The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a public hearing on the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill Jan. 31 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.
Gregory Canyon, Ltd. has completed the process of having the state Environmental Impact Report certified and now needs a federal environmental statement certification. Gregory Canyon, Ltd. filed an application for a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit with the Army Corps of Engineers, which released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Dec. 11. The landfill and its associated infrastructure would impact approximately one acre of “waters of the United States” which are regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement has a 120-day public comment period which ends April 15, and written comments will be accepted until then. The Jan. 31 hearing allowed for oral presentations.
“We feel that Thursday’s hearing went in a very balanced way. It was a good presentation on the public’s behalf and we felt that we had a balanced number of speakers,” said Gregory Canyon spokesperson Nancy Chase.
“I thought that it went pretty well,” said Pala Band of Mission Indians environmental coordinator Shasta Gaughen, who has been fighting against the landfill.
The hearing began at 6 p.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m. Public comment was cut off at the end of the 3 1/2 hour hearing, so the true number of planned speakers for and against cannot be determined. Organized presentations and representatives from government agencies spoke first and were followed by individual commenters who were called upon to speak in the order in which they submitted their speaker slips.
Approximately 400 people attended the hearing. “It was one of the larger ones that we’ve been to,” said San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) water resources manager Larry Purcell, who spoke at the hearing.
The Army Corps of Engineers provided a panel with Los Angeles district commanding officer Col. Mark Toy, regulatory division chief Dave Castanon, San Diego office supervisor Therese Bradford, and project manager Bill Miller. “They were taking it very seriously by bringing down all their decision-makers, so that was good to see that,” Purcell said.
The SDCWA will also submit written comments addressing the CWA’s concerns about the impacts the landfill’s construction and operation would have on CWA infrastructure. “Our board has a position of neutrality on the landfill itself, but we do want to make sure our concerns are addressed,” Purcell said.
The closure of the public comment period will be followed by a review of those hearing and written comments along with responses to those comments. “They have to sort through them and respond to them,” Purcell said.
The timeframe to respond to those comments cannot be ascertained at this time. “They say six to eight months; I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes them longer than that,” Gaughen said.
“We’re hoping it will be within several months after the end of the comment period,” Chase said.
The comments will be incorporated into the final environmental impact statement. “They’re going to have to revise the EIS to reflect those comments,” Gaughen said.
In addition to an Army Corps of Engineers permit, the Gregory Canyon landfill would also require permitting from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). The RWQCB will likely wait until the completion of the Army Corps of Engineers action before holding its own hearing.