The Dump Got Dumped

A disastrous landfill project in San Diego County today got trashed when the Pala Band of Mission Indians announced it is buying part of the land the project had been planned for. The sale ends a decades-long fight to protect one of the most ecologically sensitive and culturally important places in the region, including the waters of the San Luis Rey River.

Gregory Canyon was never a good place for a dump. A landfill on the pristine, undeveloped site in northern San Diego County would have desecrated Native American sacred sites, created traffic hazards, put the local waters at risk, and destroyed threatened and endangered species' habitat. 

Gregory Canyon. Photo: NRDC

Located adjacent to the Pala Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, Gregory Canyon drains into the San Luis Rey River, whose watershed supports critical drinking water sources for thousands of residents and businesses in San Diego County. The proposed landfill site included Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock, places where the Pala Band and other Luiseño people have prayed and held sacred rituals for hundreds of years. And the canyon’s coastal sage scrublands and woodlands are home to several endangered species and other wildlife, including golden eagles, the endangered southwestern arroyo toad, and the threatened California gnatcatcher. 

All this would have been threatened by the proposed landfill—which, in a time of increasing recycling and waste diversion rates, is unnecessary to meet San Diego County’s waste disposal needs.

Gregory Canyon opponents at a February 2013 Army Corps of Engineers public hearing (left) and at a June 2010 Army Corps of Engineers public hearing (right). Photo: NRDC

That’s why NRDC and its members supported the Pala Band of Mission Indians in fighting this project every step of the way. Together with a broad and tireless coalition of San Diego County residents, environmental groups, river advocates and elected officials, we challenged the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit, testified at packed public hearings, and filed a lawsuit to enforce CEQA review of the landfill’s potential greenhouse gas emissions.

 And that’s why we are celebrating today’s announcement as a huge win—a win for the region’s sacred Native American sites, a win for the County’s critical sources of drinking water, and a win for the endangered species that call Gregory Canyon home.

About the Authors

Damon Nagami

Senior Attorney, Lands Division, Nature Program

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