Federal legislation to block the opening of a sand-and-gravel mine in the Santa Clarita Valley took a big step forward on Thursday when the House unanimously passed a bill on the issue.
The bill, HR 574, sponsored by Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, instructs the Bureau of Land Management to cancel a lease that Cemex USA, the U.S. division of the large Mexican cement company, has in Soledad Canyon and prohibit future operations at the site.
In return, the BLM would sell 10,000 acres of land near Victorville and use the proceeds to compensate Cemex for the canceled contract. The language is similar to a bill introduced by California Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.
The Senate will now take up both pieces of legislation, which have received bi-partisan support. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, spoke in favor of the House bill on the floor.
The mine was strongly opposed by the city of Santa Clarita over concerns about the noise, truck traffic and other problems. The city has worked for two decades to block the mine, which it is estimated contains some 56 million tons of sand and gravel that can be extracted.
McKeon, who is retiring in January, noted in a press release announcing passage of the bill that he has introduced eight bills on the issue in his 22 years in Congress.
“This tremendous achievement is the result of more than two decades of tireless work to develop a practicable solution that would take the Soledad Canyon Mine out of commission and lift this burden off of the backs of my constituents,” he said in the release. “This day has been a long time coming.”
He also expressed thanks to Sherman and Boxer, who he noted will carry the legislation forward in the Senate. Sherman noted the bill will result in no costs to the government, while ending a project long opposed by the city and residents.
“This bill is a testament to bipartisanship, fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship and local consensus building,” Sherman said in a release.
Santa Clarita officials recently sent a letter to the Obama Administration expressing their interest in donating the mine property to the federal government to serve as a gateway point for the recently designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, as the mine sits directly on the new monument's northwestern boundary. However, the mining dispute would first need to be resolved before the city could donate the property.