SignOnSanDiego / June 14, 2011
Conservation groups and a Native American tribe sued San Diego County’s environmental agency to stop a proposed dump they claim will harm endangered species habitat, a critical drinking water source and sacred tribal sites.
The lawsuit filed Monday by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, RiverWatch and the Pala Band of Mission Indians argues that the Department of Environmental Health violated state laws when it permitted the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill.
The groups argue that the proposed 300-acre dump threatens the Pala Basin aquifer and pipelines that supply most of the drinking water used in San Diego County.
Opponents say the dump would destroy critical habitat for endangered species including the southwestern willow flycatcher and the threatened California gnatcatcher. Golden eagles have also been spotted nearby.
The Pala tribe is also concerned about the dump threatening sites they consider sacred such as Gregory Mountain and Medicine Rock.
“We must not allow these precious and irreplaceable sacred sites to be desecrated by the Gregory Canyon garbage dump,” said Robert Smith, tribal chairman.
In a statement, Jim Simmons, Gregory Canyon Landfill Project Manager, called the filing “the latest in a series of meritless lawsuits.”
“We’re confident the court will recognize what some of the most experienced environmental experts have declared for some time; that the Gregory Canyon Landfill project will be the most environmentally protected landfill in the nation, setting new standards of excellence for future projects,” Simmons wrote.
“This landfill design incorporates the most innovative technology available that both respects and protects its surroundings,” Simmons’ statement said. “We look forward to resolving this latest legal challenge and moving forward with a needed project that has been overwhelmingly approved by San Diego County voters in two separate elections.”