Wilk, Valladares bill to give public second chance to protest large projects stalled

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Via a newly introduced bill, the public could have a second chance to weigh in on large projects in California, such as Cemex’s proposed massive sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, which have been stalled from moving forward for more than 30 years.

Senate Bill 520, introduced on Feb. 17 by state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and co-authored by Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, is a reintroduction of a previous bill (SB 797) that had no hearings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The bill would require the State Water Resources Control Board, which grants permits and licenses to appropriate water, to issue a new opportunity for protests before rendering a final determination if it has not provided a final decision for a permit to appropriate water within 30 years from when an application was filed for a project, according to the proposed legislation. 

Under existing law, the board can elect to hold a hearing, but it’s not required to do so. 

“A lot can happen in 30 years, and a large project that was initially approved in the 1990s may no longer be the right fit for a community in 2021. The public deserves an opportunity for review,” said Wilk in a prepared statement. “In our community, the Cemex mega-mine is one such project that I believe the public has a right to weigh in on before it moves forward. Giving the public the ability to make its case for or against such projects after decades of inactivity should be part of the process.” 

In 1990, international mining company Cemex was issued contracts to mine 56 million tons of sand and gravel on Santa Clarita’s eastern border in Soledad Canyon. Since that time, the city of Santa Clarita has fought to prevent the work, spending at least $12.5 million. Meanwhile, the federal government has also challenged the company with the goal of terminating its mining contracts. No mining has been reported in the area, and Cemex remains embroiled in a legal dispute with the federal government over the termination of the contracts. 

“Our families deserve to have a voice in major projects that will impact our community. What looked promising back in 1990 may not be what is best for our families today, and they must have their voices heard,” read a statement from Valladares. 

On Thursday, SB 520 was referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water for hearings. 

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