City Council formally votes support for Wilk’s anti-Cemex bill

CEMEX property as viewed looking north east from Soledad Canyon Road in Santa Clarita in 2014.

For Valentine’s Day, the Santa Clarita City Council kept it short and sweet on Tuesday night, while voting its support for a bill at the heart of the battle to keep Cemex out of Soledad Canyon.

To the surprise of no one, the Council voted 5-0 to support and sponsor state Sen. Scott Wilk’s SB 146 – designed to keep the giant Mexican mining company from opening operations in the Santa Clarita area.

As Cemex’s long-pending bid to start sand and gravel mining in Soledad Canyon has been vigorously opposed by Santa Clarita-area officials at all levels, the Council’s action was expected to pass unanimously, and that’s exactly what happened – without comment from any Council member or member of the public.

The Council’s action directs city staff “to work with Senator Scott Wilk, other Members of the Legislature, appropriate legislative committee members and staff, State Water Resources Control Board members and staff, the Governor’s office, and other interested parties to secure enactment of Senate Bill 146.”

Wilk’s bill has bi-partisan support in the state Legislature. Wilk is a Republican representing parts of Santa Clarita, and Sen. Henry Stern, a Democrat who also represents the city, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The bill, now called SB 146, would require that the Water Resources Control Board re-open any cases that have been pending for at least 25 years – as has the Cemex matter — and reconsider water-rights issues.

The future of Cemex in Soledad Canyon currently rests in the hands of a federal-court panel. But Wilk’s bill would offer a legal loophole that’s designed to give at least the water aspect some measure of local control, perhaps slamming the brakes on Cemex opening for business here if the federal panel ultimately gives its approval.

It is estimated that Cemex would draw about 105 million gallons of water annually from the Santa Clara River.

The federal Bureau of Land Management has terminated two contracts with Cemex, but that decision is under appeal.

Otherwise, the Council dispatched with a light and routine agenda in just under 1 hour and 15 minutes.

In another matter of note, the Council unanimously approved an anti-hate resolution declaring that, “Santa Clarita believes that diversity is a critical component of a thriving, successful city, and that commitment to diversity strengthens communities, deepens bonds between neighbors, and underlies the welcoming environment that makes Santa Clarita a great community.’’

Though a symbolic gesture, the resolution, proposed by Councilman Bob Kellar, was urged in recent Council meetings by several residents.

Those requests came in the wake of what those residents said were increased instances of intolerance, locally as well as nationally, during the presidential campaign and following the election of Donald Trump.

The resolution also says, among other things, that the city “welcomes all people and recognizes the rights of individuals to live their lives with dignity and free of discrimination’’ and that “the City Council is committed to ensuring all members of our community are free from acts that are rooted in fear, ignorance, prejudice, and hate.’’

An emotional Sheryl Lima, one of those citizens who pushed for the resolution, told Council members before the vote, “I don’t think there’s any small gesture when it comes to standing up against hate.’’

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