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Pollution is not the solution

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
March 11, 2004


"Our heritage of wastefulness is derived from an economy which now demands that the volume of waste be constantly increased in order that the economy itself be maintained." — Percy H. McGauhey

Every now and then I like to update readers on issues once prominent in the news. As ours is a culture that encourages a short term attention span, it is vital for journalists to provide continual coverage of issues with the potential to impact our lives in disastrous ways. The proposed, and extremely controversial, Gregory Canyon Landfill is such an issue.

For more than a decade, residents of the unincorporated area within the 558 square mile San Luis Rey watershed have sought to prevent the placement of a landfill on top of the San Luis Rey aquifer. Objecting to the extreme environmental impact associated with landfills and the resulting toxic build-up, groups such as River Watch and the Sierra Club have constantly beat the drum of ecological wisdom in response to the rapaciousness of predatory polluters.

Other issues include traffic, inadequate infrastructure, endangered species and habitat, and an expected invasion of scavenger species such as rats and gulls. There is also the question of water quality in Oceanside, where the San Luis Rey River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Let's look at the key players in this ongoing battle between corporate interests and the residents of North San Diego County. At issue, the difference between market driven property rights and environmentally motivated community rights. Adding dimension to this development drama is a blatant example of cultural insensitivity, which once again has the first people of California, trying to protect themselves from greedy land grabbers from the east.

Gregory Canyon Ltd., the money behind the madness is a group of venture capitalists, is comprised of four key shareholders. Controlling a 40% share is Jerry A. Reissen of San Francisco, president and owner of Servcon-San Marcos, Inc. Holding equal shares at 20% are Boston based California Landfill Development, Capital Foresight, a real estate investment company, and John Hancock Mutual Life.

The local connection for these pollution profiteers are Temecula developer and real estate broker David Lowry, and San Diego businessman Hal Jensen. In April of 1988 these men spent $1 million to buy the Gregory Canyon. In November of the same year the new property owners persuaded San Diego County Supervisors to include Gregory Canyon in considerations of future landfill development. What role they currently play, and how they stand to gain is still a matter of speculation.

After much consideration, County staff and supervisors rejected as a potential landfill location due to significant and unmitigatable impacts of cultural, Native American, visual, land use, noise and biological resources, and the cumulative impact on habitat loss, land use, and noise. In 1993 as the County Board of Supervisor were preparing to declare Gregory Canyon dead as a dump site, proponents for the landfill calling themselves Citizens for environmental solutions filed notice to place the "Recycling and Solid Waste Disposal Initiative" before county voters.

Although opposed by the County Board of Supervisors, the City Of Oceanside, the Pala Band of Mission Indians, the Sierra Club, River Watch, and numerous other environmental organizations Prop C. was approved in 1994 after share holders spent more than a million to convince voters in the southern half of the county the importance of placing a landfill all privately owned land regardless of biological and hydrological constraints.

Recently the Pala Band of Mission Indians filed notice to put Prop C before the voters of San Diego County again. Soon a "Dump Gregory Canyon Landfill" petition will be circulating. Sixty-six thousand signatures of registered voters are needed to place the issue on the November 2004 ballot. Residents can expect to hear a great deal this summer about the wisdom of ecological restraint and cultural sensitivity as the issues surrounding the selection of the landfill site are brought to light.

The population of San Diego County continues to increase, so to does the demand for drinking water. Confronted with a choice between water and waste, we must all ask ourselves, can we afford to place a toxic landfill of top of a fresh water source?

The smart money says we can't.

I'll sign the petition.

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