February 27, 2016 (San Diego) -- Join volunteer naturalist Don Endicott in the Visitor Center Theater at Mission Trails Regional Park on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. for a multi-media introduction to the natural history of the mountain lion, our region's seldom seen apex predator.
His talk will describe the amazing attributes and signature behaviors of our big cats, show how relationships between mountain lions and people changed over time, and outline their key contributions to a healthy wilderness environment.
"When a child could get cancer, you take action." -- Alpine resident Bree Rowand (photo, left), mother of Kylie Rowand, toddler who died of neuroblastoma.
"We're here because we'd really like to ease your minds...There is no conclusive evidence that EMFs cause health risks....You have EMFs probably everywhere you go. They are coming out of your cell phone." -- Don Parent, SDG&E, which offered to conduct free measurements for any concerned property owners.
"I'm very concerned for the health of my students and health of my staff...but right now we have having safe levels [in classrooms.]" -- Bruce Cochrane, Superintendent, Alpine Union School District, adding that campus-wide results of an independent expert will be posted Friday.
"This is a failure in our system. Regulatory agencies should be the ones monitoring...If every one of you would e-mail the president of the California Public Utilities Commission as I have and ask as I have for someone to come down here and meet with the community, maybe we will get results."
By Miriam Raftery
February 25, 2016 (Alpine) – Over 230 people came to a community meeting at Alpine Elementary School Tuesday evening to learn more about electromagnetic field measurements in Alpine, ask questions of local officials and SDG&E, voice concerns and at times, shout out frustrations. (View video highlights from 10 News.)
February 24, 2016 (San Diego) - The Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Greater San Diego County, in conjunction with Altman Plants of Vista, has announced its seventh annual School Plant Giveaway. Interested elementary schools throughout San Diego County may sign up to receive a mixed flat of twelve vegetable and herb seedlings, just in time for spring planting.
Warner Springs Ranch Habitat and Cultural Conservancy oversees protection of the resort currently under renovation
February 22, 2016 (Warner Springs) – Warner Springs Ranch Resort has formed the nonprofit Warner Springs Ranch Habitat and Cultural Conservancy to protect and manage the property’s numerous historic, cultural and natural assets.
Photo: Sunrise Powerlink (left) transmits 500 kilovolts of electricity above ground across most its its route, but was installed underground in Alpine, where it flows beneath the main street in the rural mountain town.
February 20, 2016 (Alpine) – East County Magazine reached out to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) after reviewing results of two studies measuring electromagnetic field (EMF) levels in Alpine. (The first study, done by an engineer and contractor, found high levels along Alpine Blvd. above the underground Sunrise Powerlink. The second, commissioned by the County Office of Education, measured levels at Alpine Elementary School. It found relatively low levels at most places on the campus, though two outside areas nearest the boulevard were higher, one substantially so. View details here.) Those reports raised concerns among some community members about potential health risks for chlidren, though medical studies have shown conflicting results on this issue.
We asked SDG&E if it has plans to measure EMF levels at other locations, what EMF levels it would consider safe, what fixes or mitigation might be possible, and what EMF research the company supports. Below are our questions and the answers provided by Allison Torres, SDG&E media representative:
Superintendent issues correction: EPA has not issued recommended EMF safe levels.
Meetings Feb. 23 and 25 will address EMF issues in Alpine.
By Miriam Raftery
February 20, 2016 (Alpine)—The Alpine Education Foundation has agreed to fund hiring a professional independent expert to measure electromagnetic frequency (EMF) readings along the route of the buried Sunrise Powerlink in Alpine, AEF president George Barnett has informed East County Magazine.
Padre Dam and Helix Water Districts to develop new source of drinking water that is safe, locally-controlled and drought-proof
East County News Service
February 18, 2016 (Santee) - Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors accepted the East County Advanced Water Purification Program study at its February 3 board meeting. Additionally, the Board authorized a contract for $3,497,500 with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to provide as-needed engineering services for the program.
Photo: Supervisor Dianne Jacob, speaking against Powerlink at a 2010 rally
Update: SDG&E, the Alpine Union High School District, and the Alpine Community Planning Group have responded to community concerns. The County Board of Education has measured levels at the Alpine Elementary School and found them within EPA recommended levels. SDG&E has offered to meet with any concerned residents or business owners and take measurements. We have also provided additional a broader range of studies on possible health issue. See our new article here with the latest details: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/alpine-powerlink-concerns-spark-responses
February 17, 2016 (Alpine) – Today, Supervisor Dianne Jacob sent a letter to California Public Utilities Commission chairman Michael Picker requesting an immediate investigation and independent review of high electric magnetic field (EMF) levels in Alpine. Copies of Jacob’s letter were sent to Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and all CPUC commissioners.
Update: SDG&E, Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Alpine Union School District and the Alpine Community Planning Group have issued responses to the concerns raised by this study; also the County Dept. of Education had new EMF readings taken at the Alpine Elementary School that appears to have reassuring results for parents. View responses: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/alpine-powerlink-concerns-spark-responses.
By Miriam Raftery
February 12, 2016 (Alpine) - Electric magnetic field (EMF) levels along the route of the underground Sunrise Powerlink high voltage line have been measured at dramatically higher levels than before the line was installed. High EMF levels have been linked to leukemia in some studies.
February 13, 2016 (Stockton, CA) — Inside a dark, high-ceilinged machine shop, Mark Hope leans over a motionless conveyor belt, picking through the black scraps. He finds what he’s looking for and holds it up—a web of silver wires sandwiched between two layers of black rubber. “There’s a lot of metal in tires,” he says. “Ten, fifteen percent.” The wire is tough on the equipment, he says. He points up to the shredder, a grimy box with one conveyor to drop tires into the hopper on the top and another conveyor to carry the shredded tires away. The shears are inside the box. “We have to change these out all the time,” he says. They’re constantly going dull from the wire.
February 9, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Supreme Court has thrown a monkey wrench into U.S. compliance with the landmark climate change accord signed in Paris by 195 nations, blocking a key action aimed at reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
February 1, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Founded in 1990, the Back Country Land Trust (BCLT) began working with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2009 to protect lands in the Long Potrero Valley, located in the historic “Las Californias” region in the south-easternmost part of San Diego County.
January 30, 2016 (Lakeside) – On Tuesday, February 2, the Lakeside Community Planning Group is expected to vote on over $250,000 in improvements to Lindo Lake Park. Final public comments will be heard from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the meeting in the Lakeside Community Center, 9841 Vine Street in Lakeside. After several community workshops, planning group members are set to approve a final design concept from among four plans considered.
January 28, 2016 (San Diego) – By a 3-2 vote, the California Public Utilities Commission today voted to retain net energy metering that supporters say is crucial to support growth of rooftop solar power. Though some changes will be made, the ruling protects compensation for consumers who produce surplus solar power for the grid.
Hailed as a victory for rooftop solar advocates, the decision has drawn praise from environmentalists but criticism from San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E).
January 28, 2016 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Jacumba Solar LLC has cancelled its contract with the Jacumba Community Services District to purchase water for a large-scale solar project.. The project would include over 81,000 solar panels on 304 acres near the SDG&E substation.
“I I think it’s for the best,” Eric Kallen, vice chair of the Jacumba Community Services District, told East County Magazine.
The contract called for Jacumba Solar to pay a $100,000 “gift” on signing with an additional $250,000 lump sum payment due January 15th. The District was to provide 40 acre feet of water with an option for Jacumba Solar to purchase 28 additional acre feet if needed for construction, plus three or four acre feet a year long-term for maintenance after the project was built. The solar projecrt was proposed by Nextera, a Florida-based company.
Photo: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth. Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice - now is the time to act on climate.” – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
January 26, 2016 (San Diego)--2015 was the warmest year worldwide since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a separate analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“The Water-Wise Garden Tour” Will Showcase Drought-Tolerant Home Gardens
January 21, 2016 (El Cajon)—The Water Conservation Garden invites the public to its first annual Water-Wise Home Garden Tour. The tour will highlight a variety of five beautiful gardens utilizing an array of color, variety, and low water usage. The gardens also emphasize plants from semi-arid regions of the world including Australia, New Zealand, Southwestern U.S. and South Africa.
January 19, 2016 (Los Angeles) – Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) announced yesterday that its relief well drilling to stop the massive Aliso Canyon natural gas leak north of Los Angeles is “proceeding ahead of schedule and the company expects to stop the leak by late February, if not sooner.”
The relief well drilling began December 4th and must reach a depth of 8,500 feet. “Once the well is sealed, it will be taken out of service permanently,” a SoCalGas press release states.
In addition, the company announced it has abandoned its earlier proposal for a gas capture system to burn off leaking gas because of safety concerns expressed by its engineers. State regulators had also expressed concerns that the plan could potentially result in a fire.
January 18, 2016 (Alpine) – Clearing local watersheds of the arrundo donax, a hardy bamboo-like, non-native plant that is a major fire fuels hazard, and other invasive species is tough work. To clear a four-mile stretch of Alpine Creek required contacting owners of about 700 private and public parcels, mapping the terrain and securing liability insurance and contracts. So far, the initial work has been done on about 50 parcels, funded mainly by private donations. But a lot more work is needed, including maintain those parcels already cleared.
Leak at So Cal Gas facility exposes nationwide problem of aging gas infrastructure at hundreds of sites
By Miriam Raftery
January 17, 2016 (Los Angeles)—The news sounds like the plot of a disaster thriller movie, but it’s real. The worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill, a methane gas leak that began Oct. 23 at a storage well in Aliso Canyon in northern Los Angeles has pumped over 85,000 metric tons of methane into the air. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, each day of the leak spews as much climate pollutant into the air as 4.5 million to 9 million cars.
The leak at the site operated by Southern California Gas (a Sempra Energy company that also supplies San Diego’s gas) is endangering health and safety of residents as well as contaminating the environment and pumping a powerful climate pollutant into the atmosphere. But it may soon get a lot worse.
A Los Angeles Times investigation reveals that efforts to plug the leak has been halted—after a backwash from those efforts caused a crater 80 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet deep, leaving the wellhead itself exposed and now at risk of a catastrophic blowout. Access to control valves are cut off, documents revealed. Should a massive explosion and fire occur with a 10-mile-long plume of methane over suburban neighobrhoods, the scenario would be horrifying.
13 projects will boost conservation, habitat, water recycling and more
Source: County Water Authority
January 17, 2016 (San Diego) -- The San Diego region has been awarded $31.1 million in grant money by the state Department of Water Resources for a variety of projects that will increase local water supplies, decrease water demands, improve water quality, manage storm water, restore habitat and enhance species.
The awards include several East County and inland region projects, notably expansion of Padre Dam’s advanced water treatment reclamation facility, a program to improve water quality in disadvantaged rural communities, habitat recovery at Sweetwater Reservoir, water-wise educational programs for Lemon Grove and Spring Valley schools, water capture and grey water reuse in the Chollas Creek/Encanto area, as well as rehabilitation of the San Diego River headwaters including removal of invasive plant species, feral pigs, unauthorized trails/campgrounds and restoration of sites.
January 16, 2016 (San Diego) – The National Park Service has announced it must change the names of some of its most iconic landmarks due to a copyright claim filed by Delaware North, the former park concessionaire. Items slated for name changes include the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and Wawona Hotel (both Native American names), as well as Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge and Badger Pass http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/article54736110.html).
January 14, 2016 (Alpine)--The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF), Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF), and Save Our Forest and Ranchlands (SOFAR) announced that they have filed a lawsuit challenging the County of San Diego’s approval of a firearms training facility for military and law enforcement at Covert Canyon within the boundary of the Cleveland National Forest outside of Alpine.
The suit seeks an injunction and restraining order to shut down commercial firearms training at the facility, among other remedies.
The lawsuit cites alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, abuse of discretion in changing the use classification of the commercial firearms shooting facility, and violation of the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (commonly referred to as the “Williamson Act”).
Top scientist claims evidence of neonicotinoids harming bees was silenced by agrochemical companies
By Brigitte Garcia
January 13, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week issued a ruling that neonicotinoids used on cotton and citrus crops harm bees -- but the same pesticide used on other crops does not, Associated Press reports. Some bee experts have argued that neonicotinoids are a major cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The controversial statement pleased neither environmentalists concerned over bee declines, nor Bayer, the maker of neonicotinoids.
January 9, 2016 (Boulevard) – Efforts to block the massive Rugged Solar project in Boulevard appear to have hit a dead end. On December 11th, Judge Wohlfeil confirmed his tentative ruling to dismiss a writ of mandate filed by Backcountry Against Dumps (BAD). The challenge claimed the project violated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements on groundwater and fire issues, among others.
“BAD has chosen not to appeal based on a variety of issues and realities,” BAD founder Donna Tisdale told East County Magazine. Our attorney may never see the fee award ordered by Judge Wohlfeil, or a final decision could be strung out for years.”
January 4, 2016 (La Mesa) -- Journey Community Church in La Mesa is bringing new light this year to the community. This month Journey has completed one of the largest solar conversions in East County, San Diego. The church on Center Drive owns a seven-acre campus of buildings, including offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, a thrift store, and a food bank as well as commercial businesses that rent space. Overall, the 207 kilowattsystem carbon reduction is the equivalent to 4,302 cars being removed from the road, 3,658,582 gallons of gas not being used, 26,484 trees being planted and could power 5,951 homes or 453,489 lightbulbs.
December 30, 2015 (Alpine) –After 19 years of working to create gardens friendly to birds, butterflies and other creatures, the nonprofit Center to Instill Respect and Preservation for Garden Wildlife, or CHIRP, is coming to an end.
The board of directors voted in November to dissolve the nonprofit after financial challenges, as many nonprofits have faced in recent tough times. “I feel it is time for me, the founder and executive director, to move on,” Maureen Austin wrote in a letter published on the Alpine Community Network.
CHIRP, a garden club known for organizing the popular Sage & Songbirds garden tour each year, gained national fame for Alpine after helping the community become first in the nation to receive a Community Wildlife Habitat designation from the National Wildlife Federation. Austin voiced hope that Alpine will continue to nurture habitats for wildlife to retain the designation, adding that she will happily help transfer NWF’s annual status report to another organization or individual.
December 16, 2015 (Paris) - World leaders from 195 nations have signed a landmark climate change accord in Paris. The goals are ambitious, but there is no binding mandate to reach them. That’s because the U.S. refused to agree to mandates, since that would have required approval by Congress, a politically unachievable feat given current control by Republican leadership that denies climate change is a problem.
December 16, 2015 (San Diego)—By a unanimous vote, the San Diego City Council on Tuesday enacted a plan to address climate change that may be the most ambitious in the nation. The plan sets a goal for the city to attain 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2035, also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in 2020 and 50 percent by 2035.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer told Councilmembers, “We are a city where the quality of the environment is essential to our quality of life.” Faulconer said the plan will create jobs and preserve the city’s leadership in the clean-tech industry, also improving public health and air quality, reducing dependence on imported water, and increasing use of clean energy.
Climate Action Campaign announced the San Diego is the largest American city to commit to producing all of its energy from renewable resources.