February 15, 2014 (El Cajon)- On Saturday February 1, the 2nd Annual Lilac 5K Trail Run took place at the Crestridge Ecological Reserve. This event was a fundraiser for environmental education and outreach programs of the Earth Discovery Institute.
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.
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.
“Armed groups have more rights than wind farm victims.”-- Mark Duchamp of EPAW
By Miriam Raftery
February 12, 2014 (Europe)—The European Court of Justice has dismissed a legal challenge filed by a group representing wind farm victims and found the group lacks legal standing—also ordering the European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW) to pay legal costs for Brussels, Belgium. The decision is certain to have a chilling effect and prevents appeal, since that would force people claiming harm from wind turbines to risk losing their homes and other assets.
February 8, 2014 (Santa Ysabel) – One day after the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s tribal council met and voted to shut down its financially troubled casino in Santa Ysabel, employees arrived at work to find the facility closed last week. Patrons found a “closed for business” message on the casino’s website.
Now, a tribal business enterprise, Biostar Solar, offers a potentially brighter future.
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.
February 17 is deadline for public comments; citizens are urged to participate
By Sharon Penny
February 11, 2014 (Boulevard)--An overflow crowd attended the February 6 meeting of the Boulevard Planning Group to hear a detailed presentation by the County of San Diego and Soitec about four massive solar projects planned for the community.
But the show-stealer proved to be Jacumba resident Howard Cook, chair of the Jacumba Sponsor Group. Cook fired off a list of glaring omissions from the water use estimated by Soitek’s consultant, Dudek. These were not minor components; among the omitted items were a substation, concrete-making plants and rock-crushing operations--all water intensive activities, raising serious questions about the competence and integrity of an environmental consulting firm with a record of severely under-estimating water use at other recent projects.
It looks like Armageddon but it’s “just a little bit of Alberta.”
That’s what some are saying about the black clouds of “petcoke” that have been blowing off huge piles of the stuff in Detroit and Chicago, forcing residents to hide in their homes until the wind dies down, then try to hose off the black grit until the next time Alberta blows through their neighbourhoods.
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?
“Our forest is a delicate ecosystem being attacked by growth...This project will only add to the problems we are facing out here in the forest.” – Duncan McFetridge, founder, Cleveland National Forest Foundation (photo, left)
“We plan to rebuild existing lines in the forest to provide safe, reliable service and fire protection.” – Allen Trial, SDG&E
By Sharon A. Penny
February 6, 2014 (Alpine)--SDG&E submitted a plan to retrofit and update electric line facilities within the Cleveland National Forest into one Master Special Use Permit (MSUP). Currently, SDG&E has over 70 individual special use permits for these facilities. Many organizations and back country citizens are concerned about the need, cost, environmental impacts, and potential harm to the forest of the proposed plan of development.
On February 5, California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth held a formal prehearing conference at the Alpine Community Center regarding the $418.5 million MSUP project.
“We are puzzled by recommendation not to list, given that the state’s current known wolf population is only one wolf that intermittently comes into the state. It’s hard to get more endangered than that.”--- Lauren Richie, Director of California Wolf Recovery for the California Wolf Center in Julian. “It’s hard to get more endangered than that.”
Source: California Wolf Center
February 6, 2014 (San Francisco)--. — The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has determined that protecting gray wolves under the California Endangered Species Act is not warranted. The Department presented that recommendation yesterday in a status report given to the state’s Fish and Game Commission in Sacramento.
February 10, 2014 (San Diego's East County) - “The City of San Diego has begun drawing water out of Lake Morena …Shouldn’t a reservoir that is at just 5.4% of its capacity point strongly to a need for immediate and drastic action?” --Coastkeepers
Coastkeepers, a San Diego based group addressing water issues, is speaking out on the draining of Lake Morena.
February 7, 2014 (Washington D.C.)-- Congresswoman Susan Davis (CA-53) joined her colleagues in offering an amendment to let the Secretary of the Interior include climate change in considering decisions on conservation and recreation on public lands. The amendment was an effort to improve a House majority bill attempting to undermine environmental protections for National Parks. However, the House Republican majority blocked the amendment’s passage.
February 8, 2014 (San Diego)--Shortly before the Governor declared an emergency state of drought in California, a question of supply arose.
In the news recently is a story about the ongoing drawdown of water from Lake Morena. To sum it all up, the City of San Diego has begun drawing water out of Lake Morena for water supply, while the County, which runs the public park surrounding Morena, is opposed to the drawdown because it claims less water in the reservoir means harm to the environment and fewer recreational opportunities.
February 4, 2014 (Alpine)-- On February 5, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will hold a prehearing conference regarding San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposed Master Special Use Permit project at 1:30 pm in the Alpine Community Center (Oak Room), 1830 Alpine Blvd., Alpine, CA 91901.
“Improving fire safety is important, and it needs to be done right at a reasonable price. We’re going to be watchdogging this nearly half a billion dollar project to ensure that San Diegans aren’t gouged and that this project really is what SDG&E says it is,” said Bill Powers, an energy expert on the board of The Protect Our Communities Foundation (POC), which will participate in the pre-hearing conference.
February 4, 2014 (Washington, D.C)--U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has honored Taylor Guitars, the internationally famed guitar maker in El Cajon, as one of three U.S. companies presented an “Award for Corporate Excellence. Secretary Kerry praised Taylor Guitars for buying an ebony mill in Cameroon and using shades of ebony in manufacturing its guitars, not just black ebony once used exclusively, to protect forests from being depleted.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.