By Jeffery Osborne
August 5, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- The Jacumba Hot Springs community is getting together Saturday, August 7th at 11 a.m. for an Ice Cream Social and swim at Jacumba Lake to raise awareness about the mega solar project that is trying to swallow up the community. Nothing like this project has ever been proposed in San Diego County.
BayWa r.e., a multibillion-dollar German development conglomerate looking to cash in on the green energy wave, has spent years behind closed doors planning a 600+ acre solar farm that will surround the community of Jacumba Hot Springs and block off access to open space and future development. They are attempting to rush the county planning process to avoid genuine community feedback and collaboration in order to maximize their profit at the expense of our community and the environment. Many stakeholders in the area, such as local residents, tribal members and environmental groups, are still just hearing about the project themselves for the first time. The developer is attempting to rush this project through a Board of Supervisors hearing on August 18th before the community and other groups have time to respond to the 2,000+ page technical FEIR that was just released on June 30th.
The proposed JVR Solar Park is claiming this land must be used for solar because of the state mandate for renewable energy, even though it is not zoned this way and is in fact inside the town’s village boundary, which is typically reserved for very specific uses that do not include industrial scale solar farms. What they don’t tell you is that THOUSANDS of flat, low-impact, non-scenic, not community destroying acres of land lie just 30 miles east in the Imperial Valley, waiting for a developer to purchase. The hook? It costs a little more than the land they currently have under contract in Jacumba Hot Springs. Instead, they are trying to use the political power of unions and the rush for green energy, to cloak their purely profit driven plan, that will absolutely devastate a beloved San Diego community and take away its only economic engine, tourism. The community is extremely worried this development will permanently devastate its economy and its way of life. Founded in 1925 by the ex-Mayor of San Diego, Bert Vaughn, Jacumba Hot Springs was a haven for movie stars and thousands of vacationers, with multiple hotels, restaurants, lounges, a casino and more. Currently, new owners have purchased the central business district and resort which are undergoing revitalization. People travel from all over the world to visit Jacumba Hot Springs, to soak in its healing waters, and enjoy the beautiful high desert landscape.
As a small town of only about 500 residents and a median income of $26,636, which is 39% of the California median household income. Jacumba Hot Springs is not a political powerhouse and is often overlooked by the county. Residents also are wanting to make other small towns and back country communities aware, that a project like this will be coming to their town soon if we don’t stand up and ask these developers and the county to put these industrial scale utility projects in appropriately designated locations. Flat former farm land is chosen due to it’s cheaper construction costs, this is a short term profit strategy that will be looked at just like the oil rigs installed off the coast of California spoiling some of the most scenic vistas our county has. There are available and better suited locations for the environment and for our communities. Many environmental groups are also waking up to the impacts solar farms like this have on the natural ecosystems they are being placed in and are demanding county planners to do a better job at designating different, low-impact locations.
Jacumba Valley has a long history of Native American settlement and use of the hot springs and surrounding valley that pre-dates the tourist development of the 1920s. Jacumba Valley is a significant cultural heritage region and has archaeological sites dating back to 10,000 B.C. The Jacumba community has already allowed one of the largest solar farms in the county to be built in their backyard, this new project is simply an extraction of profit at the expense of the whole community. Sadly our local unions have tripped over themselves to sell out their neighbors to get the chance for a few months of work. The Jacumba Hot Springs community is calling on any and all residents of San Diego to help them save this special place and ask the developers to move this project to another more suitable location down in Imperial Valley, like all the other developers have done.
The developer has completely stonewalled all community feedback asking for basic consideration, such as more reasonable setbacks from its scenic roads and residences, removal of an unnecessary switchyard, and providing Jacumba Hot Springs with power so that it can avoid power shut offs that roll through backcountry communities throughout the year. The power from this project has already been sold to the coastal cities and members of the SDCP. Interesting that areas within their city limits are never considered as viable locations.
The town would also like the San Diego community to be aware that the newly formed SDCP (San Diego Community Power) has blindly signed a 20-year power purchased agreement with BayWa r.e. for this project before it even released its final environmental impact report, before its permit was approved and against the pleas of Jacumba Hot Springs community members. San Diegans should be aware of the ethics behind renewable energy development and make sure they are supporting ethically sourced green energy. There are many other renewable energy developers who are producing ethical power that does not take advantage of underserved communities or impact our wildlife and scenic landscapes. There are plenty of ethical and available locations to accomplish our renewable energy goals without destroying a San Diego community. We ask all San Diegans to stand behind our community and demand this project be moved to a better location.
Please join the community of Jacumba Hot Springs on Saturday, August 7th at 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. for free Ice Cream, Shaved Ice and other family friendly activities at the Old Bathhouse in Jacumba Hot Springs 44450 Old Highway 80, Jacumba, CA 91934. We also invite everyone to swim and enjoy our newly revitalized Jacumba Lake.
If you want to help our community, we ask all rural communities, cities and residents of San Diego County to contact the Board of Supervisors and let them know you want green energy that is ethically sourced. We also suggest that residents that want to show their support for our community and in defense of other communities this will happen to soon, to opt out of SDCP until such time they agree to ethically source their power.
Please see our website savejacumba.org for more information and images of the proposed development.
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