By Dede Alpert, Lucy Killea and Julie Meier Wright (San Diego Union Tribune)
For nearly two decades, there has been talk of building a 183-acre dump about 3.5 miles east of Interstate 15, just south of state Route 76. Opponents include the nearby Pala Indians and others worried about long-term effects on the San Luis Rey River and its tributaries. The project remains in the midst of the permitting process.
The Gregory Canyon Landfill needs to be completed quickly. That, along with increased recycling, will protect our health and environment for decades to come
Our local population grows daily, and the need to provide safe, environmentally sound and convenient disposal for waste generated by the residents and businesses of San Diego County has increased. Waste in the county has grown to such an extent that all San Diego landfills are now operating at, or very close to, their maximum permitted capacities, and the most recently adopted revision of the county Solid Waste Management Plan "approved by the county, a majority of the cities in the county and the California Integrated Waste Management Board" concludes that the Gregory Canyon Landfill is absolutely necessary to meet the requirements of state law with respect to an adequate availability of daily disposal capacity.
For more than 10 years, Gregory Canyon Landfill Ltd. has been working toward one goal: providing a state-of-the art, environmentally safe and convenient disposal facility for residential and commercial waste in North County. The projectвЂ™s investors have spent more than $40 million of private funds and been subject to 12 years of rigorous environmental reviews by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health. The project's Environmental Impact Report, which has been approved by numerous state and federal agencies including San Diego County's Department of Environmental Health, states that it will provide levels of environmental protection far superior to that of other area landfills and will be the safest, most environmentally protective landfill in the state of California.
We believe that it is this attention to the details of environmental safety, and the obvious need to manage our own trash, that is responsible for voters' overwhelming approval of this privately funded project in not one, but two countywide elections.
Failure of this project would be disastrous for our growing communities. With no local landfill to handle North County waste, freeway traffic congestion would increase as trucks would have to travel long distances to more distant landfills. In addition, a virtual monopoly on county waste disposal would result, threatening citizens with significant increases in disposal fees. The county would suffer significant economic losses as well. As the Union-Tribune stated in an editorial, "The landfill also will contribute some $50 million to county coffers." That $50 million-plus could help rescue San Diego County as it strives to generate more tax revenue.
Already strapped homeowners cannot be expected to continue to carry the burden of our current economic meltdown. Generating new business is key. In order to lure new businesses we must demonstrate our ability to build much needed, privately funded infrastructure that will serve our needs for decades to come.
In August 2004, The San Diego Union-Tribune editorialized about the critical nature of this project, saying, "The need for these facilities is now 10 years closer. The technology to operate the landfill safely" that is without toxic leaks "is now 10 years better. The county has 10 years more residents, almost 800,000 tons of trash a year from North County alone, and lessening space for it in landfills elsewhere. The extensive requirements of environmental regulation are 10 years stricter and 10 years closer to fulfillment."
Six more years have passed since those observations were made.
The time is now.
Alpert and Killea are former state senators from San Diego. Meier Wright is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.