Water board quiet on appeal letter 

Abandoned equipment stands on the site of the Cemex site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

While Santa Clarita Valley residents await finding out the next steps for Cemex’s quest to build a mine in Soledad Canyon, the State Water Resources Control Board is staying quiet due to “a prohibition on ex parte communications,” according to State Water Board staff. 

The most recent question put to the board, specifically Executive Director Eileen Sobeck, is whether the water board acted improperly in its decision to re-notice the mining giant’s application for a permit to use the Santa Clara River.  

The board has not indicated any timeline for a new decision on the process, but there’s also pending legislation that could impact the next steps. 

Cemex acquired the rights for two mining contracts that would allow them to extract a total of 56 million tons of aggregate from the canyon. 

Cemex filed its water right permit application on June 6, 1991, according to the State Water Board. The application was first publicly noticed on May 7, 1993. 

Since the contracts were originally noticed more than 30 years ago, opponents of the mine, which includes the city of Santa Clarita, as well as Sen. Scott Wilk and Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, who co-authored legislation to fight the mine, have pointed out that much has changed. Community stakeholders with an interest in the matter should have a say on whether the permits go through is one of the main arguments behind their bill.  

Sobeck agreed and stated the board would be re-noticing the application, which prompted a letter from Cemex on June 28 — just within the statutory 30-day window the company had to appeal. 

Since that letter, the State Water Board has not responded to any requests for information on the next step in the process.  

“The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board or Board) has broad discretion with respect to how it responds to petitions for reconsideration. Therefore, we are unable to answer your questions about timelines and procedures in this matter,” according to an email from Ailene Voisin, who works in the communications officer for the State Water Board. 

A 2013 rule prohibits any staffer from discussing “any other adjudicative proceeding … pending or impending before a water board,” according to a memo from its legal counsel. 

The agency shared the code of regulations for what could justify a reconsideration of the petition, which includes: irregularity in the proceedings, or any ruling, or abuse of discretion, by which the person was prevented from having a fair hearing; the decision or order is not supported by substantial evidence; there is relevant evidence which, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have been produced; or an error in law. 

A piece of legislation that Schiavo and Wilk were working on during the most recent session in the Legislature would have made it mandatory for the state to re-notice any applications for water permits that were more than 30 years old, with a legislative analysis of the bill pointing out that Cemex’s mining rights would have been the only thing affected. 

Pending the passage of that bill, the State Water Board’s control over the matter appears relatively unchecked per staff. 

“The Cemex water right permit application is considered a minor application according to the California Water Code,” wrote Matthew McCarthy, who works in the Water Rights Permitting Section for the State Water Resources Control Board, in a June 7 email. “The State Water Board may either conduct a field investigation or hold a hearing for a minor application that has been protested.” 

AB 1631, which was co-authored by Schiavo and Wilk, was moving through the committee process in the Senate as of the Legislature’s summer recess. 

“The CEMEX bill, which I co-authored with Sen. Scott Wilk and is supported by the city of Santa Clarita, is currently in Senate Appropriations,” Schiavo wrote in an email Thursday. “We are working hard to continue to move this bill forward to ensure the public has a voice on this project that will have major impacts on our community.”

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS