San Diego News Room

South Bay wetlands restoration brings together SD county residents

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Environment and Resources Wildlife
Written by albert h. fulcher
Monday, 28 February 2011 17:46
Poway resident Mike Greene volunteers in Chula Vista’s Emory Cove to remove and replace plant life. Photo courtesy Albert H. Fulcher.

South San Diego Bay is in the midst of the Port of San Diego’s biggest environmental restoration projects yet.

Breaking ground in September, the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve restoration is the product of government, business, environmentalist and grass root volunteers, restoring more than 280 acres of recovered natural habitat. The Port anticipates renovation of the entire 280 acres in the Chula Vista Wildlife Reserve and National Wildlife Refuge, as well as Pond 10 and 11 in the Salt Works near Imperial Beach, to be completed by September 2011.

Behind the South Bay Power Plant, 55 acres of renovated habitat finished by March. Already, dredging is restoring the basins by carving tidal creeks and channel, replicating the natural environment.

According to the Port, this process allows water to flow through the area more efficiently and creates new habitat for fish and wildlife. Graded at a slope, it supports a habitat for the variety of native plants and wildlife that depends on it. More than 35,000 cubic yards of soil have been excavated in the east and west basin. Work will transport the soil underwater through 10-inch pipes 7,500 feet to Pond 11 to restore the habitat there.

David Merk, Director of Environmental Services for the Port, said this new environment would become an enviable habitat to endangered birds, the Eastern Pacific green sea turtle and thousands of migratory birds. South San Diego Bay is home to many endangered birds like the California least tern, the light-footed clapper rail and the western snowy plover.

Merk said what intrigued him most about the project is that all of the agencies involved are pleased with the plan and its results.

Chula Vista’s Emory Cove. Photo courtesy Albert H. Fulcher.

“What you see is three years of hard work,” said Merk. “Look at the size of the project. Matching funds were needed. We had to draw in many agencies for funding and planning to pull it off.”

Funding for the project comes from $1.3 million of the Port’s Environmental Fund and contributions and grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Megan Cooper, project manager for the California Coastal Conservancy (CCC), said they have managed funding and the project has taken two paths—the port side and the western salt ponds.

The CCC contributed $1.2 million to the project. It is managing more than $3 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and federal stimulus money.

“The federal stimulus money is being put to good use for the environment and the community,” she said. “We track every minute and report to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on all stimulus monies spent.”

Cooper said she was happy with all of the partners in this large project and its progress so far. Requests for Proposals are out looking for contractors to begin work in February in the western salt ponds.

“We are very excited about this project,” said Cooper. “It is not only good for the environment, but it is also great for the community as well.”

Cooper said the CCC has been working in the South Bay for 15 years. She said this project could not be accomplished without all its partners.

“I want to make sure people understand that we are not just taking care of the environment: We are creating jobs,” said Cooper. “Engineers, biologists, construction crews and all the other people that are doing work out in the fields [are] earning money.”

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said the Port’s wetlands restoration project will greatly contribute to the long-term health of the region’s valuable natural resources.

“When this project is completed it will complement the City and the Port’s bayfront redevelopment efforts anticipated through the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan,” said Cox.  “The Bayfront Master Plan will ultimately lead to a well-balanced development of a world-class hotel and conference center, condominiums, retail, parks, and natural open space areas.”

Much of the volunteer work already completed has taken place at Emory Cove off the Silver Strand. Volunteer efforts headed by the San Diego Audubon Society (SDAS) and the San Diego Oceans Foundation (SDOF)  began restoration of the cove, removing much of the non-native ice plant and planting native species in its place. Three volunteer workdays were held October through December, and Merk said more than 300 community volunteers have helped to remove invasive plants. The next step is replanting coastal sage and salt marsh plants.

Shannon Dougherty, conservation coordinator for SDAS, has worked on a variety of other habitat restoration and conservations projects. SDAS was selected as one of the nonprofit partners to recruit and coordinate community-involved volunteers. Dougherty said the SDAS is working in collaboration with the SDOF to coordinate these volunteer events.

“We have an established relationship with the Port as we both have a shared interest in protecting and restoring the natural communities and wildlife populations within the Bay tidelands,” said Dougherty.

Dougherty loves grassroots level projects because of the unique opportunity to engage and work with a diverse group of volunteers, some of which have little exposure to the kind of work done and the places worked.

“It’s fun to see someone experiencing a different part of their region for the first time and learning about the many local species and habitats that we have here in San Diego County,” she said. “For a project of this scale, it requires prep work and planning. We work with our partners from start to finish including any kind of pre-event prep work such as flagging planting areas, preparing an orientation session to teach volunteers how to plant and other similar kinds of activities that help the event run smoothly.”

Dougherty said this project would not happen at the current cost or scale without volunteers. By the end of the project, more than 1500 volunteer hours will be logged.

Shannon Dougherty, conservation coordinator for SDAS, headed the Emory Cove volunteer cleanup. Photo courtesy Albert H. Fulcher.

On Jan. 8, volunteers from all over the county assembled in Emory Cove to help remove and replace plant life. Dougherty headed the project. Volunteers pulled ice plant and hauled it to dumpsters, planted and watered California Sage, Lemonade Berry and Laurel Sumac trees along with Jumping Cholla, Barrel and Coastal Prickly Pear cactus. Volunteers then took trash bags and picked up debris throughout the area.

Emory Cove is a common stopping place and several species of birds surrounded workers. Black Brants, Marbled Godwits, great herons, osprey and snowy egrets continuously flew around the cove. They represented just a few of the thousands of species of shorebirds that live and migrate through the area.

SDAS president Peter Thomas said since 1948, beginning primarily as a bird watching club, they have naturally progressed into restoration and education projects.

“We are so fortunate [to have] volunteers,” said Thomas. “We could not do this without them. One large goal is to bring more of the South Bay community involvement to show people the beauty of the nature that surrounds them and provide education that will be passed on for generations.”

Mike Greene came all the way from Poway to attend the Emory Cove event. Green is a member of the SDAS and docent at the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway. An avid bird watcher and biker, he said he tries to come out and do the “grunt work” as often as he can.

“Reestablishment of the native environment is not just for the birds and wildlife, but for the people too,” said Greene. “Getting involved always sounds good, but looking at the people actually working towards the future is why I do this.”

David Kimball, SDAS board member, said he has been actively involved in these types of projects for more than 10 years. He said his pride and joy is the restoration work done at Sunset Cliffs and the San Diego Famosa Slough.

“I have worked from Vista down to the border,” said Kimball. “Today is a beautiful day — look what you see around us. I love doing this work. We are still expecting to place 800 more plants.”

Merk said volunteers bring a lot of energy to the project and they are always looking for more.


San Diego News Room-California Fish and Game Commission pass final Southern California Marine Life Protected Areas

Environment and Resources Land
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 18:34
Southern California’s coastline now has more Marine Life Protected Areas (MLPA), with several falling on San Diego County’s shores.More than four years in planning, the California Fish and Game Commission passed regulations creating 36 new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the California South Coast Study Region in Santa Barbara on Dec. 15 with a 3-2 vote.Many of these areas generated heavy debate amongst communities, with environmentalists, scientists, commercial and recreational fishermen, and residents joining into the fray on how best to protect the future of coastal natural habitats, preserve local economy and provide public recreational freedom.

Regional boundaries extend from Point Conception to the California-Mexico border. Regulations were adopted as part of the Marine Life Management Act of 1998, which focused on maintaining the health of marine ecosystems and biodiversity in order to sustain resources. This passage encompasses about 187 square miles of state waters in the region.

Planning groups for the expansions of MLPAs include the Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRFT), Science Advisory Team (SAT), Regional Stakeholder Group, Statewide Interests Group, and the California Fish and Game Commission. New regulations were passed following more than 50 days of meetings with formal public comment and are expected to go into effect mid-2011.

Fish and Game Commissioners Dan Richards and President Jim Kellogg voted against adopting the Commission’s Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) proposed regulation. Richards named three distinct reasons for his “no” vote.“First and foremost, the protection of the ocean and its habitat is as important to Kellogg and myself as [it is to] the other commissioners,” said Richards. “What we are looking for is a fair, transparent process for all constituents – a plan that truly considers the economic impact of this decision and an adaptive management plan that can be properly funded and implemented.”

The Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states that the IPA includes changes in allowable fishing and other uses: “Though these changes may result in economic impacts to commercial fishing interest and ocean-dependent fishing businesses, these impacts have been evaluated and minimized during the design of the proposed Project IPA and alternatives.”

Richards argues that the EIR does not address the negative economic impacts on the fishing industry and the actual impact is unknown.

“The economic impact here is huge,” Richards said. “This plan will put thousands of Californians out of work.”

Ecotrust’s January 2010 report to the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative estimated annual net economic impact on commercial fisheries is a loss of -15.6 percent in San Diego and -29.1 percent in Oceanside. The report estimated loss for commercial passenger fishing vessels at -27.4 percent in San Diego and -12 percent in Oceanside.Adaptive management of protected areas includes implementing and enforcing the new laws, closely monitoring protected areas, and educating the public. Richards said current laws are good but with California in an economic crisis, the state is already having a tough time funding enforcement.

“Changes made in the IPA are a lifetime change and there is zero ability to implement and enforce proper adaptive management,” he said. “The new enacted plan is fatally flawed, hurts the fishing industry and I cannot support it. It would be irresponsible.”

Fish and Game Commissioner’s vice president Richard Rogers, along with members Jack Baylis and Michael Sutton, voted yes on the proposed plan. Sutton said he has been an avid fan of the MLPA process and the decision will level the playing field of land-protected areas and the coastal areas.

Sutton’s day job is serving as vice president and director of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans. He said there is less than one percent of protected ocean in the world.

“Our decision will serve all constituents, the fisherman as well,” said Sutton. “We need a place for fish to spawn and live. There is abundant evidence that marine reserves are good for the fishing industry and best for the coastal environment.”

Sutton said many environmentalists think the IPA does not protect enough while fishermen complain it’s too restrictive. He said allowing fish populations to increase would create an overflow, pushing fish into open areas, both protecting spawning areas and further supporting the fishing industry now and in the future.

“On land, I have never met a hunter who did not believe in protected reserves,” he said. “They understand the necessity for preservation of species and its importance to the future of gaming. I think of the IPA as fish unlimited.”

In the city of San Diego, several adopted areas have the highest degree of protection. San Diego-Scripps Coastal State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)/Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (SMR) cluster moved the shared boundary below Scripps Pier. Matlahuayl SMR remains a no-take environment and San Diego-Scripps allows recreational hook and line fishing. Other no-take areas adopted were the Famosa Slough SMCA and Cabrillo SMR with an SAT level of very high. Designated at level high, the Tijuana River Mouth SMCA only allows recreational dip net and commercial round haul net fishing.

Dr. Serge Dedina, WiLDCOAST executive director, said the designation of the coastal and marine region at the mouth of the Tijuana River as an MPA is a significant step in its efforts to protect the ecological and economic values of our natural resources. He said WiLDCOAST recently stopped a $75-million Army Corps dredging project that would have destroyed the reef and used its nomination as an MPA to justify its efforts.

“Thirty years after standing in front of bulldozers to stop the destruction of the Tijuana Estuary, I surf the offshore reefs of the federally protected estuary and recently declared marine protected area,” he said. “It was only until the MPA process that this amazing reef—home to our resident pod of bottlenose dolphins and probably the most important leopard shark spawning sight in Southern California—was officially recognized as a real ecosystem.”

With many sites in contention, more than 1,000 people overflowed the Four Points Sheraton in San Diego on Oct. 16, generating more than five hours of discussion regarding MLPAs. Speakers of all ages, backgrounds and interests gave local input on the pros and cons of the proposed regulations.

Several sites with state beaches fall under the management of the Commission and California State Parks. In some areas, this created dispute as the state parks department works to bring visitors and revenue in the area and designation of MLPAs interferes with state park planning.

Swamis in Encinitas had several options for the Commission to consider.

Ruth Coleman, director of California state parks, said the department manages 30 percent of the coastline. Coleman said the department had concerns in the Swami’s SMCA, dealing with recreational fishing and the economic impact of the proposed IPA.

“What we are asking is that you create an additional ribbon along the shoreline to allow for shoreline fishing,” she said. “This is a park where we have around three million visitors a year. Under our regulations these areas are designated as state beaches and fishing is legal here.”

City of Encinitas Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan disagreed, saying the current IPA proposal protects the residents’ present and future quality of life and economic vitality.

“I would ask you keep the highest level of protection at Swamis,” she said. “Many of us believe allowing the shoreline ribbon would leave the protection level to low and to seriously consider the scientist advisory team’s recommendation.”

In the Commission’s final adoption, Swami’s SMCA northern boundary extends to the Cottonwood Creek mouth and the southern boundary extends south to align with the State Parks beach. Recreational shore-based fishing with hook and line gear is allowed.

An area of great contention among anglers, divers and the public is the South La Jolla SMR/SMCA, which has a high concentration of recreational divers and boaters.

Diver Michael Dong said the San Diego Council of Divers represents a combination of eight diving groups in San Diego, and divers in the area have a significant economic impact to the San Diego region. He said it is a product of a collaborative effort with the sustainability of a healthy fishery in mind. Restrictions and compression of the La Jolla proposed open-take area will result in users being placed in danger due to boat traffic on the water.

“Including enclosures will not restore the area to the pristine 1920s; that’s a fact,” he said. “A science-based incremental approach is supported by the dive council. A gradual, correctable program is the most optimal, sane and ecologically-sound step to take for a continued productive environment. As fishermen we also want MPAs to continue our resource.”

The Commission’s decision added maximum recommended protection to the area by moving the southern boundary one city block south and one city block north to enclose the intertidal reef.

In San Diego’s October public forum, Tommy Gomes, San Diegan commercial fisherman and South Coast Stakeholder for the MLPA process, said the seeming transparency of the meetings is false. He said the commission and other stakeholders were in violation of several California State Acts. Gomes called the process “crooked, flawed and corrupt,” claiming that BRFT held several private meetings which compromised the entire process.

George Osborn, who represents Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, said the PSO has been continually and constructively engaged in the Marine Protection Act process.

Rushing the MLPA process to meet political deadlines— despite the fishing community’s legitimate concerns about the adequacy of science, data and transparency—was an issue of concern. On Oct. 1, the California Superior Court held up the right for access to all documents requested.

“To this date the requested documents have not been provided,” Osborn said. “Even if they responded soon there would not be reasonable time to review these documents prior to the December vote.”

Osborn urged the Commission to delay adoption of the MPA regulations for the South Coast until receipt of all requested documents.

“No harm would be done to the natural resources by the postponement,” he said. “But it could do considerable harm to the integrity of the regulatory process if the board forces a vote in December. To do otherwise invites legal challenges.”

Sharon Garrison of the Natural Resources Defense council said her focus was on California’s fisheries. She said even though some fisheries are working, there are spawning species declining at rapid rates.

“California has had its share of fishery crashes, from sardines to commercial abalone. We have learned some things since then and fishery management is working for some species now,” she said. “For those species (in danger) and the many others we value, scientists believe the most effective management approach combines protected areas that safeguard spawning habitat with proper fishery management measures. We can all get on the important business of restoring and sustaining abundant oceans and fisheries as our legacy to the future generation.”

San Diego County’s Batiquitos Lagoon and San Elijo Lagoon also passed as protected no-take SMCAs.

San Diego News Room-Pat Aguilar has big plans for Chula Vista

San Diego Cities Chula Vista
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 09:01
New Chula Vista councilwoman cites rough childhood in New York as driving force behind her committment to public safety
Chula Vista swore in its newest City Council member, Patricia Aguilar, on Dec. 7 at City Hall. After an extensive campaign against longtime Otay Water District official Larry Breitfelder, Aguilar took control of Chula Vista City Council Seat No. 2 with more than 54 percent of the vote.

Endorsed by the Chula Vista Police Department, Aguilar made community safety a top priority in her campaign platform. Aguilar grew up in the projects of Queens and Manhattan during the 1960s when crime was rampant. Without a sense of security, Aguilar believes, people have no quality of life.

“That is one reason I am so concerned about public safety,” said Aguilar. “I grew up in a neighborhood where you needed bars on your windows and doors and you felt afraid to go out at night at all. That’s why I believe public safety is number one – because I grew up in an environment that wasn’t safe.”

Chula Vista financial forecasts show a deficit of $18.5 million for fiscal year 2010-11 and an additional $18.5 million for the following fiscal year. Chula Vista’s proposed sales tax, Proposition A, failed in May and a utility users tax (Proposition H) failed to gain voter support later in the fall.

Both candidates predicted the failure of Proposition H during campaigning. Breitfelder is a strong advocate of fiscal reform in Chula Vista. President of the Chula Vista Taxpayer Association and member of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce Public Policy and Economic Development committees, Breitfelder achieved positive results in his many business and charitable movements in the Chula Vista community. He founded his campaign on revitalization of local economy, restoration of declining neighborhoods and city fiscal reform.

“It did occur to me that an issue on the ballot would be the utility tax,” said Breitfelder. “I have been on the record for a couple of years stressing that the language of this old ordinance should be modernized — it deals with technology, after all.  However, it should be done in a revenue neutral way. Not as a pretext for a tax increase.”

Prop H would have placed the city’s five-percent telecommunication tax under the city utility user tax and  brought more revenue in by taxing cell phones, text messaging, and other communication devices and services such as T-1 lines, paging, toll free numbers and voice-over-internet protocol.

Aguilar said that Chula Vista faces difficult decisions concerning public services in light of the massive budget problem. With today’s economic climate, she maintains, the only way to reduce the equation is to either increase incoming or reduce outgoing expenses. She said that the city’s financial decisions are like anyone’s personal budget –it’s a process of learning of what you can and cannot live without.

“The city is going to have to do the same thing, and it is going to be very painful,” she said. “I would need to hear from the public on what facilities are affected by these decisions. I believe that most of the community would not mind a small increase in sales tax if they knew exactly what services would be provided with the increase.”

Aguilar said a key element in her platform is job growth and economic expansion. She would like to see Chula Vista become the center for the health care industry in South Bay – a niche for the city that would spin job growth. In tandem with a four-year university and strong programs in medical science, she says, an industry can be created using current hospital resources, a high level of education in the field and all of the businesses and industries that support health care.

“It fits within our demographics, an aging population, the federal health program and our position to Mexico,” she said. “I think the city’s part in this is to bring in experts in the area (Sharp, Scripps) and discuss how we can turn this city into a health care Mecca. I see a synergy here I would like to work on.”

Aguilar said it is time to for council members to work together, focusing on issues that the majority of the public agrees with.

“Too many times we get hung up on an extreme one-sided view of an issue,” she said. “I think it is time for elected officials on all councils and boards to become a little more humble and remember they are there to serve the people that elected them.”

The councilwoman  said her family was instrumental to her approach in getting involved at the grassroots level. Even in the leanest times of her childhood, the New York Times was always delivered and she learned about politics at the family dinner table. Her father worked for the New York subway system was on the forefront of establishing the state into the Transport Workers Union, one of the first municipal unions ever founded in this country. Her mother, due to landlord discrimination in the projects, was instrumental in obtaining protection for tenants who paid rent and did things right.

“That is the kind of environment I grew up in. You see something, you don’t like what is going on, you do something about it. This is one reason I tackle issues the way I do — from the bottom up, rather than the top down. I feel so strongly in fulfilling a community service. I have no plans of running for assembly or congress, I just want to serve this community.”

Aguilar has been active at the grassroots level in Chula Vista for 20 years. She has served on several community organizations, including Bayfront Citizens Advisory Committee, Chula Vista Design Review Board, Chula Vista Planning Commission, Chula Vista General Plan Update Steering Committee and the Chula Vista Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

Aguilar co-founded Crossroads II, Chula Vista’s community advocacy organization, in 2003 and served as president until declaring candidacy. She earned a masters degree in architecture and urban planning from University of California, Los Angeles. The majority of her professional life was spent working at University of California, San Diego as director of planning during a time of tremendous university growth.

Aguilar called Chula Vista an incredible place to live, though she was initially skeptical when moving from Point Loma 20 years ago. She said she fell in love with the canyons and plateaus, and being surrounded by the bay, Otay Valley Regional Park, Otay Lakes and the Sweetwater River made Chula Vista a beautiful home for her family.

“It is physically beautiful and the weather is like nowhere else in the world, but more than that there is something about the spirit of the people here. I just want to make a contribution to this place I’ve come to love,” said Aguilar.

San Diego News Room-Chula Vista to begin construction on natural gas-fired peaker plant

San Diego Cities Chula Vista
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Tuesday, 17 August 2010 23:15Chula Vista is in the beginning evaluation of constructing a 300-megawatt natural gas-fired peaker plant and substation on 14 acres of city-owned, protected land in Otay Valley Regional Park (OVRP).

Some feel this project is being overshadowed by the controversial Sunrise Powerlink and the shutting down of the South Bay Power Plant, and is thus slipping under the community’s radar. The need for additional power is not in contention, but some are concerned about this plant’s impact on a protected habitat.

Pio Pico Energy Center, LLC, (PPEC) submitted an Application for Certification (AFC) to the California Energy Commission (CAEC) on June 30. With a maximum capacity of 4,000 hours per year, the application states that this plant directly satisfies San Diego’s area demand for peaking and load-shaping generation.

Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox said she was notified by California Independent System Operator in 2007 that two of three elements were needed to remove the South Bay plant: the operation of Otay Mesa, Sunrise Powerlink and one or two additional peaker plants.

“Chula Vista has a multi-pronged approach to energy use, including conservation and solar energy,” Cox said. “A replacement 300 megawatt peaker plant contributes substantially to the demolition of the South Bay plant while assuring a source of energy for the region.” Michael Meacham, Director of Conservation & Environmental Service for the City of Chula Vista, said the city considered every industrial and limited industrial site more than 1,000 feet from sensitive receptors.

This resulted in four parcels, three privately owned and one owned by the city. SDG&E sent a Request for Offers. Chula Vista marketed every developer that had successfully completed the CAEC process and had built and operated a plant in California in the last four years.

Meacham said the proposed plant is roughly a mile from existing schools and housing. The location will maintain a distance of approximately 4,500 feet from the edge of proposed Chula Vista University.

“Tucked in a corner with mountainsides to the north, east and south, it will not be seen except from the valley floor. Public process addressing potential color and vegetative screening should make it almost disappear from view,” said Meacham.

Gary Chandler, president of Apex Power, the project’s developer, said the proposed site is the preferred and only choice for the PPEC project and is needed to support renewable energy in the region.

Surrounded by utility trails, this property has above ground transmission lines, underground water lines, natural gas lines and is immediately adjacent to the Otay Water Treatment plant.

“We looked at other possibilities. Sites are extremely limited because of necessity for gas lines and water supply,” said Chandler. “This site already has resources in place and an industrial character to the area next to the water treatment plant.”

This mesa stands directly below Otay Lakes County Park. Made up of more than 8,000 acres, the OVRP is a diverse environment, containing at least 14 habitats that are home to several rare and endangered animal and plant species. Native nesting and migrating birds, a large variety of mammals, reptiles and tiny bionetworks depend on this river valley.

Frank Ohrmund, the secretary of Friends of OVRP, said community awareness is needed now concerning the proposal.

“I just cannot comprehend why a 20 year effort to create a regional park is being trumped so easily for expected tax revenue,” he said. “Especially when a site is for sale just south of Otay Mesa. City Council should pass on this revenue source to validate the years put into creating OVRP and save Otay Lakes Park.”

Ohrmund said there are 19 acres for sale, with a 30-inch gas line, next to the peaker plant at the corner of Otay Mesa and Harvest Road. The land has a $5 million price tag with grading plans ready to go.

Chandler said the proposed plant can start partially or totally within 10 minutes and is designed for peak periods of power needs. He said this project will also bring revenue and jobs to the city.

“This project will generate more than 200 temporary construction jobs, all local union labor,” he said. “It will create 12 permanent jobs to run the facility.”

Meacham said revenue from PPEC has potential to replace some of the nearly $3 million in average annual revenue from the South Bay plant, and will be reinvested in providing local public services.

“The plant’s ramping ability makes it a perfect candidate to complement growth of local solar and wind resources,” said Meacham, adding that its efficiency would lower the cost to San Diego area ratepayers.

Mayor Cox said the South Bay plant carries negative environmental impacts to the community and bayfront. But as there are plans to demolish the South Bay plant, the energy source has to be replaced.

“Chula Vista uses 125 megawatts and our current population is about 231,000,” she said. “The 2010 Census will edge us towards 240,000 by 2020.”

Environmental impact on the area falls under the guidelines of the California Environmental Quality Act. Preliminary reports were submitted to CAEC July 12.

Apex presented the current proposal at OVRP to the Joint Policy-Citizen’s Advisory Committee (PC-CAC) on April 29. The agenda included site location and nearby facilities.

“The whole review process will be very public and conducted locally,” said Chandler.

Established in 1990, PC-CAC is a multi-jurisdictional OVRP planning effort by the County of San Diego, San Diego and Chula Vista. It consists of a three-member Policy Committee of elected officials and a 30-member Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, a policy committee member, said the peaker plant is much more energy efficient and affective than the South Bay plant, calling it a big improvement with less pollution.

“All things being equal, this site would not be my first choice,” he said. “This site is part of Otay Lake Park and will impact the look and feel of the park. Taking family out for a picnic by Otay Lake, they will see a power plant. It is not necessarily what people want to see.”

Katie Westfall, CAC member and WiLDCOAST Otay River conservation manager, said there are still unanswered questions about direct impacts to habitat, wildlife and future trail connections, but it is not a place for a power plant. She said the PC-CAC has done a great job creating the OVRP.

“It is one of the last areas of open space in south San Diego County and represents a place where community members can go hiking, biking and appreciate nature,” said Westfall. “Bottom line, it is a public land for people to enjoy the outdoors and a crucial habitat for wildlife.”

Supervisor Cox said he understands why this site is attractive, with access to natural gas and reclaimed water, and if approved, mitigation is needed to ensure the least amount of impact possible.

“We want, and are asking for, a call for public meetings and being kept abreast of policies,” he said. “We want to know specific impacts this project has on this area’s environment.”

Meacham said there are undoubtedly other places in SDG&E’s service area physically large enough, but he doubts there are many, if any, equally based on available resources.

“If a better site can be found, I hope and encourage the public to give alternatives, addressing challenges through robust open, transparent and inclusive local process,” said Meacham.

This project contains a property purchase of equal or greater habitat value adding 16.5 acres adjacent to the park. Requirements include a set of open space parcels of at least 14 acres near the park to be preserved.

Meacham said at the end of the lease, all property remains under city ownership and can be restored and reverted to the park. OVRP will gain at least 30.5 additional acres and have a substantial new infrastructure. PPEC is applying for a 20-year power agreement.

Chula Vista is a leader in sustainability, reducing municipal operations’ greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent since 1990, double the Kyoto commitments any country has made.

“We have lowered our energy use and cost, increased total square feet of parks, recreation facilities and roads for public use and are working on water and energy conservation every day,” said Meacham.

He said this plant would use reclaimed water, treat it on site and put it into a sewer trunk in Chula Vista.

“New sewer infrastructure will make park ground water cleaner,” he said. “It will extend the water agency’s reclaimed water lines, conserving potable water for best use in the South Bay and give access to reclaimed water for irrigation and industrial use.”

Meacham said the city believes this design and location is the best option in the community’s fair share to maintain regional energy reliability while complementing the long-range goal of reducing fossil fuel dependence.

“This improves local air quality by reducing total local emissions. The city continues to lead implementation of conservation for municipal operations and community consumption of energy and water,” he said.

Mike McCoy, an environmentalist and member of the OVRP Committee, disagrees. He has worked evaluating soft energy paths and implementation of alternative energy since 1976.

“If you are going to protect a park, then protect it,” he said. “We keep compromising the OVRP and are turning it into a great spectacle. You cannot compromise one area without putting an end to the whole process.”

McCoy said the city needs weaning off fossil fuels and strongly supports community choice aggregation as a viable alternative, as Marin County, Calif. adopted in February.

“Chula Vista needs to return to its path of less fossil fuel dependence and costly imported energy, and look beyond immediate tax revenues. Decisions we make today will affect the local and global community over the next century,” said McCoy. “Every bit of carbon loading we prevent now will save our future generations. Not to do it is just irresponsible.”

Dr. Serge Dedina, executive director at WiLDCOAST, said WiLDCOAST is committed to preserving the OVRP. Future trail plans will allow community access from Chula Vista Bayfront to Cuyamaca.

“Protecting our open lands to the community is essential. The more people are involved in nature, the happier they are. Quality of life depends on the balance of nature and access to healthy, open spaces is part of that balance,” said Dedina.

On July 30, CAEC Data Adequacy Recommendation stated, “Of the 23 technical disciplines reviewed, we believe the information contained in the AFC is deficient in eleven areas which are: air quality, alternatives, biological resources, cultural resources, efficiency, project overview, soils, traffic and transportation, transmission system engineering, visual resources and water resources.”

Chula Vista City Council approved a resolution giving the city manager authorization to negotiate and execute a lease for the property subject to final CAEC approval on February 2.

San Diego News Room-Marine Group Boat Works pumps millions of dollars into local businesses

Business and Finance San Diego Business
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Friday, 06 August 2010 08:39

Marine Group Boat Works pumps millions of dollars into local businesses

Chula Vista, Calif.: Marine Group Boat Works, LLC, with a government contract valued at more than $30 million, delivered the first of three Range Training Support Crafts (RTSC-110) to the Navy, Friday, July 23. RTSC-110s are equipped with 100 percent biodiesel (B100) engines and cold ironing capabilities.

Able to launch and recover small high-speed crafts, aerial targets and test weapons, it is a multi-mission boat supporting evolving naval requirements.

Todd Roberts, vice president of Marine Group, said the Navy is a front-runner of cold ironing with its ships, but not with smaller crafts.

“It is a big deal. It is a zero discharge boat,” said Roberts. “It does not have the capability of discharging into the ocean. Nothing can go over the side. There are no valves to allow any other type of discharge. This way no mistakes can happen.”

Roberts said the launching of the first craft was a terrific success, meeting contractual obligations and far exceeding government expectations. Internal sound and minimum speed requirements were well surpassed. “We did a lot of things not required in the building matrix,” said Roberts. “With a requirement of one crane, we added several to give it extra functionality we thought it needed. Wing control was not specified—we put them on anyway.”

In a press release, Capt. Bill Jensen, Navy Range Office resource sponsor said, “The RTSC-110 class of craft will satisfy aviation, surface and subsurface warfare training requirements. Moreover, our Sailors train towards a higher fidelity of threat representative scenarios thanks to the numerous capabilities the 110 brings to the fleet.”

Ronald Powell, director of communications for the Port of San Diego said this venture with one of its tenants is a wonderful thing for the Port to watch unfold. As the project is pumping more than $5 million into the local economy, the Port expects the total contract to exceed $15 million regionally.

“This is a true partnership in the true sense of the word,” said Powell. “Jobs are created and local businesses profit. It is a win-win situation for San Diego County.”

Family owned and operated, Marine Group reinvented itself in 2006. When renovating their facilities, Roberts said they built their redevelopment process on superior customer service.

“What we are known for is not being a typical government contractor,” said Roberts. “We listen to their needs, incorporate them and treat them as a commercial customer.”

Marine Group is one of the largest non-nuclear ship repair facilities in the country, gaining a strong reputation when it fronted a series of repair jobs for the Navy on smaller naval specialty craft.

Roberts said the economy was booming then. Defense contractors had ample work and a hard-nosed approach to government contracting. Marine Group’s unconventional mindset gave way to a request from the submarine warfare community to participate in the RTSC-110 project.

“We had done new construction historically, but not in 15 years,” said Roberts. “This project is unique. It is a design-build project.”

With a 30-page matrix from the Navy, Roberts said that after listening to their needs and expanding on them, they delivered a design the Navy described as fantastic. After hundreds of hours of designing the product, the government issued a Referral for Proposals, opening bidding nationwide.  Marine Group was awarded the contract in 2008 and is due to deliver the third boat in 2013.

“We had done a lot of investment in the design work. It was a huge relief when we were awarded the project,” said Roberts.

RTSC-110 construction begins inside on an aluminum jig, upside down, from deck to hull. It is then taken outside and flipped right side up while all inside and outside sections are completed.

Contractually, all purchases for supplies are limited to the U.S. or free trade countries. Roberts said Marine Group’s philosophy of business is to try to buy materials from local vendors whenever feasible. He said keeping commerce in San Diego turned out great.

Roberts explains that their ownership team was born and raised in San Diego, and has been a part of the region’s shipping industry almost their entire careers, so they will only go out of the region if the product they need is unavailable. “With a little more effort and explanation to vendors, I do not think it costs us more to buy locally,” he says.

The RTSC-110 contract added more than 30 employees to Marine Group and increased revenue to local vendors across the county, including Hawthorne Power Systems, N & D Trophy Shop (San Diego), South Coast Welding, Pacific Yacht Refitters (Chula Vista), Reliance Metal, South Bay Boiler (National City) and Reliable Pipe (Logan Heights).

Don Reese from N & D Trophy Shop said their contract to create labels to identify specific elements of the craft accomplished several things.

“This contract brought needed income in and was very helpful to us,” said Reese. “Creating aluminum labels, we discovered we could use our existing machinery in a different capacity. This opens the possibility of looking into new ventures and other projects, expanding our future progress.”

Hawthorne Power Systems, an authorized San Diego Caterpillar dealership, built the 1,800 horsepower engines, EPA Tier 3 emissions standards compliant, and provided an auxiliary marine generator set for house power.

Roberts said they worked very closely with Caterpillar to make sure they had a fuel system to accommodate the variety of fuels.

“What’s interesting about our boat is fuel can be intermingled. You can fill half a tank of regular diesel and fill it up with biodiesel and it won’t matter. The boat doesn’t know the difference,” he said.

Ron Dehne, from the marine engine sales division at Hawthorne Power Systems, headed conversation and sale of the biodiesel engines and house power generator. Dehne said that projects like this do not come by every day, but when they do they create jobs and revenue for all involved.

“In today’s business world, forming bolstering relationships is essential,” he said. “Projects like this make relationships stronger. Our business with Marine Group and others involved in this project is a real relationship here in San Diego.”

San Diego News Room-Finally, a new bayfront for Chula Vista

San Diego Cities Chula Vista
Written by Albert H. Fulcher   
Wednesday, 07 July 2010 22:37

In one of the largest redevelopment ventures of its kind in the nation, the city of Chula Vista is piloting a new way of executing government business. This spring, Chula Vista combined efforts with the Port of San Diego, developers, environmentalists, businesses and the community to move forward with the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan(CVBMP), ushering the city from the Industrial Era into the Green Age.

The Port of San Diego and Chula Vista City Council’s adoption of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) paves the way for top-notch redevelopment of 556 acres of bayfront land. Nestled between the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and J Street Marsh, these plans have been nearly four decades in the making, and include a 2,000-room resort, conference center, fire station, hotels, businesses supporting community and tourism, and 238 acres for parks, buffers and open spaces.

Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan Animation from Port of San Diego.

According to Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox, the city now waits to go through two more regulatory agencies for final approval: The California State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission. Crucial for approval is an even land exchange of 96.8 acres of private land adjacent to the refuge, owned by Pacifica Companies, with 35 acres at the harbor.

The sole private landowner in the master plan area, Pacifica is the only developer with residential building rights. The company’s plans for the area include 1,500 condominiums/townhouses, 15,000 sq. feet of first-floor retail, a 250-room hotel and 400,000 sq. feet of commercial/office space.

Allison Rolfe, project manager for Pacifica Companies, said residential development is a key component to a successful master plan.

“Swapping of this land does two things,” said Rolfe. “It moves residential development away from the refuge and in the middle of the master plan, creating energy, vibrancy and ‘feet on the street’ in an area the city and port hope to activate.”

Pacifica’s land has a history of agriculture and an approved local coastal program for more than 1,000 residential units. Valued at nearly double the 35 acre exchange, Pacifica agreed to an even swap. Upon final approval of the master plan, Pacifica goes to the Coastal Commission to apply for its project-specific Coastal Development Permit. Development is scheduled to begin in 2014 with final project completion in 2032.

“Our project generates more than $130 million of city tax increment and creates temporary and permanent jobs,” said Rolfe. “Included are 150 affordable housing units, plazas, promenades and pedestrian pathways.”

Rolfe said Pacifica is building its entire infrastructure with no subsidy, contributing $3 million to the master plan infrastructure. Pacifica is committing half of one percent of the sale of all units (and unit re-sales for seven years) into a community fund and $2,000 per hotel room into a foundation.

Cox said the city needed the land exchange with the current residential zoned area being so close to sensitive land.

“Environmental groups and the city had very specific desires for this well-preserved land and the wildlife that depends on it,” she said.

South Bay refuges are home to several endangered native species of birds, wildlife and plants. They also serve as a one-stop shop for migrating birds– more than 370 species of bird are documented living and migrating in these estuaries.

Rolfe said Pacifica is ready for the challenge of eco-friendly design. The company is responsible for the redevelopment of Imperial Beach’s Seacoast Inn, a plan that is Leadership in Energy- and Environmental Design-certified.

Commissioner Stephen Padilla, Port of San Diego Secretary, represents Chula Vista. Padilla says the land swap meets the criteria of the Port, but won’t be official until it’s approved this fall.

“During my administration as mayor, we abandoned old plans and started over,” said Padilla, former Chula Vista mayor and a two-term city council member. “We wanted to do it comprehensively. From the beginning we embraced the concept of placing that land into public trust for preservation.”

Environmental groups became heavily involved in 2000. A project based on an existing approved land plan spurred the creation of the Bayfront Coalition, whose members are representatives from the Environmental Health Coalition, San Diego Audubon Society, San Diego Coastkeeper, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association, The Surfrider Foundation and Empower San Diego.

Laura Hunter, associate program director of the Environmental Health Coalition, said the Bayfront Coalition had a comprehensive plan to develop the bayfront as one entity. Adopted by the Coastal Commission, it resulted in 40 meetings with representatives from every sector of the community. Hunter called these community meetings historic and healthy, claiming they brought the groups out of a stalemate.

“I think there was a lot of cross-pollination going on, allowing us to move on— not how government normally operates,” she said.

Jim Peugh of the San Diego Audubon Society said this forced many to face issues never dealt with before.

“We had to be renaissance people,” said Peugh. “Bird strikes are going to be a problem with high rises in shore birds’ flight path. Education and compromises had to be made.”

Hunter said it was hard work with difficult compromises, but in the end, very worth the effort.

“When have you ever heard of an environmental group signing up for 1,500 high-rise condos in the coastal zone? Never,” said Hunter. “Chula Vista will gain a nationwide model bayfront, setting it apart from any redevelopment of this nature.”

According to Rolfe, Pacifica believes that environmental and community benefits do not have to conflict with business.

“Accounting for the environment and community is good business,” said Rolfe. “We are proud that this project has brought people together rather than created divisions.”

Padilla said the project is an amazing collaboration between everyone involved.

“I hope when this gets to the Coastal Commission they see we now have a much better development—allowing money for the city and protection for the habitat,” he said.

In early May, the Bayfront Coalition, Port of San Diego, Chula Vista and Redevelopment Agency of the City of Chula Vista signed the Master Plan Settlement Agreement. Additional measures approved for protection of the environment go beyond those required by any applicable federal, state and local laws. This agreement places long-term mitigations in the FEIR and allows the coalition to challenge future disputes.

“There is a lot in the Settlement Agreement, but we felt we secured core issues for the habitat and community,” said Hunter. “With all of these environmental pieces in place the coalition could support the plan as a whole.”

Brian Joseph, executive director of the Chula Vista Nature Center, compared the forethought in this plan to the creation and long-term results of Balboa Park.

“I think the Chula Vista Bayfront can be the interpretive educational and cultural center for San Diego bay,” said Joseph. “This will preserve the natural habitat, attract businesses and tourists. Chula Vista deserves this image and should make people proud.”

Cox said the city wants a water-related bay, an attraction for tourists and a service for the community.

“Whether you live in Julian or Chula Vista, we all have the right to experience the beauty of the bay and the natural habitat surrounding it,” said Cox.

The Port’s analyses predict more than 7,000 construction jobs and more than 2,000 permanent jobs arising from the execution of the master plan. Estimating $11.5 million in annual tax revenue, they expect the project to produce $1.3 billion in regional revenue in the first 20 years.

Padilla said he expects revenue to go “well north” of the $1 billion estimate.

Chula Vista’s economic development officer, Denny Stone, is responsible for overall management of the master plan. Stone said Chula Vista has a rich history of infusing environmental protection with all of its many city projects.

“Chula Vista started out the gate with the idea of an economically-invested, thorough plan including protection of habitat,” he said. “We had to get together, gain each others’ perspectives and take in the perspective of the environment of the bay. I have to commend the environmental groups for stepping in, listening and learning the economics of redevelopment.”

Rolfe said that even though this acreage will be clean, Pacifica would incur additional costs in special construction techniques to ensure protection of public and resident health. Deep pile foundations over barriers are required to prevent any vapors from groundwater plume rising up.

Cox said the city will wait until next year for final approval by the Coastal Commission. In the meantime, Port of San Diego will send Request for Proposals for developers.

“When you invite someone over for dinner, you have to set the table first,” said Cox. “We do not want to send the invitation too early.”

Cox said the entire community has prepared this project together, and interested developers will have to rise to the challenge of this plan.

“When this master plan passes, there will be many very, very interested developers,” said Cox. “Can the city recruit? Certainly, from anywhere. We can say to any developer, ‘here is the plan, here is what we expect, and this is your obligation.’”

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