Helix awards scholarships to two outstanding students

Helix awards scholarships to two outstanding students

Last week, Helix awarded our $1,000 Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship to Mount Miguel High School senior Jade Mahaney and our $1,000 Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship to Helix Charter High School senior Jack Hopper.
The district received 27 scholarship applications this year. Applicants must:
Live in Helix’s service area
Attend a university next fall
Have excellent academic standing
Excel in extracurricular activities and community service
Write an essay on how to develop a sustainable water supply
Provide a personal goals statement
Provide letters of recommendation
“Every one of this year’s applicants were outstanding students involved and contributing in a lot of different ways,” said Helix Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg, who headed up the selection committee. “But there was a small group of students who showed real leadership, and it was out of this group that our two 2019 recipients emerged.”
Mahaney started her own after-school program to tutor and mentor low-income and at-risk kids ages 6-17, and then partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to bring students from foster homes into the program. She has led the program from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day for the last six years. She is also the student body president at Mount Miguel High, started a new club at the school to support women students, is in the Spanish club and has been competing in Taekwondo for years.
Mahaney will attend San Jose State University next fall and major in business, with hopes of starting a nonprofit organization to provide college-preparatory and academic resources to low-income students.
Hopper got his start in theater production in middle school and has been volunteering his design and production skills, including writing, directing, lighting, sound engineering and videography since then to his old middle school, Helix Charter High School and various churches. He has developed and refined his skills to a level that he is also working — up to 60 hours a week — for theater and dance company productions as an independent contractor. He is also on Helix Charter High’s speech team, yearbook staff, cross country team, letter society and drama club.
Hopper plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania next fall, major in theater design and production, and begin a successful career in the theater.
The Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship was established upon his retirement in 1998, after serving as Helix’s general manager for 19 years. Friedgen provided the seed money and the board and others contributed additional funding. The Dr. Lillian M. Childs Scholarship was started by the Helix board a year later to honor Ms. Childs upon her retirement and recognize the 20 years of service and leadership she had given to the district.
Both Childs and Friedgen were in the Helix boardroom last week to meet Mahaney and Hopper and wish them well in the years ahead.

PHOTOS / Top: Mount Miguel High School senior and 2019 Robert D. Friedgen Scholarship recipient Jade Mahaney with Friedgen, Helix Director Kathleen Coates Hedberg and the Helix Board of Directors. Below: Helix Charter High School senior and 2019 Lillian M. Childs Scholarship recipient Jack Hopper with Childs, Hedberg and the Helix Board.

Above: Jade Mahaney with her Grandmother and sister and Helix’s Mike Uhrhammer,

Above: Jack Hopper and his Mother.

Celebrate Spring this Saturday at the Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival

Celebrate Spring this Saturday at the Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival

The Water Conservation Garden is in full bloom, and every inch of the internationally-renowned botanical garden is ablaze in color in anticipation of the Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival, this Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event, held in conjunction with Cuyamaca College and Heritage of the Americas Museum, will host dozens of craft vendors and feature hundreds of California native and water-efficient plants for sale. The day’s activities include Butterfly Releases, Butterfly Pavilion Tours, Story Time with Ms. Metamorphosis, a Pollinator Party with Ms. Smarty-Plants for children, docent led garden tours, and discounted landscape design consultations.

Landscape Design Consultations are $20 for 20 minutes; a reservation and prepayment is required. Walk-ups are accommodated when possible. Please bring photos of your yard, a list of preferred plants (if any) and photos of landscape designs you like. Please call 619-660-0614 x10 in advance to register.

Other activities include:
– Edible and Ornamental Plant Sales
– Kids’ Activities, Craft Vendors
– Educational Exhibits and Presentations
– Water Agencies – Sustainable Water Use Information
– Free Admission to Heritage of the Americas Museum
– Face Painting and Butterfly Coloring Project
– Food Trucks
– Animal encounters and more!

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Water Conservation Garden is located at 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West in El Cajon. For more information about The Garden, including detailed directions and a map, please go to https://thegarden.org/springfestival

Enter the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

Enter the 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest

We want to recognize your landscape – show off your water saving yard for a chance to win a $250 gift certificate to the nursery of your choice.

The 15 annual WaterSmart Landscape Contest seeks to recognize Helix Water District customers for their beautiful, colorful and water-efficient landscapes. Judging criteria for landscapes includes overall attractiveness, design, efficient use of irrigation methods, plant selection and maintenance.

Applying is easy – simply take photos of your water-wise landscaping, share a brief story about why you installed your WaterSmart landscape, and upload your story and pictures to landscapecontest.com   

The deadline to submit contest application and photos is Friday April 26, 2019.

For more information, visit the contest website:  landscapecontest.com or contact us at 619-667-6226.

Helix board adopts resolution opposing statewide water tax

Helix board adopts resolution opposing statewide water tax

Last week, Helix Water District’s board of directors received updates on multiple legislative bills that could significantly impact the district and its customers if approved. The board adopted resolutions regarding six proposed bills:

Governor Newsom’s Administration Budget Trailer Bill: Water Tax / OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED
Resolution 19-18 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

The administration’s 2019 budget trailer bill includes language to provide funding to disadvantaged communities to ensure all Californians have access to safe drinking water. The budget trailer bill, based on Senate Bill 623 (Monning, 2017) specifies that revenue for the fund would be collected through a statewide tax on drinking water and an assessment on fertilizer sales and dairies. In addition to the budget trailer bill, three policy spot bills have also been introduced on the safe drinking water subject: Assembly Bill 134 (Bloom), AB 217 (E. Garcia) and Senate Bill 200 (Monning). The district believes that a tax on water would increase the cost of water for customers and that the goals can be met through alternative, non-tax, funding solutions.

Senate Bill 669: Water Trust Fund / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-20 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Senate Bill 669 is an alternative funding solution to the water tax; it would create a Safe Drinking Water Trust at the state treasury, which would provide a durable funding source to help community water systems in disadvantaged communities provide their customers with access to safe drinking water. The trust would be funded with an infusion of general fund dollars during a budget surplus year, which would be invested – the net income from the trust would be transferred on an ongoing basis to the Safe Drinking Water Fund. The district believes that, unlike a regressive water tax which would have high implementation costs for the state’s 3,000 water providers, the trust would not drive up water costs nor work against the state’s water affordability policy.

Senate Bill 414: Small Water System Water Authority Act of 2019 / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-19 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Senate Bill 414 would authorize the creation of small system water authorities that would have the power to absorb, improve and competently operate noncompliant public water systems – those that are historically out of compliance with drinking water quality standards. The district believes that delivery infrastructure and governance structures of failing and noncompliant agencies should be improved prior to any broader funding solutions.

Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans Agreed to by Basin States / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-17 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

The Colorado River provides water to over 40 million people in seven states and Mexico. As a result of ongoing drought conditions and historic over-allocations, the river’s ability to meet water demands has become increasingly strained and could reach critically low levels as early as 2021. Working collaboratively to address this issue, the seven Colorado River basin states signed an agreement on the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans on March 19, 2019 and are seeking congressional authorization for the Department of the Interior to implement the agreement.

Assembly Bill 533: Income Tax Exemption for Water Efficiency Rebates / SUPPORT
Resolution 19-22 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Assembly Bill 533 would exempt from state income tax any rebates, vouchers or other financial incentives issued by a local water agency for participation in water efficiency or storm water runoff improvement programs. Consumer rebates are a proven, cost-effective tool for increasing participation in water conservation programs – taxing rebates is a disincentive for consumers and agencies to expand these effective programs. The passage of AB 533 would also ensure that rebates for water efficiency programs receive the same tax exemption as those afforded energy efficiency programs.

Assembly Bill 1486: Local Agencies Surplus Land / OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED
Resolution 19-23 adopted by Helix Water District’s board of directors on April 3, 2019

Assembly Bill 1486 would require special districts and other public agencies to offer a right of first refusal to affordable housing developers, schools and park agencies before leasing, selling or otherwise conveying any of the agency’s land. The new requirements in the bill could be problematic for many public agencies that have valid reasons to lease or otherwise protect land they own. It could also result in agencies keeping properties vacant, which does not typically benefit nor enhance the surrounding communities.

Read the full board report, resolutions and associated legislative letters:
April 3, 2019 Legislative Board Report

Helix leverages drone technology

Helix leverages drone technology

Helix Water District is now utilizing drone technology to view and monitor district storage tanks.

Helix recently used drone technology to inspect its Fletcher Hills Combo Tank, which is located near Grossmont College in El Cajon. The top of the tank sits at a height of 120 feet and the district needed to inspect the tank’s air vents, located at its outer edge. Inspecting the Combo Tank vents has proven challenging over the years. Inspecting the vents from the exterior required district inspectors to walk along the edge of the 120-foot high tank. The use of appropriate safety equipment to perform the inspections was cumbersome and expensive and did not eliminate all risk to the inspectors. Inspecting the vents from the interior required taking the tank out of service. Seeking a safe and cost-effective alternative, Helix Cathodic Inspector Eric Fockler suggested using a drone to view the vents’ condition.

The resulting photos and video imagery allowed Helix staff to perform this inspection, less expensively and without placing any staff members at risk. “Using drones for this type of inspection work is a simple, elegant and safe solution,” said Jim Tomasulo, Helix’s Director of Engineering. “We anticipate using drones for this and other purposes.”

Drones will also be used to inspect interior roof supports of the district’s storage tanks. These supports are well above the tanks maximum water level but are especially vulnerable to corrosion since they are constantly exposed to humidity and heat. Inspecting these components requires taking the tank out of service and viewing the roof supports by using a moving 30-foot high scaffolding. The scaffolding is assembled and brought in piece by piece through the tank’s 36-inch access-ways on the sidewalls. The scaffolding is then moved around the tank from one support to the next which is both labor and time intensive. Drones can accelerate this process by surveying each bracket inside the tank and allowing district crews to use the footage to decide which supports need refinishing.

“We continually look for ways to utilize technologies where appropriate to minimize facility down time and to keep staff safe,” said Carlos Lugo, Helix General Manager. “Drone technology is proving to be a useful and cost efficient way to survey and keep the district’s facilities properly maintained.”

Helix Water District provides water treatment and distribution for 275,000 people in the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove, the community of Spring Valley and areas of Lakeside — east of downtown San Diego. Helix also provides treated water to neighboring Padre Dam, Otay and Lakeside water districts.

Helix Helps at Lemon Grove Community Garden’s grand opening

Helix Helps at Lemon Grove Community Garden’s grand opening

This past Saturday, March 30, 2019, Helix Water District joined the Lemon Grove Community Garden for their grand opening celebration. Helix employees and their families volunteered early Saturday morning to help set-up chairs, spread mulch and prepare the site for the ribbon-cutting ceremony which began at 9:30 a.m.

The Lemon Grove Community Garden is located next to Civic Center Park at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Olive Street and has 41 planting beds available for lease. The garden is run by the Lemon Grove Community Garden group, which leases land from the City of Lemon Grove and has partnered with the nonprofit Lemon Grove HEAL Zone and Thrive Lemon Grove.

Community gardens bring green spaces to urban areas. In addition to providing space for residents to grow organic fruits and vegetables, community gardens create neighborhood gathering spaces which can increase public safety and reduce blight. The district also hosted a community booth at the grand opening ceremony, providing drinking water and information on efficient watering to attendees.

Under the “Helix Helps” program, Helix employees, families and friends volunteer their time to help support the communities the district serves. Follow Helix on Facebook and Twitter to be notified of future events.