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Possible new Cemex strategy

Posted: July 12, 2014 10:32 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2014 10:32 p.m.
 

The Santa Clarita City Council has endorsed a federal resolution that could improve services in the Angeles National Forest and aid in the battle to keep the Cemex mine out of the northeast Santa Clarita Valley.

The council threw its support behind House Resolution 4858, which would establish the San Gabriel National Recreation Area as a unit of the National Park Service taking in about 615,245 acres of land, most of it already in the Angeles National Forest. The new Recreation Area would include land in the Placerita Canyon and Sand Canyon areas and land running up to the very edges of an open-pit sand and gravel mine proposed for Canyon Country by a Mexico-based cement firm.

“The Los Angeles region is one of the most park-poor regions of the country,” Congresswoman Judy Chu said in a statement. Chu introduced the resolution last month.

“We face two challenges as a result: there are very few options for Angelenos to enjoy the outdoors, and the options we do have are under immense stress from overuse.

“After a decade of consideration and collaboration, I am proud to introduce legislation protecting these mountains that’s consistent with our community needs and priorities,” she said.

Two other California congressional representatives, Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Tony Cárdenas, D-Arleta, have signed on to support the effort as co-sponsors.

Advantages

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel, president and executive director of the Santa Clarita-based Community Hiking Club, said a National Recreation Area designation could provide many benefits to Santa Clarita Valley residents.

“If it passes, it will be just a fabulous thing,” she said of the resolution. “It will be a partnership between the National Park Service and the Angeles National Forest, and the National Park Service will be bringing additional funding, which will help the Angeles.”

Cemex

City officials see it as a possible tool in the long-running battle to block the proposed Cemex mine.

Cemex owns federal contracts authorizing it to mine 56 million tons of sand and gravel from a site near the Santa Clara River in Soledad Canyon. City officials say the plan for a mining operation there will compromise quality of life in the Santa Clarita Valley, choking the air with particulates and adding a tremendous load of gravel-hauling truck traffic on the Highway 14 freeway.

From the city’s perspective, the endeavor is worth supporting because it is “the implementation vehicle for key findings of the San Gabriel Watershed and Mountains Special Resource Study,” a study that also recognizes the importance of the Upper Santa Clara River area,

The proposed mine site falls within an area designated as the Upper Santa Clara River area.”

“This particular study is one of the federal work efforts in and around the Upper Santa Clara River area where the Cemex mine is proposed to be located,” said Santa Clarita Intergovernmental Relations Officer Michael Murphy. “And what all of the studies, in essence, say is there are important natural ecological resources that need to be preserved and protected in the area.”

“You can have mining or you can preserve the natural ecological resources that this study and other studies have identified, but you can’t have both,” Murphy said. “If you have mining, that means you are prepared to destroy the natural ecological resources that are in that zone.”

Though the Cemex site is outside the boundaries of the proposed San Gabriel National Recreation Area, city officials said House Resolution 4858 is complementary to the City Council’s support of another piece of legislation, S. 771.

That bill, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would authorize the sale of federal lands near Victorville and use the proceeds to compensate Cemex for the value of its contracts.

“Now while (HR 4858) doesn’t necessarily take in the Cemex site, the properties it does take in are immediately adjacent to that site,” Murphy said. “And what the bill also does is it reaffirms the National Park Service point of view that there are important natural ecological resources that need to be preserved in the Upper Santa Clara River area.”

The National Park Service is a division of the Department of the Interior. The U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the Angeles National Forest, is a division of the Department of Agriculture.

Officials in Boxer’s office said the senator has not yet taken an official position on HR 4858, but that she is generally supportive of efforts to protect the region of the San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest.

HR 4858 has been referred to the Committee on Natural Resources in the House of Representatives.

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