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El Cajon Resident Wins Otay Water District Landscape Contest

The drought-tolerant landscaping at Christine Laframboise’s El Cajon home has been a work in progress since 2015, when she, her husband and their son painstakingly pulled out two layers of grass and sod — 1,070 square feet of lawn.

This past week, her front garden took top honors in the Otay Water District’s WaterSmart Landscape Contest.

The annual contest is held by many water agencies in San Diego County to encourage and recognize residents who exemplify outdoor water-use efficiency. Agencies judge lawns in their service areas, looking at “before” and “after” photos from entrants, then awarding top picks.

El Cajon To Use About $2 Million to Save Local Waterway

A largely ignored waterway in El Cajon is about to get some much-needed TLC through $2 million in grant money.

Broadway Creek, a sliver in the 52-mile San Diego River watershed, runs behind businesses along Broadway. Much of the creek and its wetland habitat sit between homes and an apartment complex near Magnolia Avenue, in the heart of the city. 

Helix Water District’s Calavo storage tank was ideally positioned to play home to the new repeater. Photo: Helix WD emergency communication

New Helix Water District Connection Improves Emergency Communication

East San Diego County firefighters and first responders will be better prepared to respond to emergencies due to improved communication capacity through a new partnership with the Helix Water District. The Heartland Communication Facility Authority recently installed a new radio repeater on Helix Water’s Calavo tank, located near Mt. Helix.

“When public agencies work together to improve the lives of our citizens, everyone benefits,” said Helix Board President Mark Gracyk. “We are delighted with the outcome and are very proud to participate in making East County a safer place to live.”

Heartland’s goal is to provide its customers with the highest quality of public safety communications services. Heartland provides public safety communication services to 13 fire agencies throughout East San Diego County. It uses a universal radio system – known as a VHF radio – to communicate with fire agencies and first responders.

New radio repeater improves public safety

Though reliable, the hilly terrain of East County can interfere with VHF radio communications. Diagram: Helix WD emergency communication

Though reliable, the hilly terrain of East County can interfere with VHF radio communications. Diagram: Helix Water District

Though reliable, the hilly terrain of East County can interfere with VHF radio communications. As part of its effort to improve communication in El Cajon and Spring Valley, it needed a suitable location to install a radio repeater between the two communities. The Calavo storage tank was ideally positioned to play home to the new repeater. Heartland approached Helix to work out an agreement.

“Heartland Communications Facility Authority knows the needs of our local emergency communication infrastructure,” said Dan McMillian, Helix Water District board member. “When Heartland approached Helix, our board saw this as an opportunity for our two agencies to work together for the benefit of the communities that we serve.”

“The addition of a radio repeater on the Calavo Drive water tank will allow firefighters from throughout the state who respond to the East County to communicate with each other and the dispatch center using this repeater,” said Carlos Castillo, Director of Heartland Communications. “Communications are an integral part of the firefighting effort in suppressing wildland fires, and firefighter safety relies on an effective communication infrastructure.”

Project completed prior to anticipated 2020 wildfire season

Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a four-foot antenna at the top of the tank. Photo: Helix WD

Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a four-foot antenna at the top of the tank. Photo: Helix Water District

Construction started in March 2020 and was completed in June 2020. Improvements at the Calavo site included installing a new radio repeater and a four-foot antenna at the top of the tank. As part of the project, San Diego Gas and Electric installed a new electric service and meter at the site so Heartland’s equipment can operate independently from Helix’s pumps and monitoring equipment.

“Heartland Communications would like to thank Helix Water District for allowing us to install our VHF repeater on their water tank,” said Castillo. “This collaboration between Helix and Heartland is a win-win for the fire service and the community. It will provide the critical communications infrastructure needed to enhance public safety.”

The Heartland Communication Facility Authority provides emergency communication services for its member agencies, which include Alpine Fire, Bonita Fire, San Miguel Fire, City of El Cajon, City of La Mesa, City of Lemon Grove, Lakeside Fire, City of Santee, Barona Fire and Viejas Fire.

The Helix Water District treats and delivers water to 277,000 people in La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, and parts of Spring Valley, Lakeside, and unincorporated San Diego County.

Opinion: Your Tap Is The Safest Source of Water During This Pandemic

As we Americans face these unprecedented times, many are rushing to the store to stock up on bottled water and other supplies. At Helix Water District, we want to remind you that your tap water is still safe and reliable.

While it’s always advisable to have a reasonable amount of emergency water on hand, the coronavirus outbreak is not a situation that will require a stockpile of bottled water. You will still have access to safe, clean water from your tap, as always.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through water. The illness primarily transfers from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

At Helix Water District, we work diligently 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure your water is safe to drink, meeting all state and federal quality regulations. We collect and analyze 200 water samples a day to ensure our treatment process is effective. Our water treatment process includes disinfecting the water with ozone to chemically deactivate and physically remove viruses, bacteria and other organisms.

Toxic Waste Still a Problem for El Cajon Neighborhoods

From 1963 to 1985, aerospace manufacturing company Senior Aerospace Ketema (formerly Am­etek) in El Cajon dumped thousands of pounds of a chemical degreaser into a shallow redwood-lined pit that sat on its property.

This resulted in a toxic groundwater plume of trichloroethylene, which travels through the soil by a process called soil vapor intrusion into the three large mobile home parks surrounding the facility — Greenfield, Starlight and Villa Cajon — as well as Magnolia Elementary School.

This caused related illnesses among residents and students alike. The air in one mobile home at the school had more than twice the amount that triggered an immediate closure of Magnolia El­ementary in the 2015-16 school year due to health concerns. TCE is known to cause a variety of cancers, cause re­productive harm, damage the immune system, and can cause dizziness, headaches, and confusion.

The Artful California Native Garden By CNPS

The California Native Plant Society-San Diego Chapter presents its eighth annual Garden Tour, The Artful California Native Garden: Native Gardens and Art Tour of East County. Spend the day exploring and learning from these gardens that illustrate plants that create habitat, dry stream-bed bioswales, adjacent natural areas, water catchment devices, slope gardens, charming water features, bridges, sculptures and more. Enjoy meeting artists in many of the gardens who will be creating and selling their California native garden themed artwork and crafts Be inspired this Spring!

Cold Snap Sets Sub-Freezing Records in El Cajon, Ramona and Vista

A bone-chilling cold snap brought freezing temperatures across the San Diego area Wednesday, sending the mercury dipping as low as the 20s and high teens in part of the county.

A bone-chilling cold snap brought freezing temperatures across the San Diego area Wednesday, sending the mercury dipping as low as the 20s and high teens in part of the county.

History of Helix Water District on Tap Jan. 25

More than 130 years of local history will be shared as part of the Helix Water District’s behind-the-scenes “Water Talk” this month.

Helix customers will hear from the jurisdiction’s personnel how the need for a robust water infrastructure played in the development of East County and how the water district was formed in 1889 to meet that need.

The 2017 Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival at The Water Conservation Garden. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

Water Conservation Garden Awarded SDG&E Environmental Champion Grant

The Water Conservation Garden’s Ms. Smarty-Plants program received a $25,000 Environmental Champion Grant in June from SDG&E.

The award comes as The Garden, at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon, celebrates its 20th anniversary.

“SDG&E has been a long-time supporter of The Garden and its innovative Ms. Smarty-Plants education program,” said Jennifer Pillsbury, executive director/CEO of The Water Conservation Garden. “In fact, SDG&E was one of the first funders to provide seed funding that allowed the program to have the widespread impact it has today. We are grateful for their support.”

Support from water agencies help fund innovative education program

Support from the San Diego County Water Authority and from several other water agencies also was critical to establishing and growing the program, which reached over 80,000 children and adults a year by 2016.

The six-acre garden is governed by an independent, nonprofit board of directors and receives funding from the San Diego County Water Authority, City of San Diego, Cuyamaca College, Helix Water District, Otay Water District and the Sweetwater Authority. Memberships, donations, grants, facility rentals and gift shop sales also support The Garden.

Conservation education program in 11th year

Water agencies created The Garden to demonstrate water conservation techniques and to provide environmental education.

“In its 11th year, the Ms. Smarty-Plants programs have touched nearly 350,000 children and adults, focusing on youth from disadvantaged communities who have limited access to safe nature spaces,” Pillsbury added.

Pam Meisner is Ms. Smarty-Plants

Pam Meisner started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008. Meisner is a lifelong educator with more than 30 years teaching experience advocating for fun and interactive learning in nature as well as bringing conservation into the classroom.

Upcoming events at The Water Conservation Garden

  • August 23: Nature Nights with Ms. Smarty-Plants
  • August 24: Water System Consultation with Brook Sarson of CatchingH2O/H2OME
  • September 28: Backyard Composting Workshop

On November 16, The Garden is hosting a 20th anniversary concert. The event begins at 5:00 pm with a reception featuring food and drink stations, music and unique auction items.

For more information on these and other events go to:  https://thegarden.org/events/