Monday, February 7, 2011

Gregory Canyon gets boost from state board
The California Integrated Waste Management Board narrowly approved a solid-waste permit for the Gregory Canyon dump Tuesday, effectively removing the last major hurdle in the development of the long-contested landfill.

For opponents of the facility, who are concerned about traffic, noise and pollution at Gregory Canyon, the decision was disappointing. For the developer who has fought for years to gain the approval, the decision was a huge victory. 

"We're delighted," Gregory Canyon Ltd. spokeswoman Nancy Chase said in a telephone interview following the vote. "This is the biggest, most significant of the permits."

With Tuesday's approval, the landfill is one step closer to being built at the base of Gregory Mountain, which is two miles west of the Pala Indian Reservation and three miles east of the intersection of Highway 76 and Interstate 15. As the first new dump in San Diego County in more than 25 years, its "footprint" would occupy 320 acres of the 1,700-acre site.

"We now have three more permits to get," Chase continued, referring to approvals that need to be secured from the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, as well as a federal permit for the construction of a bridge and a road.

Chase said that Gregory Canyon Ltd. hopes to gain all three of the last approvals needed to begin construction on the $60 million landfill by June 2005.

Technically, because one director on the six-member panel recused herself, resulting in a vote of three in favor, two opposed, the decision will not be final until a deadline for the case expires Dec. 22.

Board spokesman Chris Peck said that even if the absent director, Cheryl Peace, were to weigh in with a negative vote, the decision would stand because a tie vote is counted in favor of the applicant.

The public hearing in Sacramento had been delayed until after the resolution of Proposition B, a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that would have permanently blocked the construction of a landfill at Gregory Canyon. The measure was soundly defeated, though some contended its wording caused confusion for voters.

Among dozens of local residents who traveled to Sacramento to express disdain for the Gregory Canyon project was Barry Martin, director of water utilities for the city of Oceanside and a director with the San Diego County Water Authority.

"We've been concerned for over 14 years" about the quality of water in the San Luis Rey River, which runs next to the proposed landfill, said Martin, whose comments were broadcast over the Internet. "To be honest with you, it scares the heck out of me. Oceanside is lucky to have a local water supply; we're very concerned that this supply will be contaminated. We do not want to face this in Oceanside."

Operating from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, the landfill would accommodate up to 1 million tons of solid waste per year, with an estimated expiration date of 2034.

Pursuing a debate that has spanned several years, the environmental director for the Pala Band of Mission Indians, Lenore Volturno, was at the state waste agency's meeting Tuesday to register opposition to the proposed landfill.

Her argument, which followed a presentation by Jack Miller of Gregory Canyon, echoed many of the same protests as in the past, such as the infringement of the landfill's footprint onto land sacred to the Luiseno Indian Nation.

Among other concerns raised by Volturno were the potential increase in traffic, noise and air pollution. Besides threatening sacred American Indian land, claimed Volturno, it has been determined that there are "feasible alternatives" to locating the dump at the controversial site near the San Luis Rey River.

"This is not an appropriate location for a landfill and the board should reject the solid-waste facility permit," read the last slide of her presentation.

Volturno was not available for comment after the meeting.

Miller urged the board to support the landfill, focusing his presentation on the fact that county voters have approved the project twice ---- once in the 1994 effort to rezone the site, and again last month when they struck down Prop. B.

By passing Prop. C a decade ago, voters authorized the rezoning of the Gregory Canyon site to allow for the construction of a municipal solid-waste facility. This year's Prop. B would have repealed that zoning ordinance and placed a rural-use requirement on the property to prevent its development.

Contact staff writer Tom Pfingsten at (760) 731-5799 or

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