TO:      Borrego Water District Board of Directors
            County of San Diego SGMA Project Team c/o Jim Bennett

Date:   September 15, 2016 DELIVERY VIA EMAIL


Subsequent to the submittal of the Borrego Water District’s (District’s) and San Diego County’s (County’s) notice to become Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA’s), the Borrego Valley Stewardship Council (Stewardship Council), has engaged with representatives of San Diego County’s Department of Planning and Development Services (P&DS), and expressed the following concerns and recommendations:

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP) and the town of Borrego Springs together serve as a regional economic engine for world-class tourism that has not yet been fully recognized.

There is an historic divide between ABDSP and the town of Borrego Springs that dates back to the vision of Borrego Valley founders such as James Copley and Alfonse A. Burnand who saw the Valley as a “donut hole” in the middle of the Park—a donut hole distinct from the Park and ripe for developing a San Diego version of Palm Springs.  At the core of the 1950’s-style donut hole vision is a water intensive economy dependent on agriculture, real estate development, speculation, and land sales. 

The creation of the Stewardship Council and its adoption of a Geotourism Charter were spurred by the current water crisis in the Borrego Valley.  The Council’s intention is to bridge the divide between the State Park and Community by taking a fresh look at a sustainable economy in the context of the realities of water availability, clean air, habitat preservation and human health.

From a series of community workshops sponsored by the Stewardship Council it has become clear that tourism and its related development, not land speculation and residential subdivisions, must become the central economic driver for Borrego Springs, not simply to comply with SGMA, but to survive as a community.

There is a growing desire to embrace and foster Borrego Spring as “The Heart of the Park” as opposed to a “donut hole for development.”

Working with representatives from the National Geographic’s Geotourism program the Stewardship Council has begun to facilitate a community dialogue to define how best to develop a “Heart of the Park” campaign.  Central to the campaign are developing Geotourism as the primary source of economic growth and strategically positioning Borrego Springs as a village of hamlets with a commercial core that serves as the hospitality hub for a world-class natural science destination.

Strengthening partnership affiliations with the National Geographic Society, the California State Parks, the UNESCO World Heritage program, and the San Diego Tourism Authority are central to cultivating a new Geotourism economy.

The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that will be created by the GSA’s must address and move beyond the 1950’s-inspired land use assumptions that are enshrined in the current Borrego Valley Community Plan.

The GSP must also clearly reflect the need to evolve the current business promotional practices from a traditional Chamber-of-Commerce-style marketing plan to a Geotourism inspired Destination Management Organization (DMO) – joining the Anza-Borrego region to a network of world-class, UNESCO-recognized, sustainable destinations. 

The District has pointed out that the implementation of SGMA in the Borrego Valley will impact more than hydrology and land use; and that in fact, the implementation of SGMA will have broad economic, cultural, and social implications for the Anza-Borrego region. Simply stated, there are many possible pathways to arrive at a SGMA-mandated, “no undesirable results” reduction in water usage in the Borrego Valley, some of which would be economically deleterious, some of which could result in a vibrant economic engine for the entire region.

Understanding that both the County and the District have limited resources to address all the complex and interdependent issues involved in creating a GSP for Borrego Springs in a holistic fashion, the Stewardship Council has not only volunteered to be one of the members of the GSP Advisory Group, but also has offered to serve as a neutral convener to help facilitate a fresh look at land use for a sustainable economy for the Borrego Valley. 


Suzanne Lawrence, David Garmon, Dick Troy, and Travis Huxman
Co-Conveners, Borrego Valley Stewardship Council