READER’S EDITORIAL: JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS PUTTING OUT SOS: LEARN ABOUT SOLAR PROJECT TRYING TO “SWALLOW THE TOWN” AT ICE CREAM SOCIAL AUG. 7

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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.

The opinions in our editorial section reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org. 

 

Comments

Response to Stalbaum

Well, if only we were nimby's you would have a great point. Are you aware that we already have a 70 acre switch yard in our community? that we have a 108 acre 20MW solar project in our community? or that we have the Southwest Powerlink, the Sunrise Powerlink and the ECO Substation link running right next to our town? Is there a term you have for this? ARIMBY? Already in my back yard? Because we have these projects all over our backyard already, we just think there needs to be some balance to the choice of placement. We even offered this developer a 300 acre compromise which would be the largest solar farm in san diego county, but they refuse, why? Because they make more money this way. Did you know that 40% of SDGE power is renewable energy, well ahead of its goals of 33% by 2020? Did you know if we just pushed for more local solar projects in the communities that use the power we would not have to keep dumping these projects in beautiful scenic back country locations with high wildlife impacts? Is it not hypocritical for all these coastal communities that are buying this energy to claim their progressive planet saving status, while they drive around their large commercial parking lots with zero solar panels covering them? There are thousands of acres of just parking lots we could cover in Encinitas, San Diego and Chula Vista that could easily produce the power we need to reach our goals. I really just think you need to educate yourself a little better about our situation and who has already contributed their geography to saving the planet and reducing GHG. I dont think there is another community that has put more of their community up for sacrifice already than ours, we just think this project in particular is over reaching and too aggressive. Does our community not have the right to sustain? What happens to the kids here when there are no jobs or opportunities because of this project? When they could have just designed it a little better. Where are the wind farms off of La Jolla shores? I think you could use a little assistance pulling your head out of your you know what and take a look around and research the issues before writing such a misinformed comment.

My recommendation to jacumbanaught

Probably you should spin yourself around 180 degrees and begin to brag on how Jucumba is doing something good for the Earth by taking carbon out of the electric grid. No? Your generation has never seemed to have a problem slapping yourselves on the back for everything else! That is your best move I think, or just move. Because you live in an industrial energy corridor, and just as we once built freeways through black neighborhoods and poisioned the children with "ethyl" (leaded) gasoline smoke, well now it is just *so sad* that you have to look at solar panels as California burns. Society told them if they didn't like it, they could pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and move to a nicer neighborhood (from which black Americans were also redlined, so that was a real rock and a hard place.) What comes around goes around sometimes! Pull on those bootstraps my dear.

It was not an industrial energy corridor when they moved there.

That is the whole point.  It's not like someone who moves next to an airport and then complaints about airplane noise. These folks moved out there for peace and quiet, pretty views, etc.  For many of them this WAS where they wanted to live. A lot of people actually like the high desert community. Again please don't insult or belittle those with whom you disagree. You've often had useful and insightful posts here in the past. Please try to show empathy or at least don't insult those who have a different view on something as near and dear to them as their homes.  

RE: crazy person

I am not sure what your deal is with blaming "my generation" for all the worlds problems, but just FYI I am in my mid 30s, is that the generation you are blaming for redlining and everything else thats wrong with the world? Also do you really think that some generation has some halo over them? That because of the year they were born, they are just automatically better human beings? We are all in this together and we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have been in front of us and same for those in the past. I think you could use a healthy dose of compassion and understanding instead of all the blaming and negativity, we are just trying to protect the one small space we have left and that you live in some other place that has sacrificed little to nothing for the progress you claim stand for. I am going to go out on a limb here and guess you have never even been to Jacumba and have no idea what you are talking about.

Btw

Few energy projects would make me happier than an offshore wind farm in La Jolla. Preferably right at the end of Prospect.

well said stalbaum

i guess these people do not think where would they be if people way back then fought harder to keep them out as they would not be here today. so you are correct they got theirs so screw everyone else!

Nimby tears at their worst

I'm sorry, but you reveal your true intentions when you say "THOUSANDS of flat, low-impact, non-scenic, not community destroying acres of land lie just 30 miles east" in Imperial county. Bull$#!+. All of California is going to contribute to the clean energy solution, and while I suspect we might agree that putting solar on homes is a wiser policy than solar and wind farms, Imperial county (beautiful and equally worthy of protection) is already the home to many energy projects, just as the rest of the Interstate 8 corridor. Including the Ocotillo Express wind farm just down the hill from you. (Were you there for Ocotillo in their fight?) Younger generations understand very well that boomers are willing to let our climate burn for your viewshed, and that "property values" are your real motivation. We see that you are apparently OK with your neighbors hosting your infrastructure at their cost, that you see private and tribal lands as your own to control, (it has been especially gross to see white people complain about energy projects on tribal lands), that you think BLM land is parkland (it is not and you just haven't paid attention), and that you can only see out if your own back window. We understand who and what you are, and that once your view is protected, energy, housing, and jobs are somebody else's problem. Because, you got yours. Now that the society is being dragged kicking and screaming to attend to the most basic needs of climate protection, yet your free market and industrial scale capitalism remains unchallenged, you are surprised by a solar farm "crisis" locally? Were you always an exception? All that matters is your view, without even a thought for the world your grandchildren will have to live in? The most selfish generation is going to have a very hard time understanding this. But by and large, you did it to yourselves by looking at your own bellybuttons, and not wisely attending to systematic solutions at scale, or policies that would protect future generations equally. Environmental racism is rampant in the United States, but a relatively harmless solar farm near your backyard is the real crisis? Maybe the diminution of property values in your area will help make housing affordable for the younger generations you have systematically blocked from home ownership through prop 13, unlivable minimum wages and slow growth? In any case, until your polity understands that we are all on this blue earth ship together, nobody's imagined right to a view is protected unless it is proper parkland (yes we could use more parklands!) That there are not a lot of people running to assist the NIMBYs is in part because many younger people are too busy scratching out a pale economic existence. I am not happy for Jucumba Hot Springs, but to a degree it is something you did to yourselves. Note: this is not directed in particular at the author, whom I do not know personally. It is just to get clear, NIMBY tears are not the solution to our degraded planet, which is the inheritance boomers leave to the rest of us. Had you thought about the whole planet and subsequent generatios, maybe you would have more allies?

Stalbaum, please be courteous to other readers.

Civility is one of our rules here. You can disagree on where solar panels can be placed without calling people selfish who just want their communities not to look industrialized.  Addressing climate change is very important, but surely people can disagree on how and where to do that without belitting each other. Please avoid insults and use more courteous language for future posts.