Anza Borrego Foundation calls for halt to fast-tracking of all major energy projects;
Cleveland National Forest Foundation says EIR violates CEQA, fails to examine less harmful alternatives such as rooftop solar
By Miriam Raftery
February 15, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)—The Anza Borrego Foundation (ABF) and a law firm representing the Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF) have submitted comments warning of dire consequences from Soitec Solar’s proposed massive solar projects in the Boulevard community. Both urge the County to put the brakes on the proposed projects, which they warn would cause irreparable harm to wildlife and ecosystems not only in rural Boulevard, but in Anza Borrego State Park and Cleveland National Forest.
February 15, 2014 (Jacumba)—Wayne Brammer sent in these photos of SDG&E’s new Eco Substation in Jacumba. The project is (so-named for hooking up to industrial-scale renewable energy projects. But to most backcountry residents, the project is an ecological disaster that destroyed the landscape and used three times more water (90 million gallons total) than SDG&E estimated.
“This thing is a monster and they’re wasting water all over the place, not just here but all the way to Boulevard,” writes Bramley, referencing other energy projects in the pipeline. “We really do need to separate from the city and have our own county,” he concluded, linking back to a reader’s editorial on this issue.
Photo: Proposed Chaparral County, shown in green
By Libby Belle
Why rural East County communities should secede from San Diego County
February 14, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – In more ways than I can count, San Diego Supervisors have shown disdain for the people of East County, the environment, and the character of our communities. Supervisor Dianne Jacob is a notable exception, fighting to protect us from fire hazards and destructive energy projects. But time and time again, she’s outvoted by four Supervisors who don’t live in East County, and don’t care if they destroy what makes our region special.
So why should we continue to give them our tax dollars?
Let me list just a few of the ways that the County has abdicated its responsibilities to East County residents:
Water Authority Declares Drought Watch Condition
What's the latest?
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously called upon the region’s residents, businesses and institutions to increase water conservation efforts in response to severe drought conditions across California.
The Board formally activated the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan to preserve stored water reserves in Southern California and help keep more water available for other areas of the state more significantly affected by the drought. The Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan outlines orderly, progressive actions the Water Authority can take to avoid or minimize impacts caused by escalating water supply challenges. It was last activated in May 2007 and deactivated in April 2011.
At the same time, the Board also approved notifying the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the region’s Model Drought Response Ordinance. In coming weeks, member agencies will consider what specific actions are necessary for their communities. Typical voluntary conservation steps at Level 1 include:
- Repairing leaks quickly
- Washing paved surfaces only when necessary for health and safety
- Eliminating inefficient landscape irrigation, such as runoff and overspray
- Irrigating only before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
- Using hoses with automatic shut-off valves for car washing and irrigating areas that aren’t on automated irrigation systems
- Serving and refilling water at restaurants only on request
- Offering hotel guests the option of not laundering their linens and towels daily
- Using recycled or non-potable water for construction activities when possible
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought on Jan. 17, 2014, because areas of California have been hit hard by low water supply availability after two consecutive dry years and the start of a third. The governor’s declaration directs state agencies to expedite the processing of voluntary water transfers, enact a statewide water conservation campaign, implement water-use reduction plans at all state facilities and take other actions to provide assistance to farmers and communities that are damaged economically by dry conditions.
The Water Authority does not anticipate water shortages for San Diego County in 2014 because of local investments in water supply reliability projects and programs, a long-term decrease in regional water demand and adequate water storage in Southern California. Those investments include independent water transfers that will provide the county with approximately 180,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water this year. (An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two average single-family households of four people for a year.) Starting in early 2016, the Water Authority expects to begin purchasing local, drought-proof water supplies from the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant under construction in Carlsbad. The project is expected to deliver up to 56,000 acre-feet of water each year, enough for 112,000 households.
In addition, the Water Authority is executing a $3.1 billion Capital Improvement Program to further improve regional water delivery and storage capacity. Major projects include raising San Vicente Dam in East County by 117 feet to provide 152,100 acre-feet of additional storage, and connecting Lake Hodges to the region’s imported water distribution system.
However, the current drought conditions reinforce the importance for all San Diego County residents and businesses to live a WaterSmart lifestyle by avoiding water waste and following water-efficient practices. Go to www.WaterSmartSD.org to take advantage of these programs or check out several handy tips to learn what you can do.
Roughly 85 percent of the San Diego region’s water supplies come from the Colorado River Basin and Northern California, while about 15 percent are generated locally. The Water Authority is closely monitoring conditions in key watersheds and preparing for the possibility of another dry year.
In recent California history, significant droughts spanned 1976-77, 1987-92 and 2007-11. Following the early 1990s drought, the Water Authority adopted a plan to enhance the reliability of the region’s water supply by diversifying its water sources. That strategy helped offset a significant portion of mandatory water supply cutbacks imposed on the region between 2009 and 2011.
Efforts by residents, businesses and farmers across the region to improve water-use efficiency also are helping to stretch available supplies. Total regional use of potable water in fiscal year 2013 was 24 percent lower than in fiscal year 2007, or roughly 174,000 acre-feet per year – enough to serve about 350,000 households annually.
California and the rest of the Southwest have been very dry since 2012. Most of the major reservoirs on the State Water Project – including Lake Oroville and San Luis Reservoir – are well below their historical averages for this time of year. The state Department of Water Resources’ snow survey in late January showed water content levels at 12 percent of normal. The longer the dry conditions continue, the more likelihood California will experience another below-average year of statewide runoff.
In the Colorado River Basin, this winter has produced near-average snowfall, generating much needed water. However, 11 of the past 14 years have been dry in the Colorado River Basin, and the river’s two main reservoirs collectively are less than half full.
Local conditions in San Diego County also are dry. Precipitation at Lindbergh Field was 43 percent of normal between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31, 2014.
Presentations to the Board of Directors
- See more at: http://www.sdcwa.org/drought-response#sthash.n1XuhfI3.dpuf
County Water Authority
February 13, 2014 (San Diegio)--The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously called upon the region’s residents, businesses and institutions to increase water conservation efforts in response to severe drought conditions across California.
Update: This hearing has been cancelled. Details pending.
Hearing March 17; public comment Feb. 14-21
February 13, 2014 (Spring Valley)--The California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) has recommended the placement of Terry Stone, a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) at 2919 Millar Ranch Road in Spring Valley. This address falls within the jurisdiction of the Rancho San Diego Sheriff's Station.
Terry Stone was convicted of molesting several children between the ages of 6 and 11.
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.