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The Cemex struggle: Round 6

McKeon to introduce sixth bill to keep gravel mine out of SCV

Posted: March 9, 2009 1:12 a.m.
Updated: March 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Within the next one to two months, Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon plans to introduce his sixth bill aimed at keeping a massive sand and gravel mine out of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Its passage would effectively end a struggle the Santa Clarita City Council has waged since the 1990s.

"Everything is right on track," Lindsay Mask, spokeswoman for McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said Thursday.

While it is too early to talk about specifics, she said the pending bill is essentially the same as previous incarnations, "with a few minor tweaks."

She said the downturn in the economy has not had an effect on the development of the bill.

"What's going on, we're happy with," Santa Clarita spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

Since 1999, the city has spent millions in legal fees - and McKeon has introduced several heretofore unsuccessful bills - to fight Cemex Inc.'s planned mine.

While Santa Clarita owns the roughly 100 acres in Soledad Canyon for which the mine is proposed, Cemex has mineral rights granted by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The tide turned in February 2007 when Santa Clarita and the Mexican cement giant declared a truce, with the city standing down from its opposition and Cemex halting any further permit pursuits.

Since then, the two parties have worked together with McKeon's office to arrive at some sort of conclusion.

Introduced to Congress in April 2008, HR 5877 would have, in effect, swapped the proposed Soledad Canyon mine site for land in Victorville, where Cemex already operates a cement plant.

Under the agreement, Cemex would then sell the land to the city of Victorville or a private buyer to be used for purposes other than mining.

"We have been working with Rep. McKeon and the cities of Santa Clarita and Victorville on the upcoming legislation," Cemex spokeswoman Jennifer Borgen said in a statement Thursday. "We are very optimistic of the bill's chances and are fully focused on this effort."

Santa Clarita officials have opposed the mine because of concerns over air and water pollution, in addition to more traffic on local freeways from trucks going to and from the mine.

"It will be a nice thing to get in the rearview mirror for this community," City Councilman Bob Kellar said. "We're certainly anxious to see the bill introduced."

McKeon's bill faces challenges, Kellar said, by virtue of the number of parties involved.

"All of the entities have got to be on board," he said.

Not having a mine in Soledad Canyon will have effects more than just environmental, Kellar said.

A mine would have been a severe hit on nearby home values, he said.

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