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Valley Perspective

Schools, Homes, Roads Fuel Demand for Aggregate

October 22, 2000|BRIAN MASTIN | Brian Mastin is environmental affairs manager for Southdown Corp.

Los Angeles County is at a crossroads. The region is in desperate need of improvements to its infrastructure. From the Santa Clarita Valley to downtown Los Angeles, it is bursting at the seams. It is seeing an explosion of new homes, a need for more schools and new roads. Without these developments and improvements, our region will suffer.

The first item needed for any of these projects is aggregate, the sand and gravel used in the creation of concrete. It is the building block upon which our communities are created and maintained.

It is because of the countywide need for this material that Southdown Corp. entered into contracts with the federal government to mine at a Soledad Canyon site. Since the 1960s, the mining region in Soledad Canyon has provided high-quality material to Los Angeles County.

Several types of mining are taking place in the area and have been for years, with minimal impacts. In fact, the Soledad Canyon site is one of the best in Los Angeles County for aggregate mining. The state has designated this area a Regionally Significant Construction Aggregate Resource Area. The mine is also close to its key markets--the Santa Clarita Valley, the San Fernando Valley and central Los Angeles.

To correct some misconceptions about the project: It is not in the Santa Clarita River, it is not in a significant ecological area and it is not in a national forest. Surprisingly, almost 70% of the aggregate resources in the county are located in one of these aforementioned areas, making it difficult, if not impossible, to mine.

The site is separated from residential development, much farther from homes than most other mining operations in the county. Existing and planned residential developments are mostly north of the Antelope Valley Freeway. The closest existing residential area is more than a mile away.

As with its other facilities throughout Southern California, Southdown takes a strong approach to public health and safety. Southdown is required to operate under the strictest safety standards set by several federal, state and local agencies. In fact, mining is regulated so tightly that it faces more scrutiny than the many residential and commercial grading and construction projects underway in Santa Clarita.

Local residents expressed concerns about dust and diesel emissions. Because of that, Southdown worked with air quality officials to include additional measures to reduce dust emissions by 35% and diesel particulate emissions by 80% over what was originally required. These measures go beyond regulatory requirements and will make the project the lowest emission mine in the county.

In addition to its air quality measures, Southdown took a careful approach when studying water resources, traffic impacts and other issues. The company committed to restoring the site to its natural vegetative state as mining progresses. At present, the site is scarred from previous mining operations. Southdown will revegetate the area as it goes and return it to open space upon completion. We encourage concerned citizens to see our Moorpark sand and gravel quarry as an example of a good, environmentally sensitive neighbor.

Based upon our 10 years of research and work with local agencies, Southdown received the approval of the federal government. It also received a recommendation for approval from the Los Angeles County planning staff, with mitigating measures. However, the county Planning Commission voted against granting a mining permit. Southdown is continuing its efforts with the county and hopes to receive its support.

Southdown has always committed itself to being a good neighbor in the communities in which it operates, and we will continue that practice in Soledad Canyon. Our project manager has lived in this valley for 14 years and company employees have watched as the region has grown.

Residential and commercial development and grading projects are taking place throughout the region, more schools are critical, as are roads and infrastructure to sustain this fast-growing area. Southdown looks forward to providing the necessary materials for Santa Clarita and the surrounding areas while being a good corporate citizen.

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