SB Sentinel: Yucca Valley, Ca.,-(May 27) YUCCA VALLEY—The clock is ticking toward a deadline, less than two years away, by which this desert town of 20,700 must complete the first phase of a large scale wastewater treatment system.
The imposition of that deadline three years ago was intended to avert a growing water quality crisis that will, if it is not redressed, severely impact all of the area’s residents.
If the town, its residents and the local water board do not collectively act to fund and begin building the sewer system that will eliminate Yucca Valley’s reliance upon septic systems that are now overwhelming the area’s water table, the state is threatening action that could reduce Yucca Valley to a ghost town by 2022.
Yucca Valley, which became the last of San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities to incorporate in 1991, is likewise the last remaining city to function without a sewer system.
Long a remote and rustic desert area that attracted those wishing to remain well off the beaten track, Yucca Valley made its first lurch toward urbanization in the 1950s when Norman J. Essig promoted it as both a getaway to and private residency for entertainment celebrities. He ventured capital toward that end, acquiring hundreds of acres, which he improved with roads around the region’s major arterial, Highway 62, also known as Twentynine Palms Highway.
While attracting movie stars as well as recording and visual artists was only marginally successful, the improvements did succeed in luring others by virtue of the relatively inexpensive land prices, and Yucca Valley grew sporadically over the years, appealing to the independent minded and lovers of the remote desert beauty. As early as 1973, when the area’s population was hovering below 5,000, there was a push to outfit the core of Yucca Valley with a rudimentary sewer system, one that would extend only to the town’s modest commercial area and the relatively sparse residential neighborhoods that surrounded it. But a water treatment facility and skeleton sewer system to which future developments could connect carried a price tag of roughly $10 million, well beyond the tiny community’s fiscal means at that time.
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