February 7, 2010

What's best for Eagle Mountain?

Our Voice: County shouldn't pass up proposed landfill

A Desert Sun Point Counterpoint

The Desert Sun Editorial Board

The proposed Eagle Mountain landfill site is 60 miles east of Indio at the former Kaiser iron ore mine. The mining operation left a hole 4.5 miles wide and 1.5 miles long. (Courtesy photo)

The Desert Sun has long supported putting the nation's largest landfill in an abandoned iron ore mine in a remote area known as Eagle Mountain.

This issue has been debated for 20 years and some believed it was finally over when in November the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, upheld a lower court's rejection of the plan.

Proponents, however, will continue to press their case through the courts. We hope they succeed.

From 1948 to 1983, Kaiser Mining Corp. operated on 5,000 acres near Joshua Tree National Park. In 1989, six years after the mining operation ceased, Kaiser applied to the Bureau of Land Management for a land swap that would provide 2,846 acres of mostly flat desert land to become part of the California Desert Conservation Area.

The mining operation left a hole 4.5 miles wide and 1.5 miles long, a scar in the desert landscape.

Rick Daniels, now city manager of Desert Hot Springs, said Eagle Mountain would be the “most environmentally sound landfill ever.”

It was approved by Riverside County in 1992 and has the green light from the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reviewed the potential impact on endangered species and three times issued a “no jeopardy” opinion.

Eagle Mountain would generate 1,300 jobs and an economic impact of $3 billion in its first 20 years of operation.

Without Eagle Mountain, 14,000 tons of Los Angeles area trash will go to Imperial County's Mesquite Landfill. It is literally an economic opportunity rolling right past us on railroad cars.

Judge Steven S. Trott was eloquent in his dissent: “What sane person would want to attempt to acquire property for a landfill? Our well-meaning environmental laws have unintentionally made such an endeavor a fool's errand.

“This case is yet another example of how daunting — if not impossible — such an adventure can be. Ulysses thought he encountered fearsome obstacles as he headed home to Ithaca on the Argo, but nothing that compares to the ‘due process' of unchecked environmental law. Not the Cyclops, not the Sirens, and not even Scylla and Charybdis can measure up to the obstacles Kaiser has faced in this endeavor.”

Keep up the fight, proponents.