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Elsmere Canyon Unlikely Landfill Site After Vote

October 01, 2003|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday unanimously declared their intention to remove Elsmere Canyon from the county's list of potential landfill sites, bringing added hope to activists seeking to preserve the rugged land southeast of Santa Clarita.

The supervisors' vote does not automatically scratch Elsmere Canyon off the county's master plan for handling its garbage: County officials must still solicit input from 88 cities, include the plan in an environmental impact report and get the state's approval, said Paul Novak, planning deputy for Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who introduced the item.

Still, Novak said, the vote is an "important first hurdle" to ensuring that the canyon is not filled with trash.

The fate of Elsmere Canyon has been hotly debated for more than 15 years.

Los Angeles city and county officials originally viewed it as an out-of-the-way alternative to landfills in the Santa Monica Mountains. But Santa Clarita officials and others feared a garbage dump would contaminate drinking water and spoil the wild environment.

Prospects for the dump dimmed significantly in 1996 when a federal law was passed forbidding the use of federal forest land for the project. The landfill developer, Browning Ferris Industries, had hoped to build part of it on forest land that it would have acquired as part of a land swap.

Santa Clarita officials had been especially worried by the landfill's lingering presence on county planning documents. On Tuesday, they were breathing a little easier.

"We consider this to be a huge victory today," city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said. "This is something we've worked on for nearly 20 years."

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