Friday, April 29, 2011 at midnight
A last-ditch attempt to kill the Gregory Canyon landfill in North County is before the Legislature in the form of a poorly crafted bill being carried for moneyed special interests.
Senate Bill 833 by Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, would prohibit a landfill within 1,000 feet of the San Luis River or contributing aquifer, or within a site that is considered sacred or of cultural importance by an Indian tribe. The Pala Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino nearby, opposes the landfill.
This is bad legislation. The state has no business getting involved in such a local or regional issue.
This bill would trump the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the landfill twice.
It would negate almost 20 years of effort to establish a much-needed landfill for North County, which lacks a facility of its own and must truck 850,000 tons of material a year as far away as Arizona.
Vargas’ bill would usurp the authority of a host of regulatory agencies that have spent the bulk of two decades in considering the landfill and ensuring public safeguards are in place.
Conveniently, this legislation sets a vague definition of “sacred site,” leaving that to the interpretation of an opposing tribe. There is no mention that the county did a detailed analysis of potential impacts on Indian culture and concluded that there are none that could be objectively verified. Or that the tribe did not challenge the accuracy of the finding.
This is the second time this year that Vargas has attempted to thwart local processes by doing an end run in the Legislature and carrying a bill for deep-pocketed special interests. He introduced an anti-Walmart bill that would require economic impact analyses as part of the permitting process. This came after the San Diego City Council rescinded a similar ordinance rather than pay the costs of an election for the public to decide.
Gregory Canyon has been fought and re-fought. Two public votes, 17 years of studies, public hearings and public input. Litigation at virtually every step of the way.
The proposed landfill is in the final stages of obtaining permits from the Air Pollution Control District, the Regional Water Quality Control District and the Army Corps of Engineers, all probably this year.
The landfill site is high above the San Luis Rey River and state Route 76, three miles east of Interstate 15. Besides extensive runoff collection and subdrain systems, the trash repository would be covered by 12 layers of soil, gravel, clay and synthetic liners.
The will of the people should not be thwarted by legislative decree on behalf of a well-financed special interest. Vargas’ bill is due for a hearing Monday before the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, among the seven members. That is where the bill deserves to die.