land in Johnson Valley is one of the nation’s largest and most spectacular off-roading areas.
“It’s the best riding in the world; this place is just legendary,” said Preston Mattecheck, 50, of Altadena.
A final decision had been expected by the end of September, about a month after the latest comment period closed.