Revitalization Meeting Discusses


Last updated 2/11/2022 at 11:16am

San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond opened his monthly Revitalization Committee Meeting by thanking the Borrego Springs residents that took up the battle with the County’s Redistricting Committee over moving Borrego Springs into another Supervisor’s district, and won!

Supervisor Desmond said that he was very pleased that Borrego Springs is remaining in his district, and to continue working with the community on projects where the County has authority or can make a difference.

“Borrego Springs is one of my favorite unincorporated communities. I admire the way people care and volunteer; are willing to step up and to take responsibility for bettering the community, and actually make things happen,” Desmond stated.

The chairs of the various sub-committees made their reports, which included a common theme of requesting help from the Supervisor’s office or County staff.

One of the highlights of the report was $7.6 million to the Borrego Watermaster for grants in the basin to reduce water usage and rates. This is the Borrego Springs share from a $157 million state grant to the 20 overcharged water districts.

Bruce Kelley, Chairman of the Public Health Sub-Committee, gave an overview and update on the volunteer activities of the COVID-19 Task Force. Volunteers contributed hours updating the website, assisting the fire departments during testing and vaccinating events. They notified the community of test and vaccination dates, registered people, and passed along the latest information on the virus through Zoom meetings, website and emails.

Kelley advised that the fire departments did not administer vaccines or give tests in January, due to the COVID spread within the ranks of first responders. However, the Borrego Springs Clinic is offering tests for Omicron, noting that people need to make appointments and that the test given at the clinic takes three days for results. He mentioned that the take-home tests sold at retail stores are getting harder to find. However, some insurance companies may be giving out the test kits to their members.

The Borrego Springs Fire Protection District’s continuing budget crisis may affect the ability of the district to keep both paramedics and the paramedic ambulances operating.

“This problem isn’t going away. Its impacts on the emergency health care services in Borrego for residents and tourists will only get worse,” Kelley warned.

“Since the last attempt to increase the District’s budget in 2018, which failed to get the supermajority required, members of the community, looking at the problems facing the District, are discussing the options available to the community. One option is mounting a grass roots ballot measure for a tax increase in the November 8 General Election. This and other alternatives need to be explored by the community.”

Betsy Knaak, chair of the Economic Development, Tourism, and Education Sub-Committee reported her concern about the summer lunch program for students, which fed 50 – 60 kids at the Library, while school was out of session.

“The food program didn’t happen last summer and we would like to see it resumed this summer.”

Meanwhile, Knaak announced that an update on the Flood Study and Maps will be presented in a future FEMA Forum, hosted by the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group. The forum will also be discussing early warning flooding, and the effects of the flood control project. Rebecca Falk, chair of the Sponsor Group will announce the date.

Pointing out impressive data from the “Let’s Go” program funded by the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund (BVEF), Knaak explained that the $16,394 first time funding resulted in 34 volunteer drivers, transporting some 41 applicants, using money provided to them by the BVEF. The cost was $165 per month to take residents to grocery stores and medical appointments.

According to Knaak, the program should be expanded to include compensation for driving Borrego students to colleges in Riverside and San Diego.

“Not owning cars, or having the gas money to get to college is one the biggest obstacles our students face when trying to continue their education.”

She suggested that the “Let’s Go” program needs an annual budget in the $20 to $40,000 range.

The plan to place way finder signs or directionals to Borrego Springs on state, county, and federal highways, has so far accomplished the placement of signs on some County Roads, like the one on Montezuma Grade. However, Knaak mentioned, the state has not been cooperative with signage on state highways. Supervisor Desmond said that he would contact the state Department of Transportation, and Senator Brian Jones to see if he could move things forward.

The Call boxes on roadways continue to be removed, creating a safety hazard on dangerous roads where there’s no WiFi service, like Montezuma Grade and the Salton Parkway. This only underscores the need for more broadband, and how the Digital Divide remains a top priority for Borrego Springs and desert areas.

Jim Wilson added that the repaving of the Imperial County’s section of S22, or the Salton Parkway is not going anywhere despite contact and requests.

“The road is very dangerous, and we need some help from the Supervisor’s office to put some pressure on Imperial County Supervisors, who have probably never been on the road,” he suggested.

Members of the Airport Task Force and the County were praised by Knaak for improved landscaping and cleanup.

“They are continuing work on air-port terminal signage, and a future transition to Solar energy for the airport operations, as well as car rentals and electric car charging stations,” she concluded.

Environmental Sub-Committee Chair, Dr. David Garmon, pointed out the continued need for collaborative action between the County and the community to rid the desert of invasive plants.

The Voltaria, Desert Knapweed: Volutaria Tubuliflora, has currently been mapped on three acres. The weed suffocates the wildflowers, affecting Borrego’s main tourist attraction,” he warned.

Also, according to Dr. Garmon, the County Department of Environmental Health and Quality (DEHEQ) found six abandoned wells and two additional wells (assumed on private property). “Investigation of the wells is hampered by the County Policy of requiring proof of danger or reasons prior to going onto private property,” Dr. Garmon opined. Supervisor Desmond said he would review the issue and the County Policy.

No new information on the white, unmarked trucks that speed through town. Their point of origin, what they transport and where they deposit their load remains a mystery. However, the Highway Patrol has been notified of the danger they represent, particularly, speeding past the elementary school.

$680,000 to one million dollars has been approved by the County for the Sunset and Palm Canyon Drive shade and sidewalk structures. The sidewalk and auxiliary structures will be installed along Sunset from the Art Institute to the Post Office. The schedule includes advertising for a contractor, with construction beginning in early June or July, and completion slated for fall 2022.

Jim Bennett, who sits on the Borrego Basin’s Watermaster Board’s Technical Committee and represents the County of San Diego, brought up the fact that the Watermaster Board meets the second Thursday of every month at 4:30 p.m. and urged the public to attend virtually.

According to Bennett, some exciting things are happening, including $7.6 million given to the Watermaster to select local applicant grants that will reduce water usage and rates. The funds are from $152 million allocated by the state to 20 critically overdrafted basins, in compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

For more information and the grants and the selection process, go to the Watermaster’s website.

For information regarding meetings of the Borrego Basin Watermaster, click on the links below to download meeting agendas, board packets, meeting minutes, and supplementary handouts (if applicable). Information about current and past meetings of the Borrego Springs Watermaster Technical Advisory Committee, please click here. Information about current and past meetings of the Borrego Springs Watermaster Environmental Working Group, please click here.

To attend the Water Board meetings, see the 2022 meeting agendas follow the links below: 2022: Agenda Package Presentation Agenda packet and link to the meeting are at: Borrego Springs Watermaster – Regular Board Meeting Agenda Package (TBD) Thursday Feb. 10, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (PST) –