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By Henri Migala 

Update: The public comment period has been extended to Monday, Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. Comments can be sent to Robert.Hingtgen@SDcounty.ca.gov


January 31, 2022 (Rancho San Diego) -- The County of San Diego held an online meeting January 19 in response to a request for a Major Use Permit for sandmining at the Cottonwood Golf Course along the Sweetwater River. The property owner’s proposal requires an environmental review and public input. Hundreds weighed in, despite major technical issues.


The in-person public meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday, January 12, 2022 was cancelled due to health concerns related to COVID19. However the public can still weight in via the comment link or at a February 1 meeting of the Valle de Oro Planning Group.


The online meeting was fraught with technical difficulties from the onset. Different login instructions were distributed and an untold number of community members trying to access the online presentation were logged into another, non-operational site. Instructions were given by county staff to those on the other site but it is uncertain if everyone was able to connect to the actual, live presentation.


Approximately 300 people did manage to log into and attend the virtual meeting. Those who managed to comment expressed overwhelming opposition. One participant typed in the chat “My kids’ school zoom meetings are better than this. If this is any inclination of how this sand mine will be approved we are all f**ked.”


Mark Slovick, Deputy Director of Planning and Development Services for the County of San Diego presided over the meeting. Slovick presented an overview of the draft environmental impact report (EIR).


Slovick stated that the proposed Cottonwood sand mine is not a county project. The project is being proposed by a private property owner of the land. It is the County’s responsibility to review the EIR.


“If you don’t like the EIR, provide feedback in writing so we can address your concerns,” states Slovick. “After reviewing all the public comments, the staff will draft a Final EIR and staff report.”


“At this point, we have not formed any opinions,” continued Slovick That will be done at the end, and the Planning Commission makes the final decision, with appeal to the Board of Supervisors.”


It is the Board of Supervisors who will have the final decision to approve or deny the proposal.


Slovick also mentioned that due to the technical difficulties, the County will hold another public input meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.


Barry Jantz, former CEO of the Grossmont Healthcare District and member of the La Mesa City County, and now a member of the StopCottonwoodSandMine.org Board of Directors, made a detailed presentation outlining the many objections to the proposed sand mine.


Jantz opened by stating, “It has been determined that the Cottonwood Sand Mining Project draft Environmental Impact Report is a flawed and incomplete document that does not adequately analyze the significant environmental impacts of the potential Project to the people, wildlife, water, air, and roads of the community. Additionally, the Sand Mine Project does not propose adequate mitigation measures or alternatives to address those impacts. The draft EIR does not comply with applicable goals, policies or requirements of the San Diego County General Plan as well as the Valle De Oro Community Plan.  Our findings are that the draft EIR is incomplete and not in compliance with CEQA and therefore must be revised and reissued to the public for review.”


Jantz then identified 20 items in the EIR that he said do not comply with “applicable goals, policies or requirements of the San Diego County General Plan as well as the Valle De Oro Community Plan.”


A link to Jantz’s full presentation can be found on the stopcottonwoodsandmine.com website at:


Scroll down and click on the video.


Many of the participants posted their comments in the “chat” section of the online teleconference. A sampling of the comments reflects the general consensus of those who were participating:


Colleen Austel Nadeau: “I absolutely DO NOT SUPPORT THIS I would like to know 1. what happens to the WELL water of those who have wells near the project. Sand filters the water. 2.  What about flooding if you remove the sand?”


Christopher Yousif: “Only 10 years of environmental damage and health hazard if that's not a bargain, I don't know what is.


Stephanie Young: “Silica dust is a huge issue for public health not to mention Valley Fever.


Colleen Austel Nadeau: “What is the definition of less than significant impact?” and “What about burrowing owl and gnatcatcher …endangered species?


Todd Schilling: “No mention of the school in any of these impact analyses?


Kathy Ellis” Where did the study address loss of property value?


Christopher Yousif: “Given these so-called mitigation methods, there is no justification to fund a large project that is a plague to community life with all the damage and destruction it will bring. This project will drive homeowners away, or make them suffer through a decade of noise, pollution, and traffic. Additionally, this will diminish real estate values and do nothing for community growth - it would tarnish peoples' livelihoods.


Yasmeen E: “Everything residents consider a significant impact (ie. noise, traffic, environmental impact etc) has been determined to have "less than a significant impact" in this draft. This in no way reflects what the residents of Rancho San Diego would actually experience if this isapproved.


Branden: “Has anyone reached out to the California Coastal Commission for an environmental impact report for all watersheds downstream of the sand mine?


Kathy Ellis: “What protections will be in place in the event the Developer goes bankrupt prior to completion of reclamation?


Liz Lavertu: “Watering in a constant drought…great mitigation plan.


AJ: “One thing that has not been discussed are kids and their health.  The school is across the street. In addition, the noise will interrupt classroom instruction and learning.”


Not everyone was opposed to the sand mine. There were a few who expressed their support:


Paul: “I want the county to know I support this plan.  If you read it carefully it has many positves [sic] for the community.


Joe Mama: “Down with the golf course! Hooray for sand mine!” and “Hooray for the Sand Mine!


Next meeting:


On Tuesday, February 1, 2022 at 7:00 pm, the Valle de Oro Community Planning Group monthly meeting will hear the developer’s presentation on Cottonwood Sand Mining Project developer will conduct a presentation. The Planning group will then hear comments from the public (every verbal and written comment will be recorded) before voting on a comment letter for submission to the County. You can view the Feb. 1 meeting at this link:  https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84800231932#success


The link to the County’s website for the Cottonwood Sand Mine is:



Stop Cottonwood has also announced plans for legal action to fight the sand mine and is soliciting donations for a legal fund:  https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=UJ5ZWNXH2XD9Q


The link to StopCottonwoodSandMine.org is:


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