Let's End a Stinking Era

Twenty-five years ago, when Gregory Canyon was first proposed as a landfill site, I was in elementary school.  A lot has happened in the intervening decades, and I’d like to think that I have evolved with the times: I now grow an urban garden, compost, and sort my trash. 

What has changed about the ill-begotten proposal to make a dump of pristine Gregory Canyon?  Nothing.  The project’s proponents, Gregory Canyon Ltd., are still pushing to pile 30 million tons of garbage 500 feet high in undeveloped Gregory Canyon, imperil the San Luis Rey River, and desecrate Native American sacred sites.  

It’s easy to grow weary in the middle of a long fight.  The beauty and sanctity of Gregory Canyon itself help remind us what is at stake.  Journalist and recent San Diego State University graduate, Ethan Orenstein put together a slideshow of pictures from the beloved Canyon.

Where are we in the struggle to stop the dump? Last month, NRDC submitted comments in opposition to Gregory Canyon Ltd.’s application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a section 404 Clean Water Act permit to permanently discharge fill material into the San Luis Rey River.  We await the Army Corps’ decision.  As we explained in our comment letter, putting a landfill next to a river is not just an environmental disaster, it’s an anachronism.  The landfill is a “vestige of a fading era."  It’s not the 1980s, and I’m not the only one who has changed my personal waste management habits.  Recycling, composting, and reuse rates have increased dramatically and continue to rise.  It is a State of Californian goal, by law, to divert 75 percent of waste by 2020.  We just don’t need this dump.

Over 300 people attended the Army Corps’ public hearing about the section 404 permit, including NRDC’s Damon Nagami, who testified at and blogged about the hearing. Several tribes have spoken out and written letters in opposition to the 404 permit, including: San Luis Rey Band of Mission Indians, Pechanga Band of Mission Indians, La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, Pinoleville Pomo Nation, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, Karuk Tribe, Blue Lake Rancheria, Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, and the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association. 

In addition, over six hundred people signed a Pala Band of Mission Indians petition opposing the permit and stating that the dump is not in the public interest.

Bad ideas die hard.  We’ve blogged about this dump once, twice, three times before, and the fight’s not over.  Gregory Canyon Ltd. still needs several additional permits including from the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, from the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, a construction permit for the bridge, various encroachment permits, a permit in accordance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and to complete consultation with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services and to undergo review in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act.

NRDC will continue to oppose the project, to speak out about the myriad of problems with the planned landfill, and to do everything we can to ensure that the dump dies.  

And then, we will finally be able to say goodbye to a stinking era.

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