East County News Service
April 18, 2016 (Lakeside) – The developer who seeks to build a sand mine the scenic El Monte Valley in Lakeside that is overwhelmingly opposed by residents has submitted a scoping letter to the County of San Diego with significant changes to the proposed project. Click here to view the full document.
The developer is El Monte Nature Preserve LLC, but residents of the valley say the project would destroy the natural habitat for its duration, not preserve the environment. The region is a designated County scenic view corridor and home to many equestrian-based businesses as well as residents who moved there for the rural lifestyle and tranquility.
The new proposal reduces the amount of sand to be extracted from 12 million cubic yards (18 million tons) to 7 million cubic yards (10.3 million tons). But it increases the acreage size from 199 acres to 230 acres, impacting an even broader area. Instead of 15 years, the new proposal calls for a 12 year project, plus the same 4 years for restoration as the original plan.
The depth has been reduced from 90 feet to 30-35 feet. The original project called for creation of a 110-acre lake and creation of a riparian nature preserve after the project’s completion, since the groundwater elevation is estimated to be 40-50 feet below grade.
That plan would have included 534,000 of backfill to fill three pits excavated as part of grading for a previously approved golf course that was never built.
The new revised plan, by contrast, would create merely a water feature if the El Capitan Reservoir should fill and release water via a spillway, recharging the aquifer and surfacing within the excavation. Operations would shift to a dredging operation if that occurs.
Opponents have set up a website, Preserve Our El Monte (POEM). An e-mail from POEM states, “This is still a bad project. Bad for the ground water, bad for the residents and bad for the community. We should all feel very empowered by this change. All of our comments changed this project to something slightly less damaging…..keep writing letters, keep looking at the POEM Facebook page. Keep spreading the word. If we all work together we will drive this project into the ground.”
Neighbors' concerns include a steady stream of trucks hauling sand on narrow roads in front of residences, noise, and impacts to air quality and ground quality. Health is also an issue, since potentially lethal Valley Fever spores have occurred in the soils of El Monte Valley.
The next step will be a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).