The San Luis Rey River in northern San Diego County doesn’t flow year round, but a recent series of winter storms caused the river to swell, replenishing underground aquifers and nourishing the plants and animals that call this area home.
This is the normal pattern for “intermittent” rivers and streams like the San Luis Rey. When it rains, we see the river – but the river is always there. Despite irregular water flows, these rivers are just as important to the health of their watersheds as perennial rivers that maintain a constant flow all year. EPA said exactly this in a November 2008 report.
The importance of the San Luis Rey to this part of California cannot be understated. But if Gregory Canyon Ltd. has its way, a massive 300-acre garbage dump would be built right on the banks of the river. I’ve blogged before about this potentially disastrous project and our efforts to bring it to the attention of the agencies charged with protecting our natural resources. And over the past few months, the following agencies have taken these encouraging steps:
- Last November, the San Diego Regional Water Board delayed approval of an access bridge over the river because it wanted to examine the impacts of the proposed landfill first.
- Last December, EPA called for a comprehensive environmental review of the project, including an environmental impact statement (EIS).
- And last month, the Army Corps of Engineers committed to using the more comprehensive “individual permit” process (rather than the less rigorous “nationwide permit” process) to evaluate the landfill for the federal Clean Water Act permit it needs in order to operate.
Now we can add a fourth agency. Yesterday, California’s State Water Resources Control Board dismissed Gregory Canyon Ltd.’s petition to reconsider and overrule the Regional Water Board’s November decision.
We are encouraged by these agencies’ actions so far. But this is just the beginning. Our next task is to make sure that both of the environmental review processes undertaken by the Army Corps – the individual permit and the EIS – are conducted properly and explore a range of alternatives.
The bottom line is that this project poses unacceptable risks to the San Luis Rey River and its watershed. We will continue to work with local community advocates, including the Pala Band of Mission Indians and San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, to prevent the destruction of this valuable river ecosystem – both to ensure a pollution-free drinking water source for San Diego County and to preserve a healthy watershed for generations to come.