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Casino Money Goes To Protecting Indian Sacred Sites

The Pechanga Band, which owns the largest casino on the west coast, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby for a state bill, AB 742, to block the Liberty Quarry. The band argues the project in the hills south of Temecula is on sacred ground where their original ancestors lived.

AB 742 is making its way through the state legislature. In the mean time, Riverside’s Planning Board rejected the project 4 to 1 this week, after several heated hearings.

Meanwhile, a bill (SB 833) to block a proposed landfill in Gregory Canyon passed the legislature this week. SB 833’s author, State Senator Juan Vargas, said one reason he opposes it is because it is close to Pala Indian sacred land.

“There are people that lived here for hundreds of thousands of years,” Vargas said. "Some areas are sacred and should be respected. Not all land is fungible. There has to be some meaning, and respect for people's tradition.”

Vargas says he has received campaign funding from the Pala Band.

He said voters who voted for the project in two separate initiatives over the past 20 years were misled into thinking the landfill would not be near the river. He said he has visited the site and it is right on the river.

Nancy Chase of Gregory Canyon Inc., the developer of the landfill, accused Vargas of lying. She said the proposed landfill is not on the river. She said the Pala Casino is.

According to a database managed by California Watch, the Pala Band has not declared it is lobbying against SB 833. However, the Pechanga Band has contributed more than $100,000 to lobbying firms in connection with the bill.

The fate of the bill to block the landfill is now in the governor’s hands. The quarry’s developer, Granite Construction, will appeal this week’s “no” vote to Riverside’s Board of Supervisors.

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Avatar for user 'Skeptical1'

Skeptical1 | September 2, 2011 at 9:54 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Avatar for user 'sbcabello'

sbcabello | September 2, 2011 at 10:16 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Thanks, Skeptical1. You weren't kidding. That's insane to think that somebody ever thought that was an acceptable situation. I've not followed any of these landfill sagas, but now I feel I should. I'm certain that the argument here is that the earth itself will filter out the bad stuff before it gets to the watershed and, truthfully, it probably will filter most of it. Most isn't really acceptable, though. Especially when there are so many other areas that won't allow lead - and worse - to flow to the sea. A company that has invested so much time and energy won't likely back down, I suppose... which means they'll need to be beaten down.

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Avatar for user 'SuperLaw'

SuperLaw | September 2, 2011 at 2:44 p.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Even reporters at KPBS can't help themselves when it comes to entitling an article in a way to create controversy. The money being spent by the Tribes comes out of their own pockets to protect their sacred lands. Fighting for their culture is not free, and they are paying for it. Is the fact that tribal members are making money from a lawful business somehow evil or make their fight for their sacred places less worthy.

How about a headline that says "Contruction profits being used in an attempt to destroy sacred lands"? That would be accurate. It might even more informative.

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Avatar for user 'Terezakis'

Terezakis | September 3, 2011 at 11:53 a.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Great headline! Maybe the author could work in, "Granite Construction Corporation receives $29 Million Dollars of Federal stimulus money for work on on roads within the Navajo Reservation and uses $10 million to destroy sites sacred to the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians. ( )

Or a fact or two about the project:

The quarry would be a mile and a half long and as deep as the Empire State Building is tall. It would be one of the largest gravel pits in the nation. Blasting would occur every day that the quarry is open (six days) and operation would be from 7 am until 10 pm. Deforested areas visible from the highway (due to loss of ground water) would be painted green.

A note about the involvement of local government:

The communities surrounding the site selected by Granite Construction Corporation have been fighting the proposed quarry since at least 2005. Documentation to this effect is available to the public via PDF of the Temecula City Council. Over 40,000 residents, 500 local businesses, and 140 area physicians have signed petitions protesting the proposed quarry.

On March 8, 2011 the City Council of the City of Temecula passed Resolution No. 11 opposing the Liberty Quarry project after spending $784,000 to annex properties and analyze/debunk Lilburn's EIR paid for by Granite Construction Corporation. Lilburn's motto of "Getting to Yes" gives insight into their methodology. (

It was only after the failure of local communities and local government to stop Granite Construction's plans that the Native American community became involved. Now both Native and non-Native Americans are doing their utmost to prevent the project.

On Wednesday August 31, 2011, the Riverside Planning Commission voted to deny the project as the benefits of the project did not outweigh the risks.

And a closing thought:

Why KPBS has chosen to malign the efforts of concerned communities surrounding the proposed Gregory Canyon Landfill and proposed Liberty Quarry with a borderline racist slant is beyond my comprehension.
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The Liberty Quarry project would destroy the LAST wild river and LAST coastal wildlife corridor in Southern California. The fact that it contains sites which are sacred is something which I understand: All Creation is Divine.

It is time to re-examine our treatment of "undeveloped land" as well as Riverside County's outdated permitting process. We are wallowing in the negative effects of business being done as usual. It is time for a change based on facts: not financial might.

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Avatar for user 'RossFrank'

RossFrank | September 6, 2011 at 7:54 p.m. ― 5 years, 6 months ago

Looks like this is a case of the wrong news mattering, and the real news becomes invisible in the process. To see the efforts of sovereign Indian Nations and neighboring communities reduced to who is spending lobbying money to oppose Liberty Quarry and Gregory Canyon reproduces a colonial narrative about opposing "progress" that is all too familiar. It had a hand in placing Pechanga and Pala in their present reservation locations, for those who care to look a bit more deeply.

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