Deserts

WELCOME, DESERT DENIZENS!

Our deserts section covers the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the communities of Borrego Springs, Ocotillo, Ocotillo Wells and Jacumba.


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JACUMBA MEETING SHINES LIGHT ON ARRAY OF SOLAR ISSUES

“Nothing in this project does a hoot for anyone who lives out here.” – Cheryl Diefenbach
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
May 11, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Residents in Jacumba Hot Springs are shining a light on their concerns about the proposed Jacumba Valley Ranch Solar Project, which includes a 643 acre solar energy facility on 1200 acres of land. That’s six times the size of Jacumba Hot Springs’ downtown district.Residents of this high desert town along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego’s East County held a community meeting Friday night.  The meeting was held in person, since many in this remote enclave lack access to high speed internet and the County is only allowing the town’s planning group to hold virtual meetings. More than 50 people showed up—around a tenth of the town’s population, based on the last Census. 

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FUNDRAISERS PLANNED TO HELP VALENZUELA FAMLY THAT LOST HOME IN SOUTHERN FIRE

East County News Service

May 7, 2021 (San Diego's East County) - The Southern Fire burned some 5200 acres May 1st through 3rd, forcing evacuations and destroying three structures, including Eduardo (Eddie) and Priscilla Valenzuela’s ranch home near Butterfield Ranch


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SENATOR JONES' MEASURE TO SAVE OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE COMPETITIONS IS ON A ROLL, CLEARS SECOND COMMITTEE

East County News Service

 

File Photo:  Senator Brian Jones, an avid off-road enthusiast 

 

April 27, 2021 (Sacramento) --  Senate Bill 227, a measure by Senator Brian W. Jones (R-Santee) to save off-highway vehicle (OHV) competitions in California, cleared the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee. 

 

 “SB 227 had another successful committee hearing with more bipartisan backing for our efforts, this time from the members of the Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee,” said Senator Brian W. Jones. “We’ve worked hard for the past two years with OHV stakeholders and affected governmental agencies, including State Parks and the Air Resources Board. SB 227 is a true consensus measure that will allow OHV competitions to continue operating and being a strong part of the recreational economies in rural and suburban California.”


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STATE ISSUES WARNING FOR PEOPLE AND PETS TO AVOID WATER CONTACT AT SALTON SEA DUE TO TOXIC ALGAE OUTBREAK

Recent death of a dog underscores potential consequences

 

East County News Service

 

April 23, 2021 (Salton Sea) – The California Water Boards has issued a warning for people and their dogs to avoid water contact in the Salton Sea, located in Imperial and Riverside Counties. The warning is due to multiple Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) detected at numerous sites in the Salton Sea after a dog died following a swimming excursion there.


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RANCHITA’S MARKET DESTROYED BY FIRE, FUNDRAISER AIMS TO HELP FAMILY REBUILD

By Miriam Raftery

 

April 20, 2021 (Ranchita) – The Manzanita Valley Market, Ranchita’s only grocery outlet, is known for its iconic Yeti statue. The market has long been a roadside attraction for motorists and cyclists heading to or from the Anza Borrego desert. It’s also been a popular stop for hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, who would stock up on supplies or even sleep over in a bunkhouse.  


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STRONG WINDS, HOT WEATHER AND A CHANCE OF RAIN FORECAST

East County News Service
 
April 20, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A heat wave is forecast for today through Thursday, with temperatures up to 96 degrees in the desert and 90-90 degrees in inland valleys.  Strong winds with gusts up to 65 miles per hour in the mountains and up to 55 mph in the deserts are also predicted.
 
There is a chance of drizzle and light rain tonight through Thursday afternoon in coastal, valley and desert regions.

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FIREBALLS IN THE SKY: METEOR SHOWERS START TONIGHT, PEAKING ON EARTH DAY

East County News Service

Image via NASA: Lyrid meteor showers in 2012

April 16, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Look up during the early morning hours April 16-30 and you may be treated to a view of the Lyrids meteor shower. Called the "Old Faithful of meteor showers" by Space.com because their peak usually lasts for several hours, the Lyrids are known for producing fireballs, or meteors with trails of glowing, ionized gas in their wake. 


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BORREGO SPRINGS FILM FESTIVAL TO HOLD DRIVE-INS APRIL 15-19

 

East County News Service

April 11, 2021 (Borrego Springs) - The 8th annual Borrego Springs Film Festival April 15-19 will be a free outdoor drive-in event.

The special event will take place at the shopping mall in the center of Borrego Springs. Guests will see a collection of films from all around the world.


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EARTH DAY IN THE HIGH DESERT APRIL 24

East County News Service

(Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

April 10, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Desert View Tower in Jacumba Hot Springs will host an Earth Day celebration on April 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You’re invited to come experience Earth in the high desert including an Earth blessing ceremony and Sacred black Star Eyed Eagle Dancer, an array of live music, healthy natural foods including vegan options, and a wildflower and plant walk. There will also be alternative healers, local arts and crafts, nature art, native plants for sale, herbal products and essential oils, EMF awareness, nutritional counseling, natural beauty, country collectibles and more.


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CESAR CHAVEZ HISTORY AT ANZA-BORREGO HONORED ON MARCH 31

East County News Service

March 27, 2021 (Borrego Springs) -- Did you know? Cesar Chavez has important history in Borrego Springs and in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP). To honor this history, bilingual interpretive panels were devised that depict these historic events, a joint project between Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and High School students at Borrego Springs High School. 


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STORMS BRING HIGH WINDS, COLD TEMPERATURES AND SNOW AT LOW ELEVATIONS

East County News Service

March 10, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A multi-day storm is expected to continue today through Friday, with chilly temperatures and heaviest rainfall today. Snow could drop as low as 3,500 feet tonight and tomorrow, the National Weather Service predicts.

Treacherous travel and traffic delays are possible through mountain passes, including on I-8 in San Diego’s East County and I-15 in Riverside County due to freezing conditions and reduced visibility in snow and fog. Winds  with gusts up to 60 miles per hour could bring damage to temporary structures such as tents and canopies.


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SUPERVISORS’ VOTE ON MAJOR BACKCOUNTRY ENERGY MEASURE DELAYED UNTIL FEB. 10

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, left:  Campo Wind's turbines hae been fire-prone, causing multiple fires in the past. Residents worry that more turbines raise the risk of a catastrophic fire, if a blaze should begin during Santa Ana gusty winds.

February 5, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – A vote by County Supervisors on a Renewable Energy Overlay plan has been postponed until Wednesday, Feb. 10. If approved, the measure would designate vast swaths of rural East County for industrial-scale wind and solar energy projects.

The aim is to make it easier to get approval of projects that provide clean energy to meet state renewable energy mandates amid a climate crisis.  But the measure has also drawn strong opposition from some rural residents, including Donna Tisdale, who advise East County residents to contact Supervisors to voice opposition so that “Supervisors know how East County really feels about being thrown under the bus as a renewable energy sacrifice zone.”

Click on this link to register your  opinion with Supervisors on the Renewable Energy Overlay before the Feb. 10 hearing, which begins at 9 a.m.  The item is the second item on the agenda.

Tisdale is Chair of the Boulevard Planning Group and founder of Backcountry Against Dumps, a nonprofit that has sued the County over several major energy projects in the region. Residents living near existing wind turbines have complained of noise, sleep disruption and other health problems, flashing lights, visual blight from towers hundreds of feet tall, killing of birds, safety concerns from blades whirling off,loss of rural character and loss of property value for homes nearby. Solar projects have generated concerns over glare, loss of wildlife habitat and potential depletion of scarce groundwater for construction and cleaning of panels.


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SHOOTING STARS: NIGHT SKY PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE MARCH 11

East County News Service

 

Photo: Creative Commons via Bing

 

February 4, 2021 (Julian) – A free virtual night sky photography course will be offered March 11 from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m. with Kevin Wixom, who has been shooting the night skies for years in San Diego, Hawaii and other places.


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STATE PARKS REOPEN FOR CAMPING

By Miriam Raftery

 

Photo: Jonny Victorino, via Anza-Borrego Foundation

 

February 3, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) -- As of February 1, camping is now officially open again at California State Parks, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, and Palomar Mountain State Park in San Diego’s inland region. State health rules and social distancing guidelines will apply.

 

Here is what’s open in our local state parks:


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BORREGO PALM CANYON: A WONDERFUL HIKE FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY

Source: Anza-Borrego Foundation

January 30, 2021 (Anza-Borrego) -- With recent rains and even snow in the upper watershed, and thus more creek water flowing down Borrego Palm Canyon, this is the perfect time to head out on the iconic 3-mile roundtrip hike up the Canyon to the first grove. Although you can not enter the palm grove itself, the modified loop trail brings you to a stunning overlook where you can admire how Mother Nature has bounced back and how the native fan palms are recovering.


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CAL FIRE WILL ADMINISTER COVID VACCINATIONS TO RESIDENTS IN BORREGO SPRINGS THIS SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, JANUARY 30 AND 31

Source:  Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce

January 28, 2021 (Borrego Springs) - This Saturday and Sunday (January 30th and 31st) between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. CalFire will vaccinate people at the Borrego Springs Library.


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FLASH FLOOD WATCH: ATMOSPHERIC RIVER BRINGING HEAVY RAIN AND SNOW

By Miriam Raftery

January 28, 2021 (San Diego’s East County)—A flash flood watch has been issued for San Diego County’s mountains, valleys and coatstal areas from 7p.m. Thursday to 4 p.m. Friday due to an atmospheric river moving across Southern California . The storm is forecast to bring widespread moderate to heavy rain and snow, with flash flooding possible.  If you encounter a flooded roadway, the Sheriff advises to "turn around, don't drown" since only a few inches of swiftly flowing water can quickly carry a vehicle into deeper water and submerge it.

Deep snow accumulations in the mountains will lead to difficult travel and chain restrictions for vehicles.  The storm is forecast to drop two to five inches of snow in local mountains. Snow levels are expected above 5,000 feet Thursday, dropping to as low as 4,500 feet by Friday. There is also a chance of thunderstorms, according to meteorologist Samantha Connolly with the National Weather Service.


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MISSING OFF-ROAD MOTORCYCLIST FOUND IN BORREGO SPRINGS

East County News Service

January 26, 2021 (Borrego Springs) -- A man who went missing while off-roading in Borrego Springs over the weekend has been found safe and will soon be reunited with his family, the Sheriff’s Department reports.

James Richard Rawlins III, 55, was spotted just after 7:00 a.m. this morning by drivers along Highway 78 near the Desert Ironwood Resort in Borrego Springs.  Rawlins was in good spirits and taken to a medical facility in Brawley, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s department, which adds, “Once he gets a clean bill of health, Rawlins will be reunited with his family”.


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HEAVY SNOWFALL FORECAST FOR MOUNTAINS, POSSIBLE FLOODING IN URBAN AREAS

File photo: San Diego County snow plow in the Laguna mountains

January 22, 2021 (San Diego’s East County) – Two cold winter storms are forecast to sweep into our region.  The first will bring widespread rain this weekend with snow at higher elevations. The second, a much stronger storm, is forecast to bring heavy rains and possible urban flooding, also dropping the snow level down to below 3,000 feet in mountain and high desert areas Monday and Tuesday.

The first storm Friday night and Saturday could bring 1 to 5 inches of snow and possible thunderstorms. Storm two could bring up to 10 inches of snow in the mountains as well as heavy rainfall downpours in urban areas. Both storms will also bring gusty southwest winds and near-gale force winds over coastal waters as well as high surf and hazardous marine conditions.


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DRIVER SUFFERED MEDICAL EMERGENCY BEFORE DEADLY CRASH AT IN-KO-PAH

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo California Scenery, Credit: Rebecca Person
 
January 16, 2021 (In-Ko-Pah) – Shortly after noon yesterday, California Highway Patrol units and fire personnel responded to a call requesting medical assistance on I-8 west near the Old Highway 80 undercrossing at In-Ko-Pah.
 
An investigation found that the driver, 54, from El Cajon appeared to have stopped his 2015 Volkswagen Passat on the shoulder after suffering an unknown medical condition. However, he failed to place the vehicle in park before taking his foot off the brake, says Officer Travis Garrow with the CHP. The vehicle drafted left across both freeway lanes into brush in the center media.
 
Passengers extricated the driver from the vehicle and attempted live-saving procedures. The vehicle caught brush on fire and the Volkswagen was soon fully engulfed.

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JACUMBA STREET MARKET JANUARY 9

East County News Service
 
January 5, 2021 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – The Jacumba Street Market will be Saturday, January 9 and on the third Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Safety protocols for COVID-19 will be observed, according to organizers.

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FRIENDS OF WOMAN MISSING 17 DAYS: WHY CAN'T SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT DO MORE?

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Friends of East County’s Diane Mattingly are circulating these photos of her taken earlier this month, via Times of San Diego

December 29, 2020 (San Diego) - Friends and neighbors of Diane Mae Mattingly of the high desert near Anza-Borrego say she’s been missing more than two weeks but haven’t had much help from the Sheriff’s Department.


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JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS HOSTS OPEN AIR PRE-HOLIDAY EVENTS DEC. 19: GIFT AND ART SALE, PLUS BBQ TURKEY AND BRISKET TAKEOUT DINNERS

By Rebecca Person
 
December 17, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) -- The scenic route along Old Highway 80 and the I-8 freeway toward Jacumba Hot Springs is a welcome break these days as people seek the fresh air and scenery of San Diego County’s outback.

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SUPERVISORS DELAY DECISION ON RENEWABLE ENERGY OVERLAY OPTIONS UNTIL JAN. 27

East County News Service

 

December 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – San Diego County Supervisors have voted to delay until January 27, 2021 a decision on Renewable Energy Overlay Options originally slated for Dec. 9, 2020.  The options aim to streamline approval of industrial-scale wind and solar projects across much of East County’s rural, mountain and desert areas.


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POWER OUT FOR OVER 15,000 SDG&E CUSTOMERS AMID HIGH WINDS, RED FLAG WARNING: RESOURCE CENTERS NOW OPEN

Fire burning in Mexico near Tecate is visible across East County

By Miriam Raftery

December 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County)—With wind speeds up to 65 miles per  hour reported last night, SDG&E has shut off power to 15,441 customers in rural, high desert and mountain areas as of 9 a.m. today, with shut-offs possible for another 45,042 customers. Expected restoration time is 6 p.m. tomorrow night in most areas without power, according to SDG&E’s outage map.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning extended through Wednesday night, due to high fire danger from gusty Santa Ana winds and low humidity. A high wind warning is also in effect locally.

The Alpine Union, Valley Center-Pauma Unified and Warner Unfied school districts have cancelled classes today due power shutoffs and high winds.

A brush fire burning in Mexico near Tecate cast a red glow overnight visible across much of East County. Cal Fire reports the fire is well within Mexico and is not considered a threat to the U.S. at this time. (Photo, right, viewed from Campo, by Don Lumb)

SDG&E has set up community resource centers from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. today in Descanso (9545 River Drive), Julian (17606 Harrison Park Rd), Potrero (24550 Highway 94), Ramona (1275 Main St.), Valley Center (29200 Cole Grade Rd.), and Warner Springs (30950 Highway 79.)


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SDG&E RESTORES POWER TO OVER HALF OF CUSTOMERS, BUT MANY RESIDENTS VOICE ANGER OVER SHUT-OFFS DURING COLD WEATHER

By Miriam Raftery
 
December 4, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – As of Friday morning, 32,797 customers of San Diego Gas & Electric remain without power, two days after the utility shut off electricity to more than 73,000 customers. SDG&E implemented the widespread planned outages to prevent power lines from sparking fires amid a red flag warning due to dry conditions and gusty Santa Ana winds.

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POSSIBLE KUMEYAAY CREMATION SITE SPARKS NEW BID TO HALT BORDER WALL PROJECT

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Members of the Kumeyaay tribe danced at the beginning of the Women’s March rally in 2019. Photo by Chris Stone

November 27, 2020 (San Diego) - The surprise discovery of possible human remains at Kumeyaay cultural sites has sparked a new attempt to halt border wall construction — even with 14 of 15 miles of the bollards already done.


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SDG&E WARNS 2,700 CUSTOMERS OF POTENTIAL PUBLIC SAFETY POWER SHUTOFFS AFTER THANKSGIVING

East County News Service

Nov. 25, 2020  (San Diego’s East County)  – Stock up on coolers to keep your Thanksgiving leftovers chilled.  Due to a Red Flag Warning  issued by the National Weather Service and forecasted Santa Ana winds, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has notified approximately 2,700 customers in the communities of Alpine, Campo Reservation, Crestwood, Descanso, Julian, La Posta Reservation, Manzanita Reservation, Pala, Santa Ysabel, Santa Ysabel Reservation, Valley Center and Viejas Reservation, that it may have to turn off power to reduce wildfire risk beginning early Friday morning.      

 “The last thing we want to be telling any of our customers right now is that we may have to shut off power given the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and the ongoing COVID pandemic,” said SDG&E’s Chief Customer Officer Scott Crider. “Public Safety Power Shutoffs are a last resort to prevent wildfires, and our employees are dedicated to doing everything we can to minimize impacts should it come to that. We’re hoping Mother Nature cooperates, but in an abundance of caution we have reached out to our customers so they can be prepared.”

Several hundred SDG&E linemen, troubleshooters and support personnel will be working on Thanksgiving Day and through the holiday weekend to ensure that power can be restored as quickly and as safely as possible, should safety power shutoffs occur.


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JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS REACTS TO MASSIVE PROPOSED ENERGY PROJECT, ASKS FOR LOCALS TO SUBMIT CONCERNS IN WRITING BY DEC. 7

By Rebecca Person

November 23, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) --  Residents of quiet Jacumba Hot Springs, a longtime retreat destination for traveling nature lovers and health seekers worldwide, are raising their voices to object to a proposed solar farm directly adjacent to the town. At a meeting Nov. 11 in town, they gathered to learn more about the proposed project and weigh in on its impact on their lives.

Locals say the project, which would cover an area of 643 acres, 6 times the area of their town, will impact its economic base and atmosphere. It could destroy the town’s travel appeal on historic Old Highway 80 where tourists, bicycle, motorcycle and classic car clubs venture, hikers explore the scenic high desert known for its boulder formations, desert washes and native plants, oaks, sunsets and sunshine.  


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