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Gregory Canyon Pits Water Against Trash

The new land fill proposed for Gregory Canyon in North County would be a replacement for the San Marcos landfill that closed back in 1997. Very few new landfills are being sited in California because they are so difficult to get permitted.

Gregory Canyon is east of Interstate 15 on Highway 76, next to the San Luis Rey River.

Army Corps of Engineers hearing on proposed Gregory Canyon landfill, at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, Jan 31st 2013.

Aired 2/1/13 on KPBS News.

A decades-long debate over a new landfill in North County pitted trash against water at an Army Corps of Engineers’ hearing.

About 200 people showed up to the Army Corps of Engineers' hearing to argue for and against the project that has been in the works for more than two decades.

Supporters pointed out that the public has voted for this landfill twice: in 1994 and 2004. Mike McSweeney of the Building Industry Association said the project is essential for new growth. The project developers, Gregory Canyon Ltd said it will have the most state–of-the-art landfill liner in the world -- more than 7 feet thick.

County Supervisor Bill Horn said he voted against the project, which was in his district in 2004, but after he saw the liner he changed his mind and supported it.

Supervisor Ron Roberts also supports the project, saying it will bring jobs and much needed tax revenue into the region.

But this is one place where the two ‘Roberts’ on the county board disagree. Newly elected County Supervisor Dave Roberts said people promised nuclear power plants would never leak, but San Onofre did: exactly a year ago. He, along with many opponents of the landfill, took the long view, and said the liner might last a lifetime, but that isn’t enough. The landfill will be there forever.

Gregory Canyon is next to Gregory Mountain, which is sacred to the Pala Band. Several tribal representatives spoke against the project, including Robert Smith, chairman of the Pala Band, Mel Vernon of the San Luis Rey Band and Anthony Pico of Viejas. They compared filling Gregory Canyon with trash to piling it up against the walls of a church.

A number of people who testified said big changes have occurred since the early votes in 1994 and 2004. Firstly, the ways we way of disposing of trash is changing. Cal Recycle, the state’s waste disposal department, recorded 30 percent less trash thrown away in 2011 than in 2005. The need for new landfills is decreasing.

Secondly, water is becoming increasingly precious. The city that may have the most to lose is Oceanside, which sits downstream on the San Luis Rey River. The city Water Department Director, Cari Dale said the city has already spent $23 million to develop recycled ground water that now supplies 20 percent of the city’s water supply. Dale said Oceanside has plans to spend $180 million over the next 30 years to increase that to half of all the city’s drinking water. If the San Luis Rey River become polluted, that would devastate the city’s water supply.

The Army Corps will balance the declining need for a new landfill with an increasing need to protect our water supplies, before deciding whether to issue the federal permit later this year.

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Avatar for user 'sacred'

sacred | February 3, 2013 at 12:08 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

We oppose Gregory Canyon Landfill. We live 6 miles south west of the proposed site. After finding out exact location and driving around the area, a conclusion came to us. No doubt, the site is not right for the landfill. First, Hwy 76 is not wide enough for the dump trucks. Proposed site is 3 miles east from I 15 on the narrow 2 lanes Hwy 76. There are numerous blind and sharp curves of speed limit 20-25 mph. No large trucks are allowed on the Hwy 76. It will create traffic hazard and discourage tourists to Pala, Pauma, Harrah’s and Valley View Casino. South of the site, roads are only single or narrow two lane mountain roads that are for large scale ranches and estates. Dump trucks are not suitable from the south or east. Will Gregory Canyon Ltd. buy all the pastures, mountains, rivers and lakes to build their own roads from I15? Second, while state of art technology with 7.5’ thick lining is expected to perform water and air pollution free from the landfill, many studies including Grass Roots Recycling Network report that lining membranes can brake. Also methane emissions from modern landfills are not verified safe by current studies. In addition to Pala native Indians, many properties owners near Gregory mountain enjoy sacred quality of life surrounded by unspoiled nature. Newly preserved 1000 ac Rancho Lilac is only 7 miles south of Gregory mountain. Many of them rely on well waters for drinking and farming. They protect wild animals and endangered species. Many are certified organic farms including us. If San Luis Ray river and ground water are contaminated, stench from the landfill travels miles away by marine breeze, and the noise from the operation disturb neighbors, life of the whole community will be destroyed. Finally, the landfill cannot be build there. The site is already in the middle of the Jewel of North County San Diego. We have been working hard to make our community prestigious. Who would even imagine placing trash in the middle of that effort? Gregory Canyon Ltd is only thinking one wrong way. If they want to contribute to our community, they should preserve the land now instead of trashing it.

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