California Legislature Passes Bill to Stop Garbage Dump in Gregory Canyon

Posted by Nick Kump at Sep 01, 2011 11:15 AM |
The bill now moves to Governor Brown's desk.

SACRAMENTO –  SB 833, the bill authored by Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and co-author Asm. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) to protect sacred sites and stop the construction of a garbage dump in Gregory Canyon, passed the Assembly floor today with broad bipartisan support (70 ayes and 1 nay). It now needs only Governor Brown’s signature to be enacted into law.

“We have opposed this dump since it was first identified as a possible location in the 1980s,” said Robert Smith, Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians. “This bill is the culmination of decades of steadfast opposition and will hopefully put to an end the attempt to desecrate Gregory Mountain, Medicine Rock and other sacred sites, which have been an integral part of Pala’s history for generations.”

By preventing the construction and operation of the landfill, SB 833 would not only protect these sacred sites but would protect the San Luis Rey River, a valuable water resource, from the threat of contamination that would be caused by building the landfill next to the river.

“We are pleased with the support we have received for this bill and we hope that Governor Brown will support the protection of the sacred sites and natural resources as the members of the legislature have done,” said Shasta Gaughen, EPA Director for the Pala Band of Mission Indians. “With existing landfills providing enough capacity for decades and with the increase in the recycling and reuse of materials, there is no need for another landfill in San Diego County—especially at this unique and important location.”

The bill has enjoyed the strong support of a broad array of Native American tribes, environmental and labor groups, and San Diego-area cities and elected officials, who sought a legislative solution when the project’s proponents bypassed local control of the landfill permitting process through a misleading ballot initiative.

“Today’s vote sends an unambiguous message that protecting San Diego County’s drinking water and preserving sacred sites is important to Californians,” said Damon Nagami, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We hope the Governor hears our message and acts to protect this unique southern California ecosystem.”

The proposed 300-acre landfill would be located in northern San Diego County on State Route 76, approximately three miles east of Interstate 15 and two miles southwest of the community of Pala. Undeveloped Gregory Canyon borders the San Luis Rey River and lies along the western slope of Gregory Mountain. The Luiseno and Cupenos of Southern California consider Gregory Mountain or Chokla to be a sacred site and home of a restless spirit named Taakwic, who appears in a ball of fire to collect the souls of the dead. In addition to impacting these sacred sites the proposed landfill would threaten surface and groundwater; destroy critical habitat of several endangered species and add hundreds of garbage trucks each day to already congested State Route 76.


For more details on the fight to save Gregory Canyon visit


The Pala Band of Mission Indians has 1,117 members, 650 who live on the reservation along the Palomar Mountain range approximately 30 miles northeast of San Diego.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at

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