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Bill viewed as a ‘last chance’ to stop mine

Legislation: Without action from Congress, a sand and gravel pit mine will be built

Posted: August 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 2, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Legislation being carried by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is the last hope for halting a giant pit mine in Soledad Canyon, city officials said Monday.

“This is an important issue — one of the most critical Santa Clarita has had to face,” Santa Clarita Councilwoman Laurene Weste said.

Weste and other city heads fear Cemex will start large-scale mining at the eastern edge of Canyon Country as early as the start of 2013 if Boxer’s bill, Senate Bill 759, fails to pass in Washington this year.

Weste calls the bill the last, best hope to stop to stop a giant sand and gravel pit in the Santa Clarita Valley.

If Boxer’s S. 759 fails, heavy truck traffic on Highway 14 will intensify and air quality will diminish, she said during a Signal Editorial Board meeting.

“There are a lot of issues involved in Cemex that are critical,” Weste said.

“It’s very important that we educate our community, and let them know they can assist in keeping the Santa Clarita that they love.”

Mexican mining company Cemex holds two federally approved contracts to mine in Soledad Canyon.

Company officials told The Signal last week they support the Boxer bill to “resolve the long-standing issues regarding the quarry at Soledad Canyon.”

The city and the firm battled over the issue publicly during the 1990s, but four years ago they reached an agreement that involves swapping federally owned land near Victorville in exchange for the mining rights owned by Cemex. Officials in Victorville and San Bernardino County support the proposal.

But it has filed to make it through Congress, which must approve the land swap. And House policy on earmark legislation is a big hurdle this year.

Mike Murphy, Santa Clarita’s intergovernmental relations officer, said the city is in “the best possible place we can be in” right now, referring to the bill’s inherent promise to satisfy all parties involved.

“This is our last chance. If we don’t do this, then there will be a mine,” he said.

To ensure the bill gets as much backing as it can, the city is ramping up its campaign to inform.

The issue has dragged on for so many years that some residents think it has been resolved, while many simply don’t know about it, city officials said.

They want to remind residents that the mine would put heavy truck traffic on Highway 14, mixing gravel-hauling trucks with commuter traffic.

Besides the increased pollution from truck exhaust, the mine would put fine particulate matter into the air that would compromise air quality throughout the valley and especially affect youngsters, the elderly and asthmatics, Weste said.

“This is about large scale mining that is incongruous with 177,0000 people in city and 250,000 people in the valley,” said city spokewoman Gail Ortiz.

“Traffic and air quality issues are insurmountable with a project of that size.”

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