HONEY SPRINGS HUNTING DOG TRAINING FACILITY & PONDS
–by Kim Hamilton
EastCountyMagazine.org "Approval to Hinge on Groundwater Study..."
Honey Springs Dog Pond Plan posted on NAVHDA site
Letter from Supervisor Jacob
Groundwater Study Requirements (Scoping Letter) from County Geologis, Jim Bennett
1/12/12 Letter from Jamul-Dulzura Planning Group to Dept of Fish & Game
"Finding A Place To Train..." Article by Robert Smith, President, SDCWF
QUESTION: Why is creating artificial wetland with millions of gallons of precious groundwater in a dry chaparral environment considered an "improvement" of habitat?
Sunday, January 29, 2012
PUBLIC FUNDS FOR DOG PONDS?
-by Kim Hamilton
The San Diego County Fish and Wildlife Commission (SDFWAC), has been voting for the last three years to direct funds to a consortium of hunting groups (San Diego Wildlife Federation-SDCWF).
Every application by SDCWF has been approved and funded; to date more than $23,000 has been funneled toward the Dog Training Facility at Honey Springs Ranch, part of the Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area, controlled by the California Dept of Fish and Game (CDFG).
Navigating through the alphabet soup of these grants has been a challenge. No indication has ever been given that public funds were being used to create an artificial wetland environment on public land, for benefit of an exclusive and restricted group. Most of the public is not welcome to join SDCWF because " No clubs, organizations or people whose goals are not in accordance with SDCWF's beliefs and/or which have an anti-hunting bias will be accepted for membership." http://www.sdcwf.org/membership.html
During the last three years, Robert Smith, President of SDCWF, has requested a total of six (6) grants. The amount awarded is nearly HALF of all monies the Commission has to oversee-- monies collected from fines levied by CDFG. According to the minutes of the Commission, SDCWF made its first request for fund in January of 2009... asking for $550 for "well restoration." In fact, at the January meeting the Commission voted to "amend" the grant award to $7,325. An increase of 1400% (if my math is correct). In all the SDCWF went on to request and receive another five grants from the Commission, one for each of the funding periods from 2009 through July of 2011.
From the SDCFWAC website:
"The ten-member advisory commission is appointed by the Board of Supervisors. ...The Commission disperses fine monies derived from violations of the State Fish and Game Code..."
The Mission Statement of the Commission states:
"The San Diego County Fish and Wildlife Advisory Commission serves the public by providing advice, funding and participation on issues and projects relevant to the prudent use, protection, and perpetuation of San Diego's wildlife.
Question: Is creating artificial wetland with millions of gallons of precious groundwater in a dry chaparral environment considered an "improvement" of habitat?
Throughout the last three years of rubber-stamp-funding of SDCWF, only once has a Commissioner (Suzanne Hall - Dist. 3) questioned the appropriateness of any of these awards (see minutes of July 2011). All other appointees have supported each award without exception.
The following information is available online as of this posting:
1) Article by SDCWF President, Robert Smith: "Finding a Place to Train..." http://www.sandiegonavhda.com/annual_meeting/honey_springs_project_plan3.pdf
2) The Dog Pond Proposal as envisioned by SDCWF in March of 2009. http://www.deerhornvalley.net/SDCWF_article.pdf
3) A Summary of (6) grants awarded to SDCWF by SDFWAC over the past 3 years showing dates, amounts, and project. http://www.sdcounty.ca.gov/awm/fwac.html
January 24, 2012
Preview of Jamul Shopper Article
GROUNDWATER FOR DOG TRAINING PONDS?
…Residents Fear Impact on Local Wells
In our Jamul backcountry, rain is sporadic, drought typical, and almost all water comes from deep the ground. For rural residents, groundwater is a precious and limited resource. So plans approved by the California Dept of Fish and Game (CDFG) to construct artificial dog-training ponds with groundwater are meeting with overwhelming local opposition.
The CDFG plans to allow private hunting clubs (SDCWF*) to construct ponds for training bird-hunting dogs on the old Honey Springs Ranch, now part of the Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area. The CDFG and the SDCWF plan to re-grade five old stock ponds (dry for many decades), and create two new and larger ponds. The series of ponds would depend upon groundwater from an existing well to fill and maintain them indefinitely.
The issue is an emotional one. In addition to opposing a policy that allows potable ground water to fill artificial ponds, residents fear depletion, or even loss of their existing wells. Reportedly, several nearby ranches had wells run dry in the early 1980’s after groundwater was test-pumped from the Honey Springs well.
Worried residents from Honey Springs, Deerhorn, and Bratton Valleys have packed the last two meetings of the Jamul-Dulzura Planning Group to speak out against the plan. CDFG approved the plan back in 2008, but the project only recently came to light when bids were sought for installing a 400 GPM pump at the wellhead. Although state law requires that residents and agencies be notified of plans that can affect property and lives, no notices were sent to residents in Honey Springs, Bratton, or Deerhorn Valley. Nor was the Planning Group or the Fire District, key stakeholders, notified of the project.
At the request of local residents, the Planning Group has sent a letter to Ed Pert, CDFG Regional Director, outlining concerns about lack of notice, groundwater impact, shotgun noise, herbicide treatments, public safety, and funding sources. The full text of the letter is posted online at DeerhornValley.net (click the “HONEY SPRINGS DOG PONDS” link on the left column of the opening page.)
A focus group of representatives from communities adjacent to Honey Springs Ranch has been formed. This committee will meet throughout January and February with representatives of the CDFG and SDCWF* to sort out concerns and explore solutions, including the possibility of locating the proposed ponds elsewhere within the Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area where there is abundant water and no adjacent private wells.
SD County hydrologist, Jim Bennett, has recommended new and comprehensive groundwater testing. However, this is a very expensive proposition; and during the 96 continuous hours of pumping surrounding residents’ wells cannot not be used. It is not clear whether private or public funding would pay for the testing.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob has stated her firm opposition to the use of ANY groundwater for the project, and has met with residents and other stakeholders. She asked that the Focus Committee conclude its investigation as soon as possible so timely decisions can be made.
You can make your voice heard on this issue. You can write, email, or call:
Ed Pert, Regional Manager, California Dept. of Fish and Game
3883 Ruffin Rd, San Diego, 92123
Phone: (858) 467-4201 Email: AskR5@dfg.ca.gov
Refer to the “Hollenbeck Canyon Dog Training Ponds at Honey Springs Ranch”
*SDCWF: San Diego County Wildlife Federation– a consortium of private hunting clubs
NOTE OF APOLOGY: In last month’s Shopper I mistakenly identified the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as the sponsoring agency for the Honey Springs Dog Ponds. The Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area is NOT federal. It is owned by the State of California and under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Fish and Game. In the Jamul area, USFWS sponsors many community activities including wildlife hikes, and wildflower identification. You can sign up for their email notices by contacting the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Manager: Jill_Terp@fws.gov
NO. AMER. VERSATILE HUNTING DOG ASSOC.
Project Description and Plans
DEPT. FISH & GAME REVIEW
Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area Land Management Plan
Mitigated Negative Declaration and Initial Study
Public Outreach Summary and Response to Public Comment
December 15, 2012–
DOG PONDS? PROJECT UPDATE
Last Tuesday evening, some forty local residents filled the meeting space of the Jamul-Dulzura Planning Group. Neighbors from Honey Springs, Deerhorn, Bratton Valley, and Sierra Cielo had one over-riding concern: How would plans for a large hunting dog training facility with 7 or more artificial ponds impact our groundwater, noise levels, fire protection, and fire insurance costs?
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has already lent its support for plans to convert Honey Springs Ranch into an area for hunting and training “sporting” dogs on waterfowl and upland game:. Five small ponds would be “restored”, and two large (1 and 2-acre) ones constructed. The ponds would be used to train “sporting” dogs to retrieve waterfowl (typically rooster pheasants) that are brought to the site for shooting and dog retrieval. The artificial ponds would also attract native waterfowl and upland game (deer, rabbit, pheasant, dove, quail, etc) for the various hunting seasons.
More than a dozen residents, including Randy Terry, Mike and Scott Spurgeon, Tom Lamb, Ralph Montijo, Linda Raeber, Glenn Revelle, Debra Hornsby, Lisa (sorry, I didn’t get your last name!), Alexandra Campbell, and Kim Hamilton spoke in opposition. There were no comments in favor of the project. Randy White, President of the JDPG, also expressed his dismay and concern at what he called the “laughable” conclusions of the Land Management Plan.
Although this was clearly an emotional subject for residents fearing the loss of well water and country quiet, comments were focused and respectful. Long-time residents remembered their wells running dry in 1979 and 1982 when the groundwater levels were tested for proposed development at Honey Springs Ranch.
Major themes emerged from both Planning Group members and residents:
LACK OF NOTICE: The Project Description says, “community outreach is critical to project success,” were sent to Rancho Jamul Estates, miles to the west. However, residents of Honey Springs and upland areas (who face the most serious impacts) were never notified or given opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns.
GROUNDWATER: There are five existing “ponds” at Honey Springs Ranch that are little more than dry sumps, except during the wettest conditions for a few weeks a year. Filling and maintaining water levels will rely upon groundwater, enough so that the project requires a 15 amp pump capable of delivering 400 gallon per minute via a 3-inch main pipe, spillways, and culvert pipes to all seven ponds. Additional water will be required to irrigate the new plantings of native and grass species designed to attract waterfowl and upland game.
WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE: Several residents reminded us that in 1979 the well at Honey Springs Ranch was tested. 800 gallons per minute was pumped out for 96 hours. The water was flushed downstream and eliminated from the groundwater table. The tragic result was that upstream wells failed. Some of these wells have never recovered, and others were depleted to a half-gallon per minute or less. Residents were left with both the damage, and the expense, of drilling new wells. One Bratton Valley resident said they have drilled a total of seven wells, the most recent more than 1,300 feet deep. Like many others, they still have marginal groundwater to use.
View from other side of Honey Springs Rd toward the Ranch area. Taken before eucalyptus trees were removed.
These events are a sobering reminder that groundwater in Deerhorn-Bratton-Honey Springs is interconnected– and finite. In 1979 there were far fewer demands on the groundwater: only 12 residences existed along the Honey Springs corridor. Today there are 45 homes and ranches, and even more growth has taken place in the higher elevations of the same drainage.
NOISE: No noise study has been done or even proposed, although the area is adjacent to homes and ranches. Frequent, ongoing shotgun blasts would be expected, especially during dog training and hunting seasons. Residents stated that incessant gunshots are disturbing to the human residents, as well as disruptive to dogs, horses, and livestock.
FIRE SUPRESSION: Randy Terry from the Board of the Rural Fire Protection District emphasized the importance for firefighters to have adequate water supplies at all times. Even the Deerhorn Valley Fire Station fills its water storage tanks with groundwater, as do all residents. Using this precious resource to train hunting dogs, is misguided. There are other parts of the Hollebeck Canyon Wildlife Area that are better suited to providing the water needs for this project. Mentioned was the area to the west that was formerly used for growing cucumbers and other agricultural activities.
FIRE INSURANCE: Terry also warned that insurance policies could be more costly (or even unavailable) if our groundwater supplies are reduced any more.
EUCALYPTUS AND PEPPER TREE ERADICATION: Local residents have watched as the ancient eucalyptus trees that lined the road to the Honey Springs ranch house have been cut down. The project document claims the trees were damaged in the Harris Fire and represented a safety hazard. But a disturbing allegation was made Wednesday night: these trees had been “poisoned,” and that DFG gave its approval for killing the trees first “so residents wouldn’t get so upset when they cut them down.” Plans call for replacing these ancients with native tree species and landscaping with native plants. Here’s the way it is described in the Project Plan:
Unfortunately, some non-native and invasive plants (eucalyptus and pepper trees for example) are also on the property. These plants need to be cut down and the debris piled into brush piles to provide nesting and defensive cover for a variety of wildlife, including California quail, rabbits, rodents, and reptiles.
AQUATIC WEEK CONTROL is expected to require “ongoing attention.” The Project Plan gives no further details as how this attention will be administered, or whether herbicides will be used that could impact potable groundwater supplies.
MORE PONDS? Beyond the initial seven ponds, “one or two additional ponds may be added in the future, water supply and terrain allowing, especially if the level of usage of the other ponds has reached saturation.”
STAY INFORMED: The Planning Group has received the report from the County Hydrologist. As soon as we have that information we’ll post it and send out an Antler Email Alert .
NEXT STEPS: The next meeting of the JDPG is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10, 7:30 PM, at the Oak Grove Middle School Library. Your presence, even if you choose to just listen, is important, and it sends a message to those who influence the decision-makers. The JDPG has no voting or veto power, but it provides a powerful forum for being heard. Also, a Committee will be formed, made up of JDPG members and local residents, to examine in depth the issues associated with the Hunting Dog Training Area and Ponds. If you are interested in being included or finding out more, send an email to TheAntler@deerhornvalley.net and I’ll make sure it gets to Randy White and the Planning Group.