Revitalization Committee's Progress
Last updated 10/3/2019 at 10:41am
Leaders in the Borrego Springs community, under the direction and leadership of San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond and his staff, with County Department representatives in attendance, helped set up a framework for a Borrego Springs Revitalization Committee back on May 7, for the purpose of matching up community needs directly with County personnel in charge of related programs and services.
The Library Community Room was packed with about 100 local residents, most present to inform Desmond and County staff of the issues important to Borregans and to volunteer for subcommittee assignments. The meeting was not so much about asking for money to fund a specific project as it was about how best to navigate through the often-tangled web of County bureaucracy to get desired results.
The Revitalization Committee formed subsequent to that May 7 meeting was divided into subcommittees – Economic Development/Tourism/Education; Infrastructure; Environmental; and Public Health.
Each sub-committee chose a leader, as did each of the working groups within a sub-committee. And within those working groups are both specific and general action items where progress is reported up the line. Sub-committees formed and began attending and contributing to meetings almost immediately, some remotely via email pending their return in September.
The reporting within the various subcommittees, groups, and subgroups is organized much like that of Betsy Knaak’s Economic Development/Tourism/Education.
“We first created a list of issues with which the county could assist us,” she said. “We then divided into workgroups to study and progress with the issues. Each workgroup has a leader, who organizes their meetings and reports their findings and progress back to the larger group.”
Below is a summary of Revitalization Subcommittees’ activities thus far, along with the name of the Subcommittee Leader. With summer nearly over and some folks involved in the process (via remote email) returning for the season, work is only just getting started:
Economic Development/Tourism/Education – Betsy Knaak
FEMA flood regulations: Setting up community info forum to review regs and maps.
County permitting: Setting up a weekly appointment time for Borregans to call in for questions and guidance.
Investigating incentives to encourage investment, such as Community Choice Aggregation (electrical energy choices)
Options for airport facility enhancements.
Highway signage for promoting tourism.
Code updates for prep of Community Plan.
Exploring transportation needs and solutions for local kids attending colleges and trade schools.
Compiling and reviewing Borrego demographics, i.e., winter residents and second-home owners.
Environment – David Garmon
With regard to “Air Quality” (501 in our Matrix), David Garmon will meet on Sept. 20 with Bill Brick of the San Diego Regional Air Pollution Control District to discuss Borrego’s ongoing Air Quality Monitoring Program, identified sources of air pollution in Borrego Springs, and potential enforcement activities.
There are several issues worthy of specific mention here – Invasive Weed Eradication, Air Quality, and Abandoned Wells. Sub-committee member Chris McDonald reports on the subject of weed eradication:
“Volutaria is a newly emerging, noxious and invasive weed that is found in a few locations in Southern California. Borrego Springs has the largest known Volutaria outbreak, and there is no known established population in other desert communities. It threatens to reduce spring wildflower blooms and wildlife habitat in Borrego Springs. This summer, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) awarded funds to local Weed Management Areas for mapping weed outbreak locations and for reducing the weed biomass across California.”
“San Diego County is one of the counties that received a grant from CDFA for over $50,000 as part of a project in the continued effort to reduce Volutaria presence in Borrego Springs, and to manage smaller Volutaria outbreaks and other noxious weeds throughout the region. Making a concerted effort to contain this weed, before it spreads across the desert could help save millions of acres from being invaded and could save management costs in future abatement projects.”
From sub-committee member Pat Mathews:
“There is an experiment underway funded by UCI and volunteers to determine if solarization of pulled Volutaria plants in barrels is effective in killing weed seeds. This could help pave the way to the development of a weed disposal/solarization center in Borrego Springs providing motivation to volunteers to pull weeds and dispose of them properly.”
It should also be noted that regarding Sahara Mustard control/removal, 10 U.S. House Representatives have signed onto a letter directing the USDA to complete within the next five years the biocontrol project initiated in 2014 by the Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy and UCI.
Turning to the dangers associated with abandoned wells, sub-committee member/Borrego Water District Board Director Dave Duncan and General Manager Geoff Poole are in the process of acquiring County permit data to compile a comprehensive list of permitted wells in Borrego Springs. The search is on for abandoned wells. Leaving those wells accessible to potential vandalism, particularly illegal dumping of dangerously long-lived chemicals and/or pesticides directly into our one and only drinking water supply, must be avoided at all cost.
Each well will have to be reviewed in terms of 1) its actual existence, location, and landowner ID info, and 2) if it’s abandoned, has it been properly capped? If not, it will perhaps be temporarily capped above ground and/or put on a work schedule for permanent sub-surface capping at some future time. With land fallowing and sale/transfer of GSP-related water credits coming to the fore, an immediate start on this potential problem is a high priority.
Public Health – Bruce Kelley
The Public Health Subcommittee is working on three overlapping healthcare issues: 1) the need for another clinic to serve the community, 2) seniors’ need for clinic services, and 3) the need for coverage of the uninsured and those whose insurers do not extend coverage to Borrego Springs.
The Borrego Valley Endowment Fund recently released to the Public Health Sub-committee a study it sponsored which addressed these needs. The Sub-committee plans to provide to residents this information and more in the near future about the need for a clinic. We can now provide the following information about the three issues we are addressing:
The study found that the population of our service area is estimated to use 39,700 primary & urgent care visits per year. That is many more visits than needed to support another clinic, even taking into account visits delivered by the Borrego Medical Clinic. Today, most residents are receiving most of their clinic visits in towns outside Borrego Springs
Seniors covered by traditional Medicare are estimated to use 16,100 primary & urgent care visits per year
The uninsured are estimated to use about 1,500 primary & urgent care visits per year.
During the upcoming season, the Public Health Sub-committee will provide much more information to residents about the need for clinic and other health-related services, about more of the needs of our seniors, and about how insurance coverage can be expanded in Borrego Springs.
Kelley notes this is a public, community-wide initiative that has three working teams and that also desires broad community input. If you would like to be on a working team, please email the team leader listed below:
Clinic Team: email Bruce Kelley - firstname.lastname@example.org
Seniors Team: email Dan Wright – email@example.com
Insurance Team: email Jana Edwards – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to express an idea or opinion, please email the appropriate team leader.
Infrastructure – Elaine Tulving
The Infrastructure Subcommittee has identified the following items as High Priority:
IT-infrastructure and access (i.e., improved speed and reliability); and
Street Improvement (pedestrian safety, crosswalks, traffic calming, sidewalks, bike lands and signage).
While still important, but not High Priority, is road repair.
Items #1 and #2 are still in the information gathering stages (actively gathering), and was a topic of discussion Aug. 29, at the library.
“I believe after Thursday’s meeting we will be moving forward with the next phase in the Village plan so the County can improve the Village area,” Tulving noted. “I encourage business owners and property owners along Palm Canyon Drive to view Richard Orne’s presentation.”
A summary of Orne’s presentation, when made available for public release, will be in an upcoming issue.