[KHTS] – A pair of candidates for the 25th Congressional District seat held by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and a state assemblyman are calling on McKeon to stop an aggregate mine in Canyon Country by reviving a tact he tried in 2001.
A letter sent by state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, and Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, urged McKeon “to submit an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill that would declare State Highway 14 a ‘national defense asset’ that would ban the CEMEX mega-mine from moving forward,” the letter stated.
In 2001, amendment language on the Highway 14 move was accepted, however it was pulled from the bill during conference committee, Wilk said.
While this tactic was tried in 13 years ago, now McKeon is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, so he’d be able to insert the amendment and protect it when the bill goes to conference committee, Wilk said.
“I think McKeon has always had the ability to do something, and has chosen not to,” Wilk said, adding “this was the last bite at the apple” since the congressman announced his intention to retire at the end of his current term.
Emails to McKeon’s office seeking comment were not returned Wednesday.
Lee Rogers, a Democrat also seeking McKeon’s seat in the upcoming June primary echoed the sentiments expressed in the letter.
“If McKeon can put the language of S.B. 771 into the National Defense Authorization Act, it can offset the loss of the mine to CEMEX while keeping district residents healthy and happy,” Rogers said.
S.B. 771, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, calls for Cemex to be compensated with federal land in Victorville in exchange for giving up their mining rights in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Cemex owns two mining contracts for Soledad Canyon, each 10 years in length, which would yield about 56 million tons of usable aggregate — a total of 78 million tons of the material used to make gravel and concrete — over the next 20 years.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, according to federal officials.
The canyon has the potential to produce 356 million tons of sand and gravel, meaning Cemex’ $28 million worth of contracts are a fraction of the land’s half-billion-dollar potential — an amount federal bureaucrats are hesitant to pass up to stop a new mine near Santa Clarita.
A call to Cemex officials was not immediately returned.
For more than a decade, Santa Clarita and Cemex officials have been working on what they’re going to do with the contracts.
Mining that much gravel would create traffic congestion on Highway 14, air quality impacts, the loss of irreplaceable habitat and open space and deplete “the quality of life for our citizens,” said Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar.
While Cemex has expressed a willingness to accept the deal, Bureau of Land Management officials were opposed to the terms, claiming it would create an shortage of needed building supplies.
The Congressional Budget Office has yet to “score” the deal, or provide a breakdown of the monetary impact the deal would have on the federal budget.
“The elimination of this aggregate deposit from use would result in a shortage of aggregate supplies to the northern Los Angeles County region,” said Steven Ellis, deputy director for the Bureau of Land Management. “This region has a 50-year demand for 476 million tons of aggregate, with only 77 million tons of permitted aggregate resources… less than 10 years of aggregate supply.”