From the monthly archives: May 2011

Answering the call for more renewable energy production under the California Renewable Portfolio Standards, Imperial County has quickly become the place to be for projects generating energy, especially from geothermal and solar sources.
For being one of the poorest counties in the state, we are blessed to have a wealth of natural resources. We have water from the Colorado River to feed our crops, sun nearly 360 days each year allowing farmers to grow year-round, and geothermal resources unlike any other area.
Currently, there are approximately 65,000 acres of proposed renewable energy projects being planned in Imperial County. Of that, some 22,000 acres are being considered for solar energy projects.
However, before we all get excited over this potential boom to our economy, we must first consider the impact it could have on our already thriving agricultural industry, which has been the primary contributor to our economy for the past 100 years.
One of the most important questions to ask: does the project plan to take any agricultural land out of production? Developers will argue the land they are using is marginal farm ground at best; however, what is one man’s trash is another’s treasure. For instance, although it may not be productive for vegetable crops, citrus orchards can be grown on land not normally suitable for other commodities. Keep in mind, fruit crops contributed $48 million to our economy in 2009 and for every 10 acres of citrus, one job is created.
We must also look into the future. What technology might be on the horizon that will help our farmers make such poor soil into rich farmland? Case in point, I would have never imagined a crop of hybrid lettuce could be grown on marginal farmland along Highway 86 in Imperial as was done just a few years ago.
Aside from taking farmland out of production, there are several impacts renewable energy projects could have on nearby farmers.
Water is our most valuable natural resource in Imperial Valley. Threats from outsiders seeking water historically used to grow food and fiber for the nation are of greatest concern to the agricultural community. Before considering any new projects, water supply sources must be identified and should not come at the expense of agriculture.
Land underneath solar panels has the potential to harbor animal habitat and pests which could cause damage to adjacent fields and crops. If a cover crop is used for dust control, how will this impact nearby produce growers complying with Leafy Greens Agreements to ensure product safety?
And let’s not forget our farm service providers. Although aerial application may not be restricted due to a solar project, glare from the panels could create visual hazards during day and evening applications.
An Economic Impact Analysis should be completed to determine the direct and indirect negative economic change resulting from lost crop value, employment, income, sales and tax revenue versus the economic benefit of any renewable energy project.
Imperial County is a Right to Farm County meaning businesses and homeowners seeking to operate or live adjacent to or near agricultural operations should be prepared to accept conditions including, but certainly not limited to noise, odors, fumes, dust, chemicals, smoke, the operation of machinery of any kind during any twenty-four hour period and the application of chemical fertilizers, soil amendments and pesticides as the natural result of doing business in or near rural areas.
Developers considering Imperial Valley for new projects should respect that they will be conducting business in a farming community.
Can the renewable energy movement succeed in Imperial County? Yes, I believe it will; however, it should not be at the detriment of our agricultural industry.

June 1st, 2011.
Wednesday evening at 6:30pm.
Varner Gym at Calexico High School.
Calexico High School is inviting its community to meet the new head football coach & coaching staff for the 2011 fall season.  Have a hotdog, have a soda, bring the kids as coach Heck talks about his plans on making this season an exciting one.  We look forward to an exchange of ideas with the parents & the community.

By Luke Phillips
Chocolate milk, a long-time staple in school cafeterias around the country, has come under attack recently with a state-wide ban being considered in Florida and a district-wide ban being considered in Los Angeles, but Holtville cafeteria administrator Isabel Jesse says the sweet treat won’t be leaving Holtville schools any time soon.
Those trying to ban chocolate milk blame the added sugar in the drink for skyrocketing obesity rates in students, but Jesse says the nutrients gained from the milk are worth the extra sugar.
“It would have nutritional consequences,” she said. “Even if we replaced the milk with juice you wouldn’t be getting the nutrients you need from the milk.”
Jesse says the chocolate milk served in Holtville schools is non-fat, but has 25 grams of sugar for each 8 ounce carton. When compared with soda, which has about 35 grams of sugar per each 12 ounce can, chocolate milk has nearly the same amount of added sugar.
Right now students have a choice every day of chocolate milk, white milk and water and Jesse reports that chocolate milk is by far the most popular option.
At Finley elementary, the largest school in the district, Jesse says about 450 cartons of chocolate milk are served every day as opposed to about 45 cartons of white milk.
“We’ve tried only serving white milk and the students just won’t take it,” Jesse said, adding that if chocolate milk were not offered most students would skip the milk altogether, depriving them of essential nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamins C and D.
“It’s also got nine grams of protein,” Jesse said.
Jesse says that to replace the nutrients in one carton of milk it would take 3 or 4 food items.
“To make it up you have to eat all kinds of stuff,” she said.
Jesse says there are currently no plans to remove chocolate milk from Holtville’s schools and she doesn’t think there will be any time soon.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “Unless the district tells me otherwise.”


Chambers of Commerce Have to Tighten Their Belts; Arnold’s Big Publicity Stunt

CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE LATELY in Imperial Valley have come under the heavy scrutiny of City Councils in their respective cities.
We could say heavy-handed scrutiny of Chambers, but some of them have lightened up on the deep cuts they want to make to these august bodies.
Why are they making cuts? Well, the same old reason: “We don’t have any money!” How come they don’t have any money? Well, because “we don’t have any business!”
How, I wonder, is a  city supposed to get new business if it limits the amount of funds the business gathering entity gets? Or it plans in a shortsighted manner for an event to draw people that is underfunded and held in a bad location?
Those things have happened during the last several months and you can tell the people who are putting forth the best effort to keep their organization in the back.
Brawley increased its contribution to the Chamber by $15,000 for the next fiscal year. A welcome relief, we’re sure. I’ve always had a special place for the the Brawley Chamber because I served on their Board of Directors for three years. It was generally a good experience.
But you knew big cuts were coming when Nicole Gilles was dropped as the Chamber Director.
What had been a four person office with a fifth person operating the Economic Development Commission, has been turned into a two person office. Granted, the people are topnotch with Ron Hull back from retirement. But with only two people, you know the quality of events is going to diminish or even disappear completely. Anybody hear anything about the Sweet Onion Festival lately?
Over in Calexico, they are looking at alternative sources for finances, including sponsoring “big-money” bingo. That’s bingo with lots of major jackpots that is tied into other games throughout the state of California. That proposal is still pending.
Perhaps these bodies could take some lessons from Holtville, which doesn’t have to worry much about cuts from the city. It never got much to begin with. Most of its money has come from membership dues, the Carrot Festival and donations.
With only $10,000 a year donated by the city for a Chamber of Commerce, there isn’t much to operate with unless they stay on the good side of a lot of businesses.
The city did front the cost of the $20,000 electronic sign which graces Fifth Street at Holt Avenue. Meaning there is a little more than average relations between the two bodies.
But, if the cities want to actually grow their economy they need more than lip service and penny-pinching budgets. That need an all-out effort to compete for dollars and attract industry. So far, the cities, and the county, are batting a very low average at this. Limiting the Chambers isn’t going to help anything. Let’s hope this nonsense started by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, comes or an end soon. The whole state is on the verge of economic collapse thanks to Arnold.
ARNOLD , MEANWHILE, DECIDES HE WANTS to get back into movies and what better to do that than create a scandal around yourself.
His announcement of a child he fostered while married to Maria Schriver sent media types scrambling like a pack of hornets  around a honey pot. This swarm proceeded to treat the story almost with the same zeal as the killing of Osama bin Laden. Somebody needs to calm these TV folks down and tell them this isn’t the story of the century, In Hollywood, it’s almost routine. And Arnold has been fooling around for over 30 years.
Why all the huff and puff? Who knows? Maybe its been a little slow since bin Laden was brought down. We wish the pack of rabid dogs, however, would reign itself in before they hurt each other.
Let’s get back to some real news. Like whatever happened to Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton? Britney who?
GRADUATION IS ALMOST UPON US. San Diego State University had its graduation last week and the schools in the Imperial Valley are wrapping up the school year as we speak.
It will be a long, slow summer for young people, since there won’t be any summer school or programs  directly associated with the schools. Another legacy for Arnold.


The Imperial County Office of Education’s Higher Education Week II was held from May 23 through May 25, targeting high school 11th graders by providing them contact with college recruiters and information they will need as they prepare to apply for colleges and universities in their senior year.
Higher Education Week II, done in coordination with the Imperial County College Going Initiative, will feature a parent-student evening at the Imperial Valley Mall from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 24.
“We encourage 11th grade students and families to attend the Higher Education Week Parent Night at the Imperial Valley Mall Tuesday, May 24, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.,” said Denise Cabanilla, higher education coordinator for ICOE. “More than 25 college campus recruiters and higher education outreach partners will be present to provide information regarding college admissions, financial aid, and other information as students prepare to apply for college in the fall.”
The parent-student event at the mall will be held in the food court area near Cinemark movie theaters, Cabanilla said.
In addition, participants will have a chance to view a short movie presentation in the theatre on how families can apply to colleges and universities in the fall and on preparing for the transition from high school to college. There will three free viewings of the movie – 5:45 to 6:05 p.m., 6:15 to 6:35 p.m., and 6:45 to 7 p.m.
The May 24 event marks the third time ICOE and the College Going Initiative have teamed with the Imperial Valley Mall for a higher education week.
Earlier this academic year, Higher Education Week I featured a parent-student night at the mall attended by more than 300 families.
“That event was a great success in that it provided an important opportunity to reach out to parents and their children,” said ICOE Superintendent Anne Mallory. “We would like to see even more families attend this event as there is great opportunity for high school juniors to get a clear picture of what they need to accomplish in their senior year to achieve their higher education goals.”
Each year ICOE holds two higher education weeks. The first held in the fall targets high school seniors as they move through the process their senior year of filling out college and university applications and seek financial aid and grants. Then, Higher Education Week II targets the 11th graders so as to prepare them for what they will face as seniors.
Along with the parent-student event, college recruiters and higher education partners will be attending each of the Imperial Valley high schools to share information with the 11th graders.
For more information, see the College Going Initiative website at and for questions about the parent event or about Higher Education Week II, contact the ICOE at 760.312.6618.

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