Saturday, March 31, 2007

Blackwater Training Camp Planned in San Diego County

There are several reasons to be concerned about the plans for a Blackwater USA military-style training camp in the community of Potrero, located 30 miles east of San Diego, and five minutes from the Mexican border town of Tecate. Much of the land is either zoned for agriculture, or part of the Cleveland National Forest, and is notable for it's chaparral covered hills and rural character. The area includes the Hauser Wilderness Area. Many people live out there to get away from the noise, pollution and traffic, or to get closer to nature. The population is approximately 900, half of which are registered voters. The poverty level is twice the national average at 26%.

Blackwater USA, a private military and security training company, is estimating their camp will employ approximately 60 people, and will have facilities to provide six day training sessions for up to 200-300 students per week. Their Notice of Preparation filed with the County of San Diego states:
The following facilities are proposed in order to accomplish the project objectives: Administration/ Headquarter Building; Caretaker Residence; Dining Hall Building; Bunkhouse Building; Classroom Building; Armory Building; Tactical Driving Track; EVOC Skid Pad ; Urban Simulation Training Area; Maintenance Building; Carbine Ranges; Pistol Ranges; Live-Fire Tactical Training Area ; Law Enforcement Training Tower; Rescue Safety Training Tower; Ship Simulators; Track Maintenance and Classroom Building; Defensive Tactics Training Area; and Helipad. Existing poultry farming uses would be removed and operations would cease. Existing cattle ranching would remain as an agricultural use.

That doesn't sound compatible with a rural life to me. Over half the registered voters in Potrero have signed a petition opposing the facility. They're worried about noise, pollution, environmental impact, and the effect on their rural lifestyle. I bet the Golden Eagle pairs that nest out there won't be happy either.

But as Don Bauder shows in the February 22 edition of the San Diego Reader, the county officials and planning board members seem to be bending over backwards for their first project under their plan to halve the environmental review process in the County of San Diego. In fact, it appears Blackwater has been working with the County since at least last May to have standards changed within the county that would impede their plans. Potrero residents learned about the plan on Oct 12.

A representative from Blackwater has boasted that Supervisor Dianne Jacobs never approves of large scale projects that don't have at least two roads in and out in high fire danger regions (such as the Potrero area), however she approves of Blackwater having only ONE road into their canyon location because they say they can provide a Shelter-in-Place fire protection strategy for the local residents (or as one resident has referred to it, cremate-in-place.) rather than evacuation strategies. Very convenient that the County passed this controversial policy on March 19, 2007, despite a strong community protest.

None of this even begins to address the nature of Blackwater's business as a paramilitary organization that has been a key actor in the privatization of the war in Iraq. IMO, a private military is completely antithetical to democracy. This allows the government to hide the true costs of war, as a private organization is not subject to the say operational or financial scrutiny as a government miitary operation. That makes it much easier to start and operate a war...a task that should never be easy. Again, for more information about Blackwater, read Jeremy Scahill's excellent article, Bush's Shadow Army at The Nation that was adapted from his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books).

This week, the County announced a public scoping meeting will be held this coming Thursday at the County of San Diego Department of Planning and Land Use to allow public discussin of the project. (Only a week's advance notice and it's being held about fifty miles away from Potrero, but who's complaining.)

Scoping Meeting, April 5, 5:30 p.m., Planning Commission Hearing Room, Department of Planning and Land Use, 5201 Ruffin Road, Suite B, San Diego, CA 92123.

This is a public meeting and I encourage you to attend. I've also been told that people will begin gathering outside the meeting location at 4:30 pm to protest this project from environmental, land-use and anti-war perspectives. I'll provide more info as it becomes available.

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3 Comments:

Blogger nunya said...

AHA, I knew you'd be on ths one, thanks!!!!!

4/02/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

Hey nunya, The Californian ran a three part series by Miriam Raftery that was full of additional information. Unfortunately, that paper is very small and isn't online or I would have linked to it.

The most recent article they've published is about the cancellation of the noise testing. Seems like everyone thinks someone else is responsible. Finally, one of the Potrero planning commissioners was going to take a half a dozen people out there with guns (as if that would be a reasonable test) but the current property owner wouldn't allow it. Smart fella.

4/02/2007 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger John Strauss said...

Great article! Thanks for the information, I think others will find this useful.
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10/06/2011 09:58:00 PM  

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