A further look into the El Monte Sand Extraction project

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There is a time when you just have to eat crow and say you are wrong. And in my commentary in the July 2 edition “Helix Water District’s groundwater and sand reclamation project is a step in the right direction,” I made a grievous error. With what information I had at the time, I spent hours researching a project that was scrapped a year ago. This was an error on my part, but my intent was pure.

There is a time when you just have to eat crow and say you are wrong. And in my commentary in the July 2 edition “Helix Water District’s groundwater and sand reclamation project is a step in the right direction,” I made a grievous error. With what information I had at the time, I spent hours researching a project that was scrapped a year ago. This was an error on my part, but my intent was pure.

As much as I disdain being wrong, I am more disappointed that this project was taken off the slate, and I stand by my opinion on the good things that this project could have provided. But after six years of litigation, the Helix Water District settled for the sale to the El Capitan Golf Club LLC, now the El Monte Nature Preserve LLC, (El Monte Sand Extraction and Habitat Restoration Project) which has plans to utilize the property for sand mining.

I am currently knee-deep in reading all the information provided and if you read the article on the front page, you will find that this project is well organized and at a quick glance has its bases well covered in continuing with this project. But that does not mean that this is a done deal, and you will hear more from me about the project as I dig through all of the documents. There are some things I want to point out to those who are in opposition.

Although I know this land is the home for a multitude of our back country’s wildlife and it is always disturbing for me to see the displacement and loss of wildlife and I am quick to jump on the bandwagon to do whatever is necessary to preserve habitat as we are continuously encroaching places that should not be disturbed.

But those in opposition have many hurdles to master if they want to win this battle. This land is not pristine land as it has a history of agricultural use, and the plan for building the golf course there approved in 2000. The state designated this land as a critical sand resource, and the California Department of Conservation, along with SANDAG reports a shortage of high quality sand in the county. And most important, the entire plan has all of the required elements in its abatement for surrounding residents and the restoration of the area to natural habitat after the mining is completed by phases is a plus for the project itself.

I am far from saying that this is a battle already lost, but as it stands now, the opposition is still in the very early stages of organization and that is an essential component in fighting a plan as well-designed by law as this one is. Through a couple of conversations and in looking at the El Monte Nature Preserve Facebook page, opposition of this project appears to still be in its infancy stage, while this project is well organized, supported and regardless of how I feel, provides a strongly needed product at a much lower cost.

This story is far from over, and you will see more articles written as we can find the spokespeople that are willing to go on record for both sides of this story. But I cannot stress enough the need of organization on the opposing side of this issue.

Santee won the battle over a power plant being built in the Mission Trails area, but lost when it came to the Castle Rock project. I have seen larger projects fall due to environmental findings of endangered species of mammals, birds and vernal pools.

We will be back on this topic as we study more of the negative impacts of the project both in opinion form and in unbiased reporting of its progress from both sides of the issue. The project has a good case in continuing with the sand mining, but it is up to the local environmental experts and the surrounding community to be as organized and outspoken with hard evidence as El Monte Nature Preserve LLC is.

And lastly, thanks to the Lakeside River Park Conservatory for personally calling me and pointing out the error in my opinion. Good luck. Keep me informed and when called by any media outlet, be quick to respond and have the facts to back up your opinion and we will see how this project progresses from here.

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