Santa Clarita City Council members recently approved a pair of $20,000 lobbying contracts to support its effort to keep a Cemex sand-and-gravel mine away from Soledad Canyon, on the city’s eastern border.
However, city officials said this week a decision by the federal Bureau of Land Management could come in the next couple weeks, or the next couple of years.
Santa Clarita City Council authorized $10,000 a month for the next two months for Kadesh and Associates LLC and Jamison and Sullivan Inc., which is a renewal of the exact same contract previously approved by city officials.
While the contracts are only for two months, hence the $40,000 total cost, the city could still be facing a long wait to find out one of three scenarios, according to Mike Murphy, the city of Santa Clarita’s intergovernmental relations manager.
The three scenarios essentially could be: The Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Department of the Interior, finds against Cemex’ appeal, and the BLM decision to cancel the company’s more-than-20-year-old mineral rights contracts for Soledad Canyon is upheld; the BLM finds in favor of Cemex, and allows the contracts to be valid, fulfilling the desire of Cemex to start working toward extracting aggregate from the neighboring canyon; a compromise between the two sides, which could allow certain concessions to both sides.
Murphy remained tight-lipped on potential outcomes in the third scenario, because if either of the latter two options are selected, Santa Clarita’s next moves would be largely predicated upon strategy that could be compromised if it’s foretold.
Based on the law of averages, there’s a certain hope for a decision sooner that later, as city officials have cited an average of two to two-and-a-half years for a BLM decision, and September 2017 was about the two-year mark.
The city is also tracking and supporting current federal legislative efforts to support its position against having a massive sand-and-gravel mine on land the city owns, just east of city limits.
H.R. 1557, also known as the Soledad Canyon Consistency Act, which was introduced by Congressman Steve Knight, R-Santa Clarita, in March, withdraws 640.16 acres of the Soledad Canyon Sand & Gravel Mining Project Site (California) from: entry, appropriation, or disposal under the public land laws; location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and operation of the mineral leasing, mineral materials, and geothermal leasing laws.
The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources at the end of March.
Cemex had held two contracts, originally awarded in 1990, to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from hundreds of acres in Soledad Canyon northeast of Canyon Country.
At the time of the September 2015 appeal, a Cemex representative released the following statement:
“The Soledad Canyon site contains high-quality aggregate reserves that will play a critical role in supplying a region with intensive and growing aggregate demand while avoiding the environmental impacts from long-distance transportation of aggregates to the region identified by the California Department of Conservation,” Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl wrote in an email.
“Cemex has filed a notice of appeal and sought a stay of the recent BLM decision and will vigorously pursue all of its rights with respect to the project, including a reversal of this improper decision,” Engdahl wrote, noting the company would not comment further.
Part of the justification of the cost for the contracts comes from the need to shore up uncertainty in the appeal outcome as much as possible, Murphy said, which is part of what the lobbyists are working on for the city.
“There are a number of nuances that could come forward in a (BLM) decision,” he said, noting in these cases, it’s not necessarily siding with the city or the mining interest, and a number of nuances could arise.
“Quite frankly, right now, we don’t know what that decision is going to be,” he added, “so we want to make sure we’ve thought about various scenarios that could come to fruition.”