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FOREST SERVICE AND CPUC EXTEND SCOPING PERIOD FOR SDG&E POWERLINE PROPOSAL IN NATIONAL FORESTS LOCALLY

Meeting set for Feb. 19 in Alpine

February 4, 2014(San Diego)—U.S. Forest Service ((USFS) officials, in conjunction with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), have announced a supplemental scoping period to provide the public with an additional opportunity to comment on the topics and alternatives that should be included in the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) being prepared for the SDG&E proposal.

The Forest Service and CPUC will hold a Supplemental Scoping Meeting for the SDG&E Master Special Use Permit and Permit to Construct Power Line Replacement Projects at the Alpine Community Center, 1830 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine, CA on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.  The meeting is open to all.

BOULEVARD PLANNING GROUP TO DISCUSS DRAFT EIR FOR SOITEC SOLAR PROJECT

 

Photos:

Left--Soitec's project in Newberry Springs scraped bare the earth and emits glare, despite company claims to the contrary. 

Right--Shaded meadows with mature trees currently support a rich abundance of wildlife as well as grazing livestock. Soitec proposes to put over 8,000 panels on some 1,700 acres here in East County.

 

 

Residents have launched an online petition asking Supervisors to save their wildlife, water supplies, wild and scenic places. and put solar in urban environments instead. You can read the petition and sign it here.

REPORT FAULTS CALTRANS FOR FAILING TO FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY

 

By Miriam Raftery

February 2, 2014 (Sacramento)—The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is “significantly out of step with best practices in the transportation field and with the state of California’s policy expectations,” concludes an assessment review conducted by the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI).   

A key criticism was the agency’s focus on a “move cars faster” culture and a draft five-year strategic plan at Caltrans that completely ignores sustainability and state legislative goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

SAN DIEGANS TO HOLD VIGIL MONDAY FEB. 3 URGING OBAMA TO DENY KEYSTONE PIPELINE PERMIT FOLLOWING NEW STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT

 

Photo: 2013 rally in San Diego

By Miriam Raftery

February 1, 2014 (San Diego) – A final environmental impact statement released this week by the U.S. State Department on impacts of the Keystone XL Pipeline has alarmed  environmentalists, who are organizing rallies nationwide on Monday, February 3.  A candlelight vigil urging President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the controversial pipeline to pump tar sands oil across America will be held Monday night at 6 p.m. in front of the federal building at 880 Front Street in downtown San Diego.

LAKESIDE'S RIVER PARK CONSERVANCY TO OPEN UP NEW TRAIL SEGMENT MARCH 8

 

February 1, 2014 (Lakeside)-- Lakeside's River Park Conservancy will open up a new segment of the San Diego River Trail on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The grand opening will be held at Lakeside Baseball Parks, 10030 Marathon Parkway, Lakeside, CA 92040.

This new San Diego River Trail segment is a huge step forward towards the overall goal of a 52-mile trail ranging from Julian down to Dog Beach. The public is invited to a grand opening day with free family-fun activities on Saturday, March 8, 2014 at Lakeside Baseball Parks from 9:00am-11:00am.

 

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE WINS INTERNATIONAL AWARD FROM WORLD COUNCIL FOR NATURE

 

January 30, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – East County Magazine has been awarded the World Council for Nature’s 2013 award.

“A number of articles published in East County Magazine have been brought to my attention,” Mark Duchamp, Chairman of WCFN, a global organization based in Spain, wrote in an e-mail to ECM’s editor. “The work you do informing people of the threats against nature in your county is commendable. The World Council for Nature wishes to honor your publication with the WCFN award for 2013.”

EARTHTALK®: CLIMATE CHANGE IS KILLING WHITEBARK PINE TREES ACROSS WEST

E - The Environmental Magazine

Photo by Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr: Clark's Nuthatch on whitebark pine

Dear EarthTalk: How is it that climate change is responsible for killing whitebark pine trees and thus impacting mountain ecosystems?   -- Dale Livingstone, Salem, OR

January 24, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Whitebark pine trees are a “keystone” species in high-altitude ecosystems across the American West, meaning they play an important role in maintaining the natural structure of many of our most iconic mountain regions. Wildlife from grizzly bears to songbirds are dependent on whitebark pine seeds for nourishment, while forest stands of the trees stabilize and shade the snowpack in winter, which helps reducing avalanches and helps extend snowmelt flows into the dry summer months.

REVIVING GAIA: NEW ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS SITE FEATURES MANY LOCAL AND NATIONAL ISSUES

Photos courtesy of Boeing, Brad Gibson and Jim Pelley

January 24, 2014 (San Diego)--A new website is dedicated to exploring how lifestyle choices and technologies impact the environment.  Reviving Gaia (www.revivinggaia.com) has considerable San Diego content, including some of Miriam Raftery’s articles reprinted from East County Magazine on regional energy and environmental issues, news stories from Jo Communications and features by San Diego biologist Renee Owens.  

The site’s owner/editor, Roy L Hales, was the editor of San Diego Loves Green last year and frequently wrote about net-metering, the biofuel industry and the industrialization of East County. (Some of these articles were reprinted by East County magazine.) He continues to cover these topics in Reviving Gaia.

COMMUNITY WORKSHOP SPONSORED BY SOITEC ON PROPOSED SOLAR PROJECTS IN BOULEVARD

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 23, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – SoiTec Solar is hosting a community workshop to provide information on its Goliath-scale solar projects proposed in Boulevard.  The event will be held Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at the Manzanita Diner, 40080 Old Highway 80 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To RSVP or for additional information, contact Karen.Hutchens@Soitec-ext.com or (619)236-0227.

According to SoiTec, project representatives and technical experts will be available to answer questions regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report for Soitec’s solar power developments proposed for the Boulevard area.  The projects would include thousands of solar panels, each approximately 30 feet tall.

SAN DIEGO RIVER PARK FOUNDATION RECEIVES $145,000 GRANT TO IMRPOVE MAST PARK AND RIVER TRAIL IN SANTEE

 

January 23, 2014 (Santee)--Home to many special and endangered plants and animals, Mast Park, like many open spaces in California that are surrounded by urbanization, faces threats from invasive  nonnative plant species and trash. The San Diego River Park Foundation,  supported by SANDAG’s TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program and in  partnership of the City of Santee, will  holid a kick-off celebration of the  $145,000 two-year restoration grant to help address those issues along the San Diego River Trail in Santee on  Saturday, January 25, 2014 from 9 am to noon. 

AN INTERVIEW WITH ONEROOF ENERGY: SHOUT OUT FOR SOLAR

 

Reprinted with permission; originally published at http://www.revivinggaia.com/green-blogs/area/usa/san-diego/an-interview-with-oneroof-energy-shout-out-for-solar/

By Roy L. Hales

January 23, 2014 (San Diego)--The U.S. has good reason to “Shout Out For Solar” when the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) celebrates its 40th anniversary on January 24.

While costs of solar panels have been dropping, companies have been streamlining the sales-to-installation process and this increased efficiency has resulted in lower prices. The explosive growth of rooftop solar has enabled the U.S. to surpass Germany in cumulative new PV installations in 2014, according to a study by Greentech Media Research.

SOCAL FORESTS RELEASE DRAFT RECORD OF DECISION FOR LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN AMENDMENT

 

January 19, 2014 (San Diego) --U.S. Forest Service officials announced on January 17th the release of the Draft Records of Decision for a Proposed Amendment to the Land Management Plans for the four Southern California national forests (the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino).

The publication of a legal notice in each national forest’s newspaper of record begins the 60-day objection period.

NOAH’S HOMES IN SPRING VALLEY RECEIVES GRANT FROM KIWANIS FOR GOING GREEN

 

On January 17, the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla granted Noah Homes $2,500 for energy saving appliances. Noah Homes is a nonprofit in Spring Valley that provides free housing and care to 70 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Noah Homes’ vision as a self-sustaining and recognized model of care includes solar panels that are already in the works and other environmentally friendly cost-saving measures. In addition to energy saving appliances, Noah Homes is taking steps in sustainability including planting a vegetable garden, installing solar panels and switching to environmentally friendly hand dryers.

CPUC COMMISSIONER RESIGNS, WARNS AGAINST UTILITIES’ EFFORTS TO “STRANGLE” ROOFTOP SOLAR AND KILL NET METERING

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 17, 2014 (Sacramento) – California Public Utilities Commissioner Mark J. Ferron has resigned due to his battle with cancer, the CPUC announced.  In his January 16 final report, Ferron voiced concerns over utility companies’ efforts to quash rooftop solar and pressures placed on commissioners from the utility industry.

Ferron played a key role in major CPUC decisions impacting San Diego County.  He was among two commissioners who recommended denial of the Quail Brush Power Plant application, finding no need for the facility at that time, though the CPUC left the door open for the applicant to resubmit the proposal this year.  Ferron also authored a CPUC decision to deny SDG&E’s request to charge ratepayers for liability costs of wildfires caused by SDG&E lines or equipment.

JAMUL SOLAR INCENTIVE PROGRAM LAUNCHES FOR LOCAL PROPERTY OWNERS

Community Solar Program Supports Creation of a Strong Solar Community: Learn More at a Free Solar Seminar Feb 15 at Jamul Restaurant and Bakery

 

January 17, 2014 (Jamul) – With the vision of creating a strong solar community in Jamul, local business Sullivan Solar Power announces its launch of the Jamul Solar Program. The company is offering cash incentives in addition to the federal tax credit to property owners within the unincorporated community of Jamul. The innovative program allows residents in Jamul to go solar for no upfront cost and receive substantial cash-back awards for their involvement.

“With many residents looking to declare energy independence from the utility and foreign fossil fuels, Jamul is the ideal community to adopt solar in the masses,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power.

JULIAN PLANNING GROUP VOTES AGAINST CALICO RANCH SOLAR PROJECT

By Nadin Abbott

January 14, 2014 (Julian) --The Julian Planning Group voted unanimously Monday night to recommend denial of the Calico Ranch Solar Project, which proposed to cover 8.5 acres in Wynola with 4.,660 massive solar panels, requiring the destruction of numerous mature oak trees. The reasons given by the Planning Group were summarized as follows:

CITY APPLIES FOR SCENIC HIGHWAY DESIGNATION FOR STATE ROUTE 52

 

Photos by Van Collinsworth and Miriam Raftery

January 14, 2014 (San Diego) – State Route Highway 52 travels through Mission Gorge and Santee, offering motorists views of the San Diego River and Mission Trails Regional Park.  Now the City of San Diego is applying for Scenic Highway designation from the state for  the section of  State Route 52 from Santo Road to Mast Boulevard, through Mission Trails Regional Park.

The measure passed unanimously.  Van Collinsworth at Preserve Wild Santee urges the public to send letters of support for recognizing the scenic value of these resources. Letters should be received by February 28 and may be sent to:

FIGHTING FOR THE FOREST: DESCANSO RESIDENT DUNCAN MCFETRIDGE

By Sharon Penny

Duncan McFetridge is a poet, philosopher, wood carver, and a classical man who lives in a quiet cabin in the forest. McFetridge, who studied religion and Greek and Chinese philosophy, lives an ascetic life - he is someone who doesn't care about money the way most modern people do.  He says that justice and truth are supreme.

Yet this environmentalist, who loves nature, animals and simplicity, has struck fear in many of San Diego's most powerful movers and shakers. He successfully took on the building industry years ago to prevent development in his mountain community of Descanso, managing to have the Forest Conservation Initiative implemented by the County of San Diego. It is considered one of the most important environmental initiatives in the County; it has protected critical areas within the Cleveland National Forest.

COMMUNITY SAYS NO TO $1.6-BILLION PIO PICO POWER PLANT

 

Rally at Environmental Protection Agency hearing shows no need for SDG&E’s dirty power plant

January 8, 2014 (Otay)--On December 17, local community organizations and residents from around the county rallied to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deny a permit for SDG&E’s proposed fossil fuel power plant, Pio Pico, in San Diego. The hearing ironically falls on the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a federal law requiring the EPA to develop and enforce regulations that protect citizens from breathing hazardous and harmful air.

RECYCLE E-WASTE JANUARY 11 AND 12 AT GROSSMONT CENTER

 

January 8, 2014 (La Mesa) – In order to create a cleaner environment for our community, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce is hosting a free electronic waste (e-waste) recycling collection event on Saturday, January 11 and Sunday, January 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held in the parking lot of Grossmont Center between Chuze Fitness and Fuddruckers, 5500 Grossmont Center Drive in La Mesa.

The event is a free service to everyone to properly dispose of your old TV's, computers, printers, and other approved items, and at the same time, help reduce improper and illegal dumping in our city and landfills. 

MASSIVE SOITEC SOLAR PROJECTS PROPOSED IN BACKCOUNTRY AT BOULEVARD; EIR RELEASED BY SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Public Comments Due by February 17

By Sharon Penny

January 5, 2014 (Boulevard)--On Thursday, January 2, the County of San Diego released an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on massive solar projects proposed in East County by Soitec Solar (http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/pds/ceqa/Soitec-Solar-EIR.html).

At the Boulevard Planning Group meeting, County employees made a brief presentation of the EIR.  The small community room was packed with over two dozen residents of Boulevard, all expressing major concerns with the proposed projects. Robert Hingtgen and Mindy Fogg from the County’s Planning and Development Services discussed Soitec’s four proposed projects, which combined would encompass a total of 1,490 acres in Boulevard, with almost 7,500 solar trackers, each measuring 30 feet tall by 48 feet wide.

TAKEDA TO PLANT 2,000 TREES ALONG SAN DIEGO RIVER IN SANTEE

 

January 5, 2014 (Santee)--This is a story made in the shade!  Takeda California, a pharmaceutical company,  plans to plant 2,000 trees along a one-mile-stretch of the San Diego River in Santee’s new Walker Preserve on January 20.  That’s 20 times more trees than the drug discovery company used in paper during the entire last year.

The trees will be planted by Takeda’s employees, family members and friends.  The effort will benefit the San Diego River Park Foundation and Walker Preserve by introducing native Coast Live Oak, Scrub Oak, Englemann Oak, Laurel Sumac, Cottonwood, Sycamore, Lemonade Berry and Elderberry to lands previously used for mining operations.

FEDERAL RULE CHANGE WILL HARM EAGLES, CHARGES LOCAL CONSERVATION GROUP

 



San Diego and Imperial County Eagles Are at Risk

January 5, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)  -- In December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its final decision to weaken a key rule that protects Bald and Golden Eagles, in order to more quickly develop renewable energy.

The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC), a nonprofit community organization in San Diego’s East County, opposes this rule change stating it would harm eagles, has not been adequately studied, and violates federal law. Two local  wind projects would be affected by the change.

“Eagles symbolize America’s national heritage and deserve more protection, not less. This rule change will make it harder to protect the remaining eagles that San Diegans love,” said Donna Tisdale, POC’s Secretary.

ENDANGERED BIGHORN SPOTTED IN MCCAIN VALLEY

 

January 2, 2014 (McCain Valley) -- While hiking in McCain Valley north of Sacatone Road on New Year's Day, Laurie Baker and her husband encountered these two Peninsular Bighorn rams.

"What a pleasant surprise!" Baker exclaimed of her New Year's discovery -- an important sighting, since the draft environmental impact statement for Iberdrola Renewables' planned Tule Wind project in McCain Valley concludes that wind turbines aren "located outside of critical habitat areas and will not have any detrimental impacts on sheep."

Finding proof of the endangered animals doesn't assure their protection, however.  When Pattern Energy's Ocotillo Express Wind Facility was approved, the project's environmental report similarly concluded that the site was not bighorn habitat.  When photos of a herd of bighorn on the project site were sent to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, he issued take permits allowing up to 10 bighorn ewes and lambs to be killed, allowing the project to proceed at the expense of this critically endangered species which is at risk of extinction, according to the Bighorn Institute.

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS APPROVES TULE WIND FARM LEASE

 

Decision puts families and eagles at risk, Protect Our Communities warns

Wind-turbine fire on Campo Reservation December 16, 2013 near site of wind farm lease approved by BIA in the same week that this blaze threatened nearby homes.

December 31, 2013  –On December 26, local residents learned that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has signed a Record of Decision approving a lease for Phase II of Iberdrola’s controversial Tule Wind Project (also known as the Reduced Ridgeline Project) in San Diego County. The Record of Decision has not been published in the Federal Register so is not available for the public to review even though the BIA has already issued a press release.

“The BIA’s decision is reckless and shows outrageous disregard for the high fire risk we all face in San Diego County,” said Donna Tisdale, POC’s Secretary. “The fire district that Iberdrola contracted has no air tankers or helicopters of its own, but must hope and pray that mutual aid fire agencies can spare them. And Iberdrola’s Tule Wind Fire Protection Plan shows that it plans to use the people of San Diego County as guinea pigs by relying on an experimental fire suppression technology instead of something already proven to work.”

HAWK WATCH PROGRAM CANCELLED IN RAMONA FOR 2014

 

By Miriam Raftery

December 30, 2013 (Ramona)--After 20 years, Hawk Watch, a popular wildlife educational program in Ramona featuring  hawks, owls and eagles, has been cancelled for 2014 .  Visitors can still go birdwatching on their own at the Ramona Grasslands  Preserve, but there will be no organized presentations or up-close looks at captive birds of prey.

 Wildlife Research Institute, which ran the program, announced the cancellation on its website with no explanation.  But the decision likely stems from trouble raising funds for the nonprofit after news broke that its founder, David Bittner, was sentenced in federal court  in August after pleading guilty to unlawful taking  a Golden Eagle without a permit and failing to file any data reports for a four-year period on birds that he had banded.

SDG&E DONATES 448 ACRES OF ENGELMANN OAK HABITAT TO FOREST SERVICE

 

December 19, 2013 (San Diego) – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and the U.S. Forest Service have partnered to preserve and protect 448 acres between El Cajon Mountain and the El Capitan Reservoir. Known as Oak Ridge Ranch, the property is now National Forest system land donated by SDG&E.

The partnership at Oak Ridge Ranch protects native Engelmann oak trees that only grow naturally in a narrow band that stretches along the mountain foothills of Southern California and Baja California, Mexico. The Engelmann oak is an indicator species, which means that when this beautiful evergreen oak thrives, so too does the surrounding forest ecosystem.

POLL SHOWS STRONG SUPPORT FOR PROTECTING CA DESERT

 

December 18, 2013 (California) -- Voters who live in California's High Desert have a strong connection to public lands and see the benefits they provide for clean water, recreation and wildlife. That's according to a poll that found three-quarters of local residents have visited public lands in the last year.

Pollster Lori Weigel, Public Opinion Strategies, said voters value these lands for a number of reasons.

WIND FIRE: NEW QUESTIONS RAISED OVER WIND TURBINE BLAZE IN CAMPO

 

Part II in our "Wind Fire" series

By Miriam Raftery

December 17, 2013 (Campo) – Yesterday’s explosion and brush fire sparked by a Gamesa wind turbine owned by Infigen at the Kumeyaay Wind facility in Campo, California has ignited new questions about the safety of wind turbines in this fire-prone region, where several of the worst wildfires in California history have previously scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

In June, Infigen settled a lawsuit with Gamesa stemming from an earlier catastrophe at the same wind facility in 2009, when an explosive blast resulted in replacement of all 75 wind turbines, as ECM reported in an exclusive report.  But now Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale reveals, “The 75 turbine blades from the 2009 catastrophic failure that you covered are still laying on the ground at the wind farm and are highly flammable.”

WIND FIRE: TURBINE EXPLODES, SPARKS BRUSH FIRE IN CAMPO

 

 

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery and Nadin Abbott

Photos by Jim Pelley, Michael Kurtz, Jim Colby, J. Rummler

 

December 16, 2013 (Campo) – A wind turbine on a ridge overlooking the Golden Acorn Casino exploded today, sparking several spot fires in surrounding brush that collectively charred about a half an acre.

David Elliott, a Manzanita tribal member, lives about  quarter of a mile from the wind facility on the neighboring Campo reservation. At first, he mistook the fire sounds for gusty wind. Then he walked outside and saw the turbine burning.  “The turbine did start several spot fires,” he said.  “If the wind had been coming from the northwest or west then my home, one of the closets homes to the turbines, would have definitely been in danger because we have brush on this side of the turbines and we would have had a major fire.”  Hear audio of his interview with ECM: http://kiwi6.com/file/bk3qywd787

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