By Miriam Raftery
November 25, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) -- The new owner of Cottonwood Golf Club wants to turn the site into a sand mine along the Sweetwater River in Jamacha Valley over the next 10 years. If approved, the project in the Rancho San Diego area of unincorporated El Cajon would mine an estimated 5.8 million tons of sand from 198 acres of the 280-acre site.
A community meeting for concerned residents is planned on Wednesday, November 28th at 6 p.m. at the Rancho San Diego Library community resource room (11555 Via Rancho San Diego, El Cajon)
The project would generate 170 truck round trips daily--21 trucks each hour on Willow Glen Drive, starting as early as 4 a.m. Serious traffic, noise, health, safety and environmental concerns have alarmed many neighbors of the site.
The property’s owner, Michael Schlesinger of Los Angeles, acquired Cottonwood after its previous owner filed for bankruptcy. Schlesinger has hired EnvioMine as a mining and environmental consultant for the project. EnviroMine estimates that Schlesinger could make $40 million off sand mining to meet needs for road building in San Diego County.
Nearby property owners were sent notices about the proposed project on November 19th, though the County has been aware of the plans since at least April, when a pre-application meeting with the developer was held. In early November, county staff outlined key concerns including questions on compatibility with the county’s general plan, impacts on community character in the largely residential neighborhood, and the fact that the golf course had been designated as a buffer zone betweensensitive habitats and developed areas.
Although the project has not yet been approved, the owner has already allowed turf at one of the site’s golf courses to dry up and drained an artificial pond on the site that for years served as an oasis for wildlife including deer, mountain lion and many other animals seen on the greens after hours.
According to a draft report prepared by EnviroMine for Schlesinger, the proposal calls for restoring the site to open space after mining is completed in 10 years, with restoration taking another two years to complete 12 years from now.
The Cottonwood Sand Mining project raises serious health, safety and environmental concerns. The site abuts the Sweetwater National Wildlife Refuge downstream from the proposed mining site. The site is surrounded by homes, several schools, Native American lands and businesses that could be negatively impacted by traffic, noise, air pollution and water quality issues among other concerns.
Wildlife biologist Renee Owens told East County Magazine that the Cottonwood project raises hazardssimilar to those posed by a proposed sand mining project in Lakeside’s El Monte Valley. “The way these guys try and sell their mining projects is by claiming there is a terribly urgent need for sand, and that restoration will be amazing. Wrong on both counts,” says Owens. She adds, “They also ignore the health problems of valley fever and the toxins released from onsite washing of the sand.”
Residents are gearing up to fight the project. Over a hundred residents turned out at a recent Valley de Oro Planning Group meeting to share their concerns earlier this month. Some voiced concerns over safety of childrenwalking or bicycling to school. Others fear the project would reduce property values and cause environmental degradation.
Now, residents opposed to the project have established a website, https://www.stopcottonwoodsandmine.com/. You can find key documents about the project at the site..
"This is a sand mining operation proposed for 10 years in the middle of a residential area surrounded by homes, businesses and schools so there is going to be concern in the community," says Barry Jantz, spokesman for Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine. He encourages those concerned to sign up for the group's mailing list to keep apprised of updates, future meetings and opportunities for your voice to be heard. "Our concern is whether this project is compatible with surrounding uses."
Concerned citizens are urged to send letters to County Supervisors, to members of the Valle de Oro planning group, and to the County’s Department of Planning and Community development. Contact information is available at the Stop Cottonwood Sand Mine website at https://www.stopcottonwoodsandmine.com/.