By J. Harry Jones
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
February 1, 2008
Development of the long-planned and highly litigated Gregory Canyon landfill could be delayed once again by a court decision.
In a tentative decision issued this week, Vista Superior Court Judge Robert Dahlquist ruled that a revised environmental report, which must be completed before developers can seek numerous permits to build the landfill, is still insufficient in one area.
Should Dahlquist affirm his decision at a hearing scheduled for Monday, the county could be forced to redo the report and then give the public time to respond to it, said Everett DeLano, lead attorney for landfill opponents. That process usually takes months.
Nancy Chase, a spokeswoman for Gregory Canyon Ltd., the partnership that wants to build the landfill, said the ruling shouldn't mean a significant delay. She said the fact that the judge ruled that all other issues in the report have been resolved is “a major victory.”
Planned for nearly two decades, the Gregory Canyon would be the only major landfill in North County, which trucks trash south to county dumps or north to Orange County. The site is on state Route 76 about three miles east of Interstate 15.
Dahlquist said a small segment of the report inadequately addresses part of an agreement between Gregory Canyon Ltd. and the Olivenhain Municipal Water District, which has contracted to truck recycled water to the dump for 60 years.
He said the report's assertion that the district has plenty of water to accommodate the dump's needs, as well as its regular customers, is not supported by data.
Chase said the developer's lawyers will argue Monday that sufficient information is available. Even if the judge upholds his ruling, she said, Gregory Canyon Ltd. is confident that it will not have to go through the regular review process and can address the issue in an addendum.
The ruling is the latest action in a lawsuit brought in 2005 by a consortium of opponents who contended that the environmental report was deficient. Judge Michael Anello ruled that three areas needed more work.
In June, the county's Environmental Health Department finalized a revised report addressing the deficiencies.
Gregory Canyon Ltd. has spent about $40 million trying to develop the landfill, Chase said. She said it expects to break ground by the end of the year.
The landfill has been debated and challenged at every turn by the Pala Indian band, environmentalists and some North County cities and water districts, who argue it could pollute the San Luis Rey River and an underground aquifer. The developers say a modern design would make it among the safest landfills in the country.
In two countywide elections, in 1994 and 2004, voters have endorsed building it.