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A Tree Grows in Borrego - Or Not?

Digger - October 16, 2009

According to the minutes of its July meeting, Borrego Water District's (BWD's) (water) Conservation Committee considered a suggestion, represented to them by local architect Jim Engelke as originating with the Sponsor Group, that shade trees be planted "between Christmas Circle and the high school." An extended, discursive, and typically inconclusive discussion of the merits of various species of trees and how the planting and maintenance of the trees should be paid for then ensued.

Engelke claimed that the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group was "considering approaching local businesses to ask them to pay the cost of a tree in front of their stablishment;" but "went on to point out that some property on the route was vacant, and asked if the District would consider irrigating the trees if the owner elected to plant them." Rich Williamson, the District General Manager, "supported the concept, but observed that the 'gift of public funds' issue would have to be addressed." He quickly came up with a way to finesse this inconvenient little legal detail, however, and suggested that the letter of the law could be satisfied by the subterfuge of "requesting the property owner to grant the District an easement in the vicinity of the trees, pursuant to the District's park authority."

Only minutes before taking up the tree planting and maintenance issue, however, the same BWD committee had been discussing how to accommodate "a number of requests for tree removal rebates" as a part of the District's water conservation initiative. So, in rapid succession the committee considered spending ratepayer dollars to remove trees as a water conservation measure while simultaneously spending additional ratepayer dollars to encourage and support planting more trees; and, incredibly, saw no contradiction.

To make matters worse, the Sponsor Group had never heard of the suggestion - spuriously attributed to it by Engelke - that set off this whole comedy of errors in the first place and has disclaimed responsibility for it.

These folks are their own worst enemies and give an entirely new meaning to "clueless." Small wonder that BWD's water conservation efforts have gone - and probably will go - virtually nowhere despite millions of ratepayer's dollars already spent on groundwater management and even more to come.

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