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Santa Clarita Sues Over Proposed Gravel Mine

August 05, 2004|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

The city of Santa Clarita has sued Los Angeles County over a massive sand and gravel mine proposed for east of the city, alleging the county's approval of the project violated California environmental quality laws.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, opens a new legal front in the bitter fight over the mine, which is opposed by numerous civic groups and local governments in north Los Angeles County.

County supervisors rejected the plan in 2002, prompting the developer, Cemex Inc., to sue the county in federal court. That case was settled in February, paving the way for a version of the plan that made a number of concessions to opponents, including new limits on operating hours and shutdowns during serious smog alerts.

But Santa Clarita still did not approve. In June, the city appealed the settlement after a federal appeals court granted it the right to intervene in the case.

Santa Clarita's new lawsuit raises a number of long-held criticisms of the mine, which would extract about 56 million tons of material out of semirural Soledad Canyon. In court papers, attorneys for the city allege that the county approved the environmental report for the mine without analyzing its effects on traffic circulation and endangered species, including the southwestern Arroyo toad and the unarmored threespine stickleback fish.

More generally, the city argues the county failed to "make an independent decision" on the adequacy of the environmental documents.

The suit asks the court to set aside the certification and stop all work on the project, which is not yet underway.

Cemex officials, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, have said the project is crucial for Southern California road construction and new housing projects.

Opponents say the mine would create air pollution and traffic problems, and put a strain on water supplies.

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