Bill blocking Gregory Canyon landfill advances

Full Senate approval expected next week after committee action

By Michael Gardner
Originally published 3:29 p.m., May 26, 2011, updated 3:29 p.m., May 26, 2011
Sacramento — Legislation aimed at blocking the contentious Gregory Canyon landfill project in North County is moving to the state Senate floor, where both sides expect it to pass next week.
The measure sailed through the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday on a 6-1 vote with Chairwoman Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, the lone dissenter.
“I am in the minority. I am not certain that will change,” Kehoe said in predicting Senate approval.
Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, who is carrying the bill, said the bipartisan vote in the committee is a clear sign.
“It’s hard to get Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento to agree on anything,” Vargas said after the vote. “It bodes well.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Pala Band of Mission Indians issued joint statements praising the action.
“It’s irresponsible to build a garbage dump next to a sacred site like Gregory Mountain that is so spiritually important to the Luiseno people, and in a location that directly threatens critical drinking water sources for San Diego County residents,” said Damon Nagami, attorney for the environmental group.
The landfill is proposed for just off State Route 76 near the Pala Indian Reservation. It would span 308 acres inside a 1,770-acre parcel about three miles east of Interstate 15 and two miles southwest of the community of Pala. The San Luis Rey River is nearby.
The proposed Gregory Canyon landfill has been embroiled in controversy since its unveiling about 20 years ago.
It went before county voters in 1994 and again in 2004. Both times voters sided with the developers.
Kehoe cites those ballot results for her opposition. “The people of San Diego County have voted on this issue twice,” she said. “I feel very strongly that has to be respected.”
Earlier this month county supervisors voted to oppose the legislation because they see it as an unwelcome intrusion into local affairs.
But Vargas said the state has intervened before, most recently by requiring fluoride in drinking water.
Landfill supporters say all of the necessary environmental protection standards will be met. The county also is running out of space for its trash, they say.
“The need is well-established,” Jim Simmons, the project manager, testified in a committee hearing earlier this week.
Vargas, who said he had twice voted for the project, has now aligned himself with opponents, including Native American tribes and environmental groups.
Gregory Mountain, or “Chokla,” is considered a resting place for a tribal spirit named Takwic. There is also a medicine rock marked with Native American pictographs nearby, supporters of the bill say.
“They can re-site their garbage dump, but we cannot move our sacred mountain,” testified David Quintana, a Pala band representative.
The measure would still have to clear the Assembly if it passes the Senate and be signed by the governor to become law.

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