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Water District Approves Deal to Share Emergency Resources with the County

The Ramona area will continue to receive backup support from the county of San Diego during fire and medical emergencies with approval of a mutual aid agreement that brings the area nearly $2.5 million in benefits over roughly five years.

The Ramona Municipal Water District Board of Directors gave unanimous approval to the mutual aid agreement on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Director Jeff Lawler was absent.

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Water Agencies Assist in Fighting Valley Fire

The Sweetwater Authority and the Otay Water District collaborated with multiple agencies during the recent Valley Fire in San Diego County. Water infrastructure played a key role in the firefighting effort.

Cooperation and collaboration are critical elements during wildfires. Both water agencies worked with multiple responders, including U.S. Forest Service firefighters, CALFIRE and SDG&E, to ensure the safety of crews and keep a safe, reliable water supply flowing for their customers.

The Valley Fire started September 5, southeast of Alpine in the Cleveland National Forest. Before it was fully contained on September 24, the wildfire burned 16,390 acres and destroyed at least 30 homes, according to officials with the Cleveland National Forest.

Loveland Reservoir plays key role in firefighting efforts

Water agency infrastructure, employees and the public were directly threatened. The fire started in Alpine near the Sweetwater Authority Loveland Reservoir. Employees and anglers at the reservoir had to be evacuated.

Reservoir water was used throughout the firefighting efforts. Designated as critical infrastructure, Loveland was protected by fire crews, who used bulldozers on the property to create fire breaks.

Sweetwater Authority also made water tankers available to provide drinking water to crews and other agencies working the fire.

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A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop on the Valley Fire near Alpine in September 2020. Photo: Sweetwater Authority

Infrastructure at Loveland Reservoir to protect water quality and provide for recreation was protected and did not sustain damage during the fire.

“We are grateful to the firefighters who worked tirelessly to protect Loveland Reservoir,” said Sweetwater Authority General Manager Tish Berge. “This reservoir is crucial in providing local water and keeping water rates low for our customers.”

The region was in the early stages of a prolonged heatwave when the fire started. The San Diego Union-Tribune reporters covering the fire wrote on September 5:

El Cajon hit 114 degrees and Alpine reached 113 — the highest temperatures ever recorded in those communities — while Ramona got to 112 and San Diego State University topped out at 105, according to the National Weather Service.

By Saturday night, fire fighters were working to control a wildfire that grew to more than 1,500 acres in the rural Japatul Valley area of East County, threatening homes and forcing evacuations.

“We’re throwing everything at it,” said Cal Fire spokesman Kendal Bortisser, as teams used helicopters and air tankers to make water drops. “It is going to be an extreme-attack fire. It is nothing we are putting out tonight.”

Otay Water District urges energy conservation

The Otay Water District safely curtailed electric power at its facilities during the Valley Fire as requested by SDG&E to help alleviate fire and weather concerns.

In addition to the prolonged heatwave and the Valley Fire, SDG&E continued to monitor potential high fire risk weather conditions. Those conditions may have forced SDG&E to shut off power to reduce the risk of a wildfire. Prior to the Valley Fire, Otay encouraged customers in its service area to safely conserve energy.

“We believe that any actions a local water agency like the Otay Water District can take to help SDG&E during heatwaves and the fires contributes to the region’s safety as a community,” said Otay Water District General Manager Jose Martinez.

Fighting wildfires involves cooperation from many agencies. The Valley Fire is another example of how water agencies, and water infrastructure, are key parts of those efforts. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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Area covered by the Valley Fire in San Diego County, September 2020. Graphic: InciWeb

San Diego County Will Overhaul Climate Action Plan After Rejection From Courts

San Diego County is again developing a new Climate Action Plan. On Wednesday County Supervisors unanimously directed county staff to develop a new plan and adopted a resolution vacating its 2018 Climate Action Plan, which the 4th District Court of Appeals struck down in June.

County Supervisors Rescind Climate Plan, Will Move Forward With New One

The County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind the Climate Action Plan it adopted in February 2018 and move forward in creating a replacement. Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she hopes that the county gets it right with a new version.

County to Open Erosion Control Center in Alpine for Valley Fire Victims

San Diego County will open an erosion control center in Alpine Thursday to help businesses and homeowners prevent debris flows in the areas burned by the Valley Fire.

Leaders Warn that San Diego Could be Next for Destructive Wildfires

Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell and Councilman Chris Cate Wednesday to urge residents to stay on high alert, get prepared and stay informed, citing the historic lightning-sparked fires raging in northern California in stressing the need to be vigilant.

San Diego County Website Helps Residents Protect Watershed

Because San Diego County gets so little natural rainfall, most residents must artificially irrigate their landscaping. Rainfall becomes a welcome sight when it occurs. The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage.

San Diego County Supervisors Seek More COVID-Relief, Road Improvements, Other Programs in New Budget

Programs to help renters facing eviction, additional homeless services, and new traffic signals are the additions that San Diego County supervisors are proposing for the budget for the new fiscal year. Supervisors recently heard two days of public testimony about the proposed $6.4 billion budget and are scheduled to deliberate and adopt the spending plan at their next meeting, scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.

A new County of San Diego online resource can help you protect watershed by diverting it from the storm drain system. Photo: NIH.gov

San Diego County Website Helps Residents Protect Watershed

Because San Diego County gets so little natural rainfall, most residents must artificially irrigate their landscaping. Rainfall becomes a welcome sight when it occurs.

But rainfall turns into an unwelcome problem when it enters the storm drain system. After the first heavy rain in several months, stormwater runoff gathers pollutants building up on surfaces like rooftops, parking lots, sidewalks, and streets. This polluted water gets carried into street drains that dump out directly into the Pacific Ocean. Pollutants harm waterways and affect sea animals, plants, and the people who surf, swim, or dive in the ocean.

Residents may be contributing to this problem between rainstorms without realizing it. Your yard drainage system including French drains, weeping tiles, and sub-surface drains should not be used for non-stormwater water runoff.  They are intended only to prevent flooding by diverting rainwater from your property to the road or street.

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, runoff water may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Wikimedia

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, runoff water may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system. Photo: Wikimedia

If your irrigation system overflows from landscaping, or wash water runs off hardscapes or sidewalks, these non-stormwater activities may carry pollutants like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers into the storm drain system and cause the same negative effects as runoff from rainfall.

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC says new information is added monthly.

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC says new information is added monthly. Photo: SDCounty.gov

The County of San Diego’s Watershed Protection Program in the Department of Public Works has created a webpage with useful information and photos to educate the public and assist in preventing watershed damage. Program Coordinator Christine A. Tolchin, QSD, QISP, CPESC, says new information is added monthly. Photo: SDCounty.gov

Stormwater diversion tips

The website shares these tips to prevent non-stormwater runoff from carrying pollutants into our waterways.

  • Redirect sprinkler heads and hose down items such as patio furniture away from your yard drain.
  • Temporarily cover your yard drain with a bowl or mat when watering.
  • Use dry methods such as sweeping to clean your gutters, patio, and yard.

Your property should also integrate best practices to slow down and divert natural stormwater runoff after heavy rains. Three common methods include:

  • Detention: Protect against flooding by temporarily pooling runoff on your property, allowing pollutants to settle before being discharged to the storm drain system.
  • Infiltration: Divert stormwater runoff to areas where water can soak into the soil and benefit from natural filtering such as gravel, mulch, or grassy trenches.
  • Vegetated: Uses landscape plants and soil to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff through flow-thru planters, buffer strips, and vegetated swales.

Yard drains and diversion methods should regularly be cleared of debris so they operate properly and are ready for a storm event. It’s a good time to do it now while the sun is shining in San Diego.

San Diego Reservoirs Open with Coronavirus Safety Guidelines

All City of San Diego reservoirs previously closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic are now open to the public during regular business hours for walking, jogging, cycling, fishing and boating. Normal fishing and boating fees will apply.

“Overall everything is working well,” said Bryan Norris, the City’s reservoirs and recreation program manager.  “Several reservoirs are experiencing higher than normal visitation since the reopening.”