By Miriam Raftery
February 13, 2014 (Boulevard) -- The County has announced it will extend the deadline to March 3rd for public comments on Soitec Solar's draft programing environmental impact report for four industrial-scale solar projects proposed in rural Boulevard, following an overwhelming public response during the initial comment period.
The bulk of those responses were highly critical of the projects, some casting doubt on water estimates made by project consultant Dudek, which has severely underestimated water usage recently on several other high profile projects. Others voiced concerns over impacts on wildlife, view sheds, and loss of rural character.
Below is the notice sent by the County:
By Nadin Abbott; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
February 12, 2014 (San Diego) Republican Councilmember Kevin Faulconer was elected as the next San Diego City Mayor in the special election by a substantial margin. The Registrar of Voters final tally has Kevin Faulconer with 12,7296 votes, translating to 54.53% of the vote, and David Alvarez with 11,4478 votes, translating to 45.47%.
Faulconer’s election opens a vacancy on the Council—and an opportunity for Democrats to pick up a consolation prize. The Democratic-controlled Council will name Faulconer’s replacement, which is expected to give Democrats enough votes to override a mayoral veto. Still with San Diego’s strong mayor form of government, Faulconer will have many options for implementing his policies without Council approval.
SDSU water expert concludes Soitec’s 4 projects will use more water than rainfall can replace, placing entire ecological system at risk; other experts confirm serious water concerns
By Roy L. Hales; Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
(photo: Dead trees from well pumping that lowered water table elsewhere illustrates what experts and residents fear could occur in Boulevard.)
February 9, 2014 (Boulevard)—Hydrology experts are casting serious doubts about the credibility of water use claims made by Soitec Solar for four massive solar projects proposed in San Diego’s rural East County.
By Roy L Hales
February 10, 2014 (Boulevard)--Yesterday, we reported how three authorities state Soitec's consultant is wrong, Boulevard does not possess enough water for their proposed solar project. Now a video from the February 6 community meeting, at Boulevard, reveals that Soitec's consultant, Dudek, recently underestimated the amount of water needed at SDG&E recent ECO substation project by more than three times what would be the final total. (The original estimate was 30 million gallons and the actual amount was closer to 100 million gallons.) Dudek is also alleged to have seriously underestimated the amount of water needed for the Ocotillo Wind Project. If this is true, how can we assume that Dudek's estimates for the Boulevard project are correct?
February 2, 2014 (San Diego’s East County )—An urgent winter weather message has been issued by the National Weather Service as a low pressure system sweeps into San Diego County bringing cold air, rain west of the mountains. Two to four inches of snow are possible above 4000 to 4500 feet. There is a chance of thunderstorms and over coastal areas, possible waterspouts tonight through Tuesday.
While rain is good news for our drought-parched state, a winter weather advisory means travelers may face difficulties.
February 1, 2014 (San Diego)--The Sheriff's Department plans to execute a winning game plan with increased DUI patrols across the county to stop drunk drivers on Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest day of the year for football fans.
Increased DUI patrols by deputies will start at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2 and continue through 5 a.m. Monday.
More alcohol-related car crashes happen on Super Bowl Sunday in California than on any other Sunday in January and February, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
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.
January 31, 2014 (San Diego)--If you're not a sports fan--or just can't bear to watch the SuperBowl after the Chargers were excluded, cheer up! While the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks duke it out on the (freezing cold) field in New Jersey this Sunday during Super Bowl XLVIII, San Diego County residents can soak up the sunny weather and take advantage of County activities that totally trump TV touchdowns.
Whether you love hiking, biking or just exploring San Diego, there’s plenty to do across the County this weekend instead of watching the Super Bowl. The County offers ten alternatives; all events take place on Sunday. Most of them are free--and most are in East County.
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.”
January 30, 2014 (Carrizo Mountain)—The Jacumba Hikers will be hitting the trail this Saturday at 8 a.m. for an “extreme” hike to Painted Gorge/Carrizo Mountain. Heat and movement over time has created fantastic shapes and colors as the sun illuminates and plays shadows upon this geologic wonder.
January 30, 2014 (Boulevard) -- Is a "green" energy project really green if it destroys these beautiful scenes? Soitec wants to industrialize our backcountry with over 8,000 solar panels, each 30 feet high, scraping the earth bare and destroying sensitive wetlands and wildlife habitat. Thanks to Teresa DeGroot for documenting what will be destroyed unless Supervisors vote down this project, one of several industrial-scale energy projects proposed as part of the "energy zone" that elected officials seek to create in East County's rural and wilderness areas. Area residents want to see green energy projects located in urban areas where power is used--not in pristine areas such as these that are located along state designated scenic highways. Click "read more" to view more photos.
By Miriam Raftery
January 25, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – For the first time ever, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has ordered that supplies of water from the Colorado River and Glen Canyon Dam be slashed.
The Colorado River is the most important water source for the Southwest-- and it accounts for about 60 percent of San Diego County’s water supply. It’s under increasing pressure from a growing population in southwestern cities amid extended dry conditions.
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.
January 23, 2014 (Carrizo Gorge) – Laurie Baker sent photos taken while hiking at the rugged Carrizo Gorge in McCain Valley, near the site of a planned industrial wind facility. Her images show the dramatic rock formations that make this area one of the most spectacular scenic vistas in San Diego's East County.
Miriam Raftery also contributed to this article
January 21, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – What has Congressman Juan Vargas accomplished during his first year in office and how effectively is he representing his constituents?
The answer varies, with the Congressman showing strong interest in representing the interests of Latinos, seniors, and labor interests -- while largely ignoring the interests of rural constitutents and enviornmentalists concerned over the industralization of East County with large-scale energy projects.
By Miriam Raftery
January 20, 2014 (San Diego) – The Education Trust has named San Diego State University as a model for improving graduation rates, especially among low-income students and students of color. Over a decade, from 2002 to 2011, graduation rates among Latino students nearly doubled, from 31.4 percent to 58.8 percent. Latino students are now a quarter of all graduates at SDSU.
SDSU was one of eight universities recognized by the Education Trust for its success in improving graduation rates.
By Miriam Raftery
January 16, 2014 (Ramona) – The County is considering changes to its zoning ordinance for boutique and small wineries. But local vintners say the added regulation could crush our region’s growing wine-making industry. Concerned winery owners are meeting tonight to discuss the issues. View latest revisions here. On Friday at 10 a.m., a meeting with County planners will be held in the County Operations Center, 5520 Overland Road San Diego in the Planning Commission chambers.
Teri Kerns is president of Ramona Ranch Winery and editor of the Ramona Valley Wine Region Magazine. In a letter to Joseph Farace at the County’s Planning and Development Services, she writes that the proposed changes “will destroy our new industry” if adopted and would be “the most restrictive grape-growing, farming, and wine-making ordinance in California.”
Off My Rocker, by Kenny Weissberg (Sandra Jonas Publishing House, Boulder, Colorado, 2014, 311 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
January 15, 2014 (San Diego)--Kenny Weissberg, the former producer and promoter of the internationally acclaimed Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay series in San Diego, has lived the life that many of us could only dream about. It is reflected in his wildly entertaining tell-all book, Off My Rocker.
By Nadin Abbott
January 14, 2013 (San Diego)-- “This book is both an invitation and a warning. The invitation is to seek to be all you can be and try to make a difference. The warning is that the best intentions can be misunderstood and sidetracked by events beyond your control.” Dick Murphy writes this near the beginning of his memoir, a remembrance of his life in San Diego city politics.
Why would a resident of the East County even care? The book also details some of the projects that Murphy was involved in his decades in San Diego city politics that have directly affected our region, not just San Diego city. Some of these issues are still resonating today, around ten years after Murphy left the political arena.
Photo: Elizabeth Maldonado Robinson, left, and Sister Justine Church, right, from the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
By Jordan Schaffner
January 12, 2014 (La Mesa) -- With the church choir wearing Charger blue and gold in the background, Elizabeth Maldonado Robinson, Program Coordinator of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice and Sister Justine Church, Interfaith Committee treasurer, spoke about worker inequality last Sunday, January 6 at the United Church of Christ of La Mesa.
Maldonado Robinson said hotel workers earning minimum wage at the Hyatt in La Jolla are pressured to clean rooms within a certain time frame and often don’t receive breaks. When workers asked to speak to management collectively, they were refused. After objecting to this, a worker spoke to the manager in private. The worker was told she could have a break--but must take it in a closet filled with linens and toxic cleaning supplies. After many sanctions against workers, the manager finally agreed to let hotel workers organize--due to protests from the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice of San Diego County.
By Miriam Raftery
January 9, 2014 (Anza Borrego) -- Late winter and early spring are the prime seasons to visit Anza-Borrego Desert State park, when the weather is mild enough for savoing outdoor hikes through rugged and beautiful terrain. There are also many activities coming up from hikes to cultural events -- and several organizations offering activities besides the Park itself.
Winter is a good time to try and spot elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep and other wildlife. Soon, spring blooms will cover the desert floor and mountain passes, adding brilliant splashes of color to the landscape.
January 8, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- People living in or visiting San Diego County’s unincorporated communities may soon start seeing a lot more signs — welcoming them to town; telling them about special events; or directing them to local attractions — after County Supervisors unanimously approved new sign rules Wednesday.
“I think the new sign and banner ordinance is going to help distinguish the unique characteristics of each of the unincorporated communities,” said Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob. The board’s vote Wednesday will repeal the County’s current policy of banning community signs on County roads and create new rules that allow a number of different kinds of signs and banners — permanent and temporary.
Because the rule changes will create a new County ordinance, the action must be approved by the Board again when they meet Jan. 29, and would take effect 30 days after that.
Source: County News Service
January 8, 2014 (San Diego) -- Supervisor Dianne Jacob was named chairwoman of the County Board of Supervisors for 2014 Tuesday in the Board’s first meeting of the new year.
Board members voted unanimously to appoint Jacob as chairwoman, Supervisor Bill Horn as vice chairman and Supervisor Dave Roberts as chairman pro tem for 2014.
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.
January 5, 2014 (San Diego) -- Flu activity is increasing across the nation and San Diego is no exception.
While flu activity in San Diego has not reached the high levels being seen in some parts of the country, more cases are being reported here compared to the same time last year.
To date, 357 lab-confirmed influenza cases have been reported in San Diego. This is over 1.5 times higher than the 216 cases reported at the same time last year. The number of lab-confirmed cases reported this past week is 154, double the number reported this same week last year. The flu reports this year are still within the expected range.
By Nadin Abbott
December 31, 2013 (San Diego)—On December 23rd, Judge Howard Shore delayed his final decision on the placement of Mikel Wayne Marshall, a convicted sexual predator, in Jacumba Hot Springs on a conditional release. Shore said that he wants to personally inspect the property recommended by state officials before making his final decision after hearing compelling testimony from residents, including a survivor of sexual abuse who resides in Jacumba Hot Springs.
By Miriam Raftery
December 30, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced its choice of six sites to test unmanned drone aircraft. San Diego is not on the list, despite being home to drone manufacturers and having support from Supervisors and Congressional representatives.
Today’s news drew cheers from citizens’ groups opposed to drone testing in East County, but disappointment from military and economic development interests.
Could Obamacare provide impetus for a county hospital in East County?
By Miriam Raftery
December 29, 2013 (Washington D.C.) – Consumers signing up for new healthcare options or “Obamacare” through Healthcare.gov rose seven-fold in December, when over 975,000 people enrolled. From October 1 through December 24, a total of 1.1 million people signed up for the new health insurance marketplaces nationwide. Over a million more signed up through state websites, bringing the total to two-thirds of the 3 million goal set by the White House.
Marilyn Tavenner, administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called this a “welcome surge in enrollment as millions of Americans seek access to affordable heatlh care coverage,” adding hat the surge came in part because “we met our marks on improving HealthCare.gov.” She added that the site supported 83,000 concurrent users on December 23rd alone before the deadline to sign up for coverage starting January 1.
By Miriam Raftery
December 23, 2013 (San Diego's East County) -- ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through East County, not a creature was stirring, not even a coyote…
Click here to listen to “'A Visit From St. Nicholas in East County”, our special audio presentation--including what residents in our mountains, deserts, rural and urban areas may be asking Santa for this season: http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/00k2bvgikc/NightBeforeChristmas.mp3
By David Dickens
December 18, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Christian High School in El Cajon won the CIF Division3 championship against the San Marcos High Knights on December 8. But another battle loomed in the courtroom over the prior week.
On December 9, Superior Court Judge William Sato denied Christian High’s request for injunctive relief to gain consideration as a Division 4 school in the state football series hosted by the San Diego CIF. Athletic Director David Beezer sought to create a fair advantage that Christian High should be entitled to based to its enrollment size. According to the SDCIF handbook, Christian High should be a Division 4 school as far as athletics are concerned contended Beezer, who believes Christian High is being discriminated against and that this is in conflict with the CIF’s own written policy.