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Cemex case against state water board continued to summer 

Signal file photo
Signal file photo

A lawsuit by the mining company with contracts to extract more than 50 million tons of aggregate from Soledad Canyon has been continued to July, according to court records. 

Cemex, a multinational building materials company, is suing the State Water Resources Control Board over the company’s application for the rights to use the Santa Clara River. 

The State Water Board said last year Cemex’s application would be publicly re-noticed, after pressure from state lawmakers who sought legislation to force the board to re-notice the request to use the river to mine. 

When Cemex appealed the decision to re-notice and the State Water Board denied that appeal, Cemex sued in September, stating its application “has already lingered since the first Bush administration.”  

The State Water Board has a policy that prohibits an ex-parte, or out-of-court, communications on pending legal matters. 

A representative for Cemex declined to comment on the pending litigation in response to a request for comment Tuesday. 

The topic of the Cemex lawsuit came up April 25 during a meeting of the Santa Clarita City Council’s Budget Committee, which was reviewing some of the city’s new commitments for the next fiscal year. 

Among them: $100,000 in potential legal bills to pay for special counsel in the fight against Cemex. 

“As you’re aware, at some point in this calendar year, I anticipate for the State Water Board to hold a Cemex public hearing,” City Manager Ken Striplin said during the meeting. 

The funding would be for the city’s existing counsel to continue Santa Clarita’s longstanding opposition to the mine. 

The city’s actions against the mine were listed in its March filing over motions seeking to challenge the water board. 

“That decision (to re-notice) was made to benefit one party — the city of Santa Clarita … The city did not protest CEMEX’s application in 1991, but has belatedly sought over the years to intervene in the (water board’s) consideration of it,” according to a legal filing by Cemex. “The board rejected attempts by the city in 2004 and 2016 to have the board re-notice the application, recognizing that there were no changed circumstances warranting such relief. Then, legislation sponsored by elected officials representing the city was proposed in 2023 that would have required the board to re-notice the application.” 

Cemex owns two contracts to extract 56 million tons of aggregate from Soledad Canyon, and filed its original water right permit on June 6, 1991, which was first publicly noticed on May 7, 1993. 

A water board letter dated June 1 of last year indicated the board staff’s efforts to process that application would resume, and it would be re-noticed. 

Legislation that sought to force the re-noticing of the applications, which was authored by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, D-Chatsworth, was driven in part by how much the area has changed in the 30 years since the original application was filed. 

“This mega-mine was a horrible idea 30 years ago when the Santa Clarita Valley had only about 132,000 residents,” Wilk wrote in a previous news release, which stated the project could add up to 1,200 truck trips to local roads. “It is an even worse idea today with a population of nearly half a million people.” 

Cemex argues that little has changed in terms of legal precedents since 2004 and 2016, when the city previously sought and failed to submit a protest, with the water board finding there were “no changed circumstances” that would require a reconsideration. 

Matthew McCarthy of the Water Rights Permitting Section for the State Water Resources Control Board said the state’s Water Code defines the agency’s procedures for handling Cemex’s request. 

“The Cemex water right permit application is considered a minor application according to the California Water Code,” he wrote in a June email. “The State Water Board may either conduct a field investigation or hold a hearing for a minor application that has been protested.” 

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