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Blackwater is all wrong for Potrero

Union Tribune (2007-04-19) Jan Hedlun

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Blackwater is all wrong for Potrero

By Jan N. Hedlun
April 19, 2007

I am the newest and the only Potrero Planning Group member against the proposed Blackwater facility in Potrero. Most Potrero residents do not want this facility due to the negative impact on health, safety and character of this rural hamlet. This is illustrated by a petition presented to the county of San Diego as well as Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, with 320 signatures out of approximately 850 residents.

Blackwater is purchasing 824 acres in Potrero and plans to install a training facility in an agriculturally zoned area bordering Bureau of Land Management property, private property and Cleveland National Forest. This would require cancellation of an agricultural preserve permit.

A large segment of the community would accept this valley being a part of the open space preserve/wildlife corridor that would become a portion of the recent Barbara Boxer California Wildlife Heritage initiative that expands the Hauser Canyon Wilderness. This would connect an entire chain of valleys/conservancies in which the Round Potrero Road property is the missing link. Regardless of Blackwater, any development there would meet with community resistance.

Here are some points that are primary issues in the case of Blackwater:

Groundwater in a drought region – its estimated use: 10 million gallons a year from a sole source aquifer.

Estimated septic production – 6.5 million gallons a year handled by five septic tanks.

Noise – shooting ranges and the driving track would disrupt locals who moved here to escape noise, crowding and pollution. The county used a computer simulation for its noise test. A preliminary noise test was held without community notification or participation on March 17. Nearby residents heard the test.

Two chemically sensitive residents live adjacent to the property. Their physician has said this facility could be fatal to their health. A nearby chemically sensitive community is as deeply concerned. All moved here for Potrero's cleaner environment.

Endangered species – Stephen's kangaroo rat, least Bell's vireo, Southwestern willow flycatcher, orange-throated hiptail, San Diego horned lizard, turkey vulture, white-tailed kite, loggerhead shrike and Southern California rufous-crowned sparrows. The Arroyo toad, California gnatcatcher and the Quino checkerspot butterfly also have been documented. Now the California condor is an issue.

Endangered plants – Payson's jewelflower, Parry's spineflower, the Tecate Tar, Sticky Geraea, Rush Chaparral-Star and Engelmann oak. Further studies are required for spring growth.

Three golden eagle nests are within 3,500 feet of the proposed facility. Arguments from Blackwater are that the eagles will remain in spite of daily firearms usage. Voluntary and seasonal restrictions and closures in areas around the United States in regard to raptors should apply here.

Only 60 jobs – low-paying positions (i.e., janitorial, food service, housekeeping) would be produced, with 35 as part-time.

Traffic – 90 average daily trips exceed that of the Chicken Ranch, with construction, vans, bus transport, plus daily commuters and visitors. Also, food and supply deliveries, gas and aviation gas plus ammunition deliveries.

Retired Caltrans engineer and Potrero local Ellenor Gessler states the roads are inadequate for the Blackwater traffic, plus the additional traffic generated by the remaining growth predicted in General Plan 2020.

Proposed 400-foot-diameter helicopter pad – exceeds indications made that “only emergency helicopters would be utilizing this facility.”

Proposed as a “defensible location” during wildfires, residents state they would not flee to a box canyon with one access point and an armory filled with ammunition and/or explosives.

Twenty-one new cultural sites and four isolates are on-site. Ten prehistoric sites are included. An adjacent property owner has designated Native American ceremonial land and feels the proposed facility imposes on the Religious Freedom Act.

Blackwater would be more suited to one of the defunct military bases or an area farther from residential populations with less environmental impacts.

A resident of Moyock, N.C., Sherry Motes, said Blackwater recently invited neighbors to dinner. “At the dinner, folks were told the Potrero facility was already a done deal.”

As we are in the first phase of the process and just had the first public scoping meeting on April 5 with the county Department of Planning and Land Use, this raises several questions that I'll let your readers ask.

Some 150 homes may take the place of Blackwater if that facility is denied. Most of us would rather hear sounds of children playing than guns firing. At least they would generate a known economy for Potrero and construction jobs for the community. Developer fees could allow us to build a new school.

Potrero residents have been told things that resemble promises and may or may not be kept, yet the things we fear already have occurred in North Carolina and Illinois.

Look how Blackwater already has disrupted our lives. Those “for” and “against” call each other the “opposition.” These are neighbors, friends, people who have worked side-by-side for the common good of the community. This division is disruptive and stressful to all concerned. And they aren't even “here” yet.

If you do not want Blackwater in this community, contact me at . Please also contact your elected representatives including county Supervisor Dianne Jacob. Please speak up and speak out.

Hedlun is a Potrero resident and a member of the elected Potrero Planning Group.

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Title Blackwater is all wrong for Potrero
Publisher Union Tribune
Author Jan Hedlun
Pub Date 2007-04-19
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Keywords Blackwater, Blackwater West, Private Mercenaries
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Topic revision: r2 - 2008-11-14, RaymondLutz
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