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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
January 10, 2000


Here in San Diego the Greenwash currently in fashion is the KGTV endorsed "Think Blue" campaign. For those of you who have yet to see the commercials featuring developers and other partners in this Greenwashing effort, basically it's a lot of quacking and chirping about the prevention of polluted runoff finding it's way to the ocean. One commercial features a builder standing on the beach in a brand new Hawaiian shirt, awkwardly holding a surfboard, telling us how he encourages subcontractors and new home buyers to be aware of runoff. What the commercials don't mention is that these "partners for the environment" are creating more problems than a few warm and fuzzy commercials can fix. Instead of thinking blue, San Diego should be thinking Poo.

If there is one thing people don't like to talk about, think about, or even hear about is human fecal matter. Lurking behind all environmental conversations regarding unsustainable growth. growth, the one infrastructure issue that local officials can't spin away is the fact that our major export from the region is feces, and we are up to our eyeballs in it. So much so, not a day goes by without a beach being closed due to a sewage spill.

It has come to my attention that the city of Escondido is planning to move Escondido Creek, approximately 100 yards to the north to accommodate the expansion of the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF). On the surface this would appear to be just another case of creeks being destroyed to make room for everything human, it is not.

The reason the brain trust at Escondido City Hall wants to move the creek is because federal funds are not eligible for projects being built in flood plains. Falsely believing that moving the creek is tantamount to moving the flood plain, the city is going to place Escondido creek between to earthen berms, plant the berms with native flora, and then expand it's sewage treatment operations into a floodplain that is no longer deemed a floodplain.

While touring the planned HARRF expansion site, the implications of placing a fecal management facility near a creek became quite clear. Where the city of Escondido's cement culvert meets the unincorporated, and as of yet, undeveloped Escondido Creek, a bright orange contamination sign told residents that a spill had occurred. It is important to note the sign did not refer to all the garbage littering the watercourse and it's banks.

Downstream no contamination signs were posted, although evidence of the spill was quite visible to those of us touring the creek as it passed through the Elfin Forest Recreation Reserve. Along other portions of creek the City Of Escondido had removed oaks and riparian habitat to place sewage pipes underneath piles of rip rap, next to the creek. The rip rap is suppose to prevent the creek from undermining the sewage pipe. Common sense would suggest if you don't want sewage infrastructure being compromised by a creek during heavy flow, the obvious course of action is to move the pipe, not the creek. Instead, the City of Escondido is systematically channelizing Escondido creek as a way of protecting it's sewer. In doing so it has fostered the invasion of non-native plants such as Arrundo and Eucalyptus.

In other words, to accommodate the fecal matter flowing out of Escondido, the creek that bears that city's name is being managed out of existence. So much for resource recovery.

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