Moreno Valley continues to clamor over BioGas plant proposal

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In one year only, three new projects have been announced for the Moreno Valley area in Lakeside, and the locals are not happy about the potential increase in traffic and pollution.

Last year, San Diego County Planning Commissioners approved Bob Turner’s new sand mine on Moreno Avenue across from the old Ennis’ similar mining operation.

Just last month, the County approved the budget to build an equestrian park on the same road.

In one year only, three new projects have been announced for the Moreno Valley area in Lakeside, and the locals are not happy about the potential increase in traffic and pollution.

Last year, San Diego County Planning Commissioners approved Bob Turner’s new sand mine on Moreno Avenue across from the old Ennis’ similar mining operation.

Just last month, the County approved the budget to build an equestrian park on the same road.

The locals kept showing up at the county’s public meetings raising concerns about the already jammed traffic on Highway 67 and the unpaved roads nearby, mainly used for riding horses and farming trucks.

In July, another business came to town and gathered the locals in a public meeting at the Lakeside Community Center to present a new project planned for construction at 12243 Highway 67 across from Moreno Avenue.

BioGas company proposes a Food-Scraps-to-Energy plant that will operate on five acres of leased land for 15 years and will take 12 months to build.

Julie Mitchell, project manager and consultant with Yorke Engineering, assisting BioGas in preparing the Major Use Permit application with the county of San Diego, said the project was actually tailored to the community.

“It is extremely relevant that you understand the county’s need for a facility like this and that the facility is exceptionally small compared to the other industrial facilities in the area,” said Mitchell. “The significant benefits of this project are waste diversion, taking food from restaurants and decomposing it to generate renewable electricity.”

Mitchell pointed out that the projects complies with state and county laws and regulations mandating businesses to “meet waste diversion and county action plan goals for reduction in waste and increase of renewable electricity generation.” 

Mitchell said there would be 31 trucks on the road daily during normal business hours, and that the company is working with the county and CalTrans to analyze possible alternatives to the main route on Highway 67, which is already congested.

Virginia Duval lives in the Moreno Valley and is concerned about the potential chemical hazards for the air and water. Mitchell said the plant would not have any of these issues. 

Duvall also said she is worried about toxic spills into the ground water. Mitchell said the plant would have a contained water processing system that will use “very little water and will clean it up before releasing it into the sewage system.”

Deborah Montgomery, local resident, said, “I got concerns about water usage, flies, smells, traffic safety, among others. We’re already going to have so much activity on the roads in Lakeside due to sand mining and they’re building three new huge buildings right off Highway 67 that’s going to add more traffic going through Lakeside.” 

Moreno Valley and large parts of Lakeside are traditionally equestrian areas and among the very few left in the San Diego County.

“The way they keep doing this, all of the horse people are going to move out and they are going to have wasted money on the equestrian center,” said Montgomery. “I stopped riding horses down Moreno because I fear for safety.”

Darlene Kreischer started observing the traffic patterns at different times throughout the day in the area affected by all the news projects. “It’s not uncommon to sit through at least 2-3 lights and the traffic keeps piling up on Willow and Moreno,” she said.

Kreischer said she was forced to run the yellow light and that “we are bound to see more and more accidents at the intersection to Highway 67 because, while we ran a yellow light, there are many who run the red one!” 

Jessica Brodkin Webb lives on Moreno Avenue and said she considers herself directly affected by the BioGas project. Webb said the idea of renewable energy is “admirable,” but the fact that there is yet another plant coming on the industrial side of the road “pushes our delicate balance yet one step closer to being an industrial area.”  Webb said this plant is “at its core a garbage dump, ecological or not” and “the sheer disrespect of anyone who suggested this location is mind-blowing.” 

“This project is yet another example of a company with corporate-level funding finding a way to put an ugly, smelly, non-residential project in a residential area while homeowners like us are essentially helpless to do anything about it,” she said.

Mitchell addressed concerns about noise and air pollution with promises that the facility will be up to standard and will not cause problems for the community.

“Based on the feedback we received, all the control that has been put in place is been more than sufficient to limit any potential issues with the facility,” said Mitchell.  

Contacted in regards to the permit application for the BioGas project, Jessica Northrup, Communication Officer with the Land Use and Environment Group, San Diego County, said the County is aware of all the new projects within the region, some already approved, like the East County Mine and the Equestrian Park, or under environmental review like the proposed El Monte Sand Mine.

“The project’s CEQA environmental document will consider these developments and projects for cumulative impacts and mitigation measures will be identified to reduce cumulative impacts,” said Northrup.

BioGas Food-Scraps-to-Energy project is expected to break ground in February 2019 and will connect the facility with the Los Coches substation owned by SDG&E who signed a 15-year contract to purchase the energy.

Mitchell said the design is a work in progress, although the application for the MUP was already submitted. Based on the information shared with the community during the public meeting, the building will be 35 feet tall with a 100×350 feet perimeter, while the digester tank will stand 49 feet tall and 150 feet in diameter.

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