Hundreds Show Up for Gregory Canyon Landfill Meeting

San Diego Union-Tribune 2.23.11

NORTH COUNTY — At least 200 people, almost all passionately opposed to plans to build a landfill near Pala in a canyon on the west side of Gregory Mountain, jammed the Community Room of the new Fallbrook library Wednesday night.

Their message was clear: The dump must never be built. It could destroy a major drinking water source and would desecrate sacred Indian land.

The meeting was conducted by a subdivision of the county’s Department of Environmental Health, which is charged with deciding whether to grant developers a solid waste permit, one of about a half-dozen local, state and federal permits needed before construction can begin.

The meeting was for information-gathering only. A final decision on the permit isn’t expected until later this year.

The Gregory Canyon Landfill has been planned, studied and been the subject of numerous lawsuits for nearly two decades. The developer, Gregory Canyon Ltd., has spent more than $60 million in hopes of one day getting the project built.

GCL managing partner Jim Simmons said the need for another landfill in the county still exists, and it would become “a very important component to the infrastructure of North County.”

Many others disagreed. County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said “Gregory Canyon must remain pristine” and compared the marathon permitting process to the movie “Groundhog Day” in which the characters relive the same day over and over until the day becomes perfect.

“This is our chance to finally get it right,” she said.

The landfill is planned for 320 acres on a 1,770-acre parcel just south of state Route 76, about 3½ miles east of Interstate 15.

Opponents, who include environmental groups, several North County municipalities and the Pala Band of Mission Indians, have fought it relentlessly.

They say the landfill is an environmental disaster waiting to happen because it would threaten the purity of the nearby San Luis Rey River and groundwater. Supporters have said the landfill would have the most modern containment systems and other safeguards.

GCL even came with an eight-foot tall prop that resembled a totem pole that showed the extreme layering and care that will go into lining the dump to keep it from leaking toxins.

But Pala band Tribal Chairman Robert Smith was having none of it.

“This is a terrible and unnecessary project,” Smith said    

Twice, in 1994 and 2004, voters by large margins supported the landfill in countywide votes.

Smith and others said the votes were the product of misinformation and showed that “democracy does not always create just results.”

Pala Band of Mission Indians

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