October 7, 2004
A decade ago San Diego County voters approved, by more than a 2-to-1 margin, the Gregory Canyon Landfill near Pala. The project was sorely needed then. Today, after 10 years of rapid population growth in North County, it is needed even more because the area's only landfill has been closed, forcing smoke-belching trash trucks to travel long distances to disposal sites in the eastern and southern reaches of the county.
Yet in spite of the strong need for a landfill in North County, Proposition B on the Nov. 2 ballot seeks to block the Gregory Canyon project by repealing the 1994 ballot measure, which was sensibly adopted by 68 percent of voters. Proposition B deserves a No vote.
The only reason this initiative is on the ballot is to serve the interests of a nearby casino owned by the Pala Band of Mission Indians. The tribe is the chief sponsor of Proposition B, and it hopes to scuttle the solid-waste project because casino patrons would use the same two-lane road as trash trucks. The disposal site is on state Route 76, three miles east of Interstate 15, on the western slope of Gregory Mountain.
Some even have suggested the landfill should be thwarted because it is near sacred Indian sites. But that proximity certainly was no problem for Pala's casino and its 2,000 slot machines.
Let's face it. Gambling on Indian lands is now a very big business in San Diego County. The effort to stop the Gregory Canyon landfill is singularly about money – lucrative gambling revenues. It has nothing to do with the merits of the disposal project.
The truth is that Gregory Canyon would be the most environmentally sound landfill in the county. Its design includes a five-layer, five-foot-thick protective liner. The decade-long environmental review has been scrutinized by a raft of regulatory agencies. A variety of mitigation measures has been imposed. Federal and state environmental laws have been applied at every step of developing the landfill. The county Department of Environmental Health has certified the project's exhaustive impact report, which demonstrates it is environmentally safe.
If San Diego fails to establish a new disposal site in North County, the entire region will suffer from the increased air pollution and traffic congestion caused by trash trucks hauling their loads over unnecessarily long distances. With steady population growth, these problems can only grow more severe with time.
Proposition B, if approved, would obliterate years of careful environmental review and regulatory measures. Ballot-box zoning is no way to decide such a complex environmental issue. It is essential that the Gregory Canyon landfill go forward, regardless of whether it will inconvenience gamblers driving to and from the Pala casino. Vote No on Proposition B.