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Election victory may not be the last trashing of Gregory Canyon landfill

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One of the most expensive and confusing political efforts in recent history aimed at blocking the construction of a landfill in North County failed Tuesday by its second landslide.

The vote on Proposition B clears the way for the construction of a landfill that will occupy 320 acres of a 1,770-acre site owned by Gregory Canyon Ltd. The site is located two miles west of the Pala Indian Reservation, the main opposition to the landfill, and three miles east of the Highway 76-Interstate 15 interchange.

The development of the Gregory Canyon landfill can move forward thanks to the "no" vote made by 63 percent of the electorate. The "no" vote on Proposition B meant the approval of the dump.

The landfill would be designed and operated to accommodate nonhazardous municipal solid wastes.

Voters in 1994 approved the landfill with Proposition C with a 68 percent majority.

The current issue was highly charged with the total money spent on both sides totaling more than $4 million.

Richard Chase, spokesman for the pro-landfill campaign, called the vote "deja vu."

"I think it was entirely consistent with the election that we had in 1994," he said.

The Pala band of the Mission Indians, which owns and operates the Pala Casino that will share the road used by dump delivery trucks, were one of the major opponents of the Gregory Canyon plan and used a series of argument to stir anti-landfill sentiment.

Chase said that the voters did a "good job" sorting through all of the information thrown at them and that the decision came down to one simple fact. "People know that we have a lot of trash and we have to get rid of it," he said.

Chase noted that before the landfill moves forward, three permits are needed from the California Integrated Waste Management Board, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the California Air Resources Board.

Gregory Canyon Ltd. and its investors have spent more than $20 million over the past 10 years on environmental reports, permitting and political action.

Dennis Lhota, spokesman for the anti-landfill campaign, said the vote was disappointing and added "there are many rounds left in this fight."

There are currently three lawsuits filed prior to the vote still pending in the movement to block construction of the facility. Lhota could not comment if more were on the way but promised that these three will be fought out.

"I would imagine that the ones will continue in our efforts to alert anyone and everyone of the dangers," he said.

One of the anti-landfill campaign key arguments, which brought a series of environmental groups as supporters, is that the dump will be located above the Pala aquifer and if the liner breaks the water source could be contaminated.

The city of Oceanside uses between 3 million and 4 million gallons of water a day from the watershed and plans to increase that amount to as much as 7 million gallons, according to Barry Martin, the city's water utilities director.

However, when the issue appeared before the San Diego County Water Authority on Oct. 14, the organization's staff noted that the landfill would be located "adjacent to" the aquifer, not above.

One of the loudest arguments against Gregory Canyon was that the dump would be accepting trash from Los Angeles. But Chase said the landfill would never accept trash from Los Angeles.

Lhota responded saying that the city of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation currently has a bid to deliver trash to an "undisclosed landfill that is not built and currently in the planning process."

"I don't know of any other dump being planned in San Diego County," he said.

Representatives of the city of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation did not return phone calls.

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