County Praises Pact on Elsmere Landfill While Criticism Grows


While Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana on Monday hailed a tentative agreement to open a dump in Elsmere Canyon as a solution to the region's garbage disposal problem, potential stumbling blocks began emerging from Santa Clarita to Washington.

Santa Clarita City Manager George Caravalho complained that Santa Clarita has not been included in negotiations between Los Angeles city and county governments over the proposed dump just east of Santa Clarita's borders and the Antelope Valley Freeway. He called for a face-to-face meeting of officials from Santa Clarita, Los Angeles and the county.

Repeating what has been the Santa Clarita City Council's position for months, he said the city would endorse a dump in Elsmere only if its environmental concerns are addressed.

Caravalho asked for a promise that the city of Los Angeles will supply water to Santa Clarita if the dump pollutes the wells on which the new city depends.

Meanwhile, Marc Litchman, administrative assistant to Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), said the pact fails to detail what measures would ensure the landfill is operated safely. Litchman said Berman had not seen the agreement but probably would lobby for stronger environmental controls in the accord.

Sources familiar with negotiations over the landfill criticized the accord as ambiguous, particularly about the use of fees collected for each ton of trash dumped in the canyon. Those ambiguities, the sources said, could generate opposition to the agreement.

But Dana, in a Los Angeles press conference, praised the agreement. "The garbage crisis in Los Angeles County is almost over . . . before it began," he declared.

Dana said that after a decade of rancorous finger-pointing between county leaders and Los Angeles city officials, the two sides began to negotiate in earnest five months ago, leading to the pact to jointly use Elsmere Canyon as a 190-million-ton landfill.

The dump will cost the city and county $125 million, said Richard J. Riordan, who negotiated for the supervisors. The $125 million will be paid to BKK Corp.--which owns about one-third of the landfill and has agreements to buy the remainder--only after the firm hands over a fully licensed landfill to the city and county, he said.

The pact is expected to be presented to the Los Angeles City Council on Friday and, if approved, returned to the supervisors for final approval. County officials say they hope the landfill will open in 1995.

As for Santa Clarita city officials, Riordan said he was "totally confident that we will reach an agreement with them."

Under the agreement, in return for not opposing the dump, Santa Clarita would receive the land and money. The city of Los Angeles would give Santa Clarita a portion of the defunct Saugus Rehabilitation Center, 520 acres located within the heart of the city, and a fee, still to be negotiated, for each ton of garbage dumped in Elsmere.

Santa Clarita Mayor Jan Heidt asked whether a promise not to oppose the dump would prevent her city from commenting on the project's environmental impact report. "If that's the case, that's just blackmail," Heidt said.

The Santa Clarita City Council has declined to support or oppose the dump until the environmental impact report is completed, perhaps early next year. Marsha McLean, a member of the Elsmere Canyon Preservation Committee, a citizens group, said the committee would ask the council to place a binding referendum on the April ballot that would let city voters decide whether the council should fight or support the proposed dump.

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